Treating ADHD with Music Therapy by Charles Carpenter

Music Therapy

The Power of Music

  • Say it’s been a bad day. You had struggles at work or school. You were late to an important appointment or you had a falling out with a friend. What is one thing that can make it better? For most people, putting on the right music can help make things better no matter how hard a time they are having. That’s the power of music.
  • Music therapy harnesses that power as a way to use it as a therapeutic tool. It’s a non-invasive treatment used to stimulate parts of the brain to produce results. With the help of music, therapists can help people with issues such as chronic pain, mood disorders, and other serious conditions including autism, depression, and Alzheimer’s disease. For children with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD, music therapy can be a helpful tool to strengthen social skills, ease hyperactivity, increase focus, and reduce impulsiveness.

Music Therapy and ADHD

  • One of the theories behind music’s efficacy for treating ADHD is its inherent structure. Music is made of patterns, mostly its rhythm, but also in lyrical structure and repetition in melodies. Music has a clear beginning, middle, and end. Listening to it helps a brain with ADHD stick to a linear path. Doing that again and again trains the brain to be more comfortable sticking to an idea all the way through. The child with ADHD learns to plan, anticipate, and react.
  • Listening to music helps the ADHD patient become more collaborative and social as well. Listening to classical music, for instance, teaches a child that all contributing instruments in the orchestra are necessary to create a cohesive piece. Participating in band becomes a real life application where they take turns, anticipate changes, and become better at picking up other people’s cues.
  • When the brain hears music, synapses begin to fire. Neurochemicals such as dopamine increase, which helps regulate attention, increase motivation, and improve memory. This can help balance the ADHD brain without the use of drugs. Over time, the chemicals and synapses build up and activate to improve overall brain function.

How to Interest Your Child in Playing Music

  • If you think music therapy–in particular, learning to play an instrument– could be a helpful tool for helping manage your child’s ADHD, there are several ways you can increase his or her interest. The most important thing is picking the right instrument. Start with something basic as to not intimidate or overwhelm your child. If he or she is interested in brass instruments, they can start with a student trumpet to learn how to read music and improve their fingering. As their skills advance, you can trade up instruments.
  • You are the biggest source of structure in your child’s life. When it comes to encouraging a skill, it’s important to show your child that you are involved as well. The more actively engaged you are, the less likely they will lose interest and become distracted. While they will undoubtedly have to learn songs they are not interested in at school, encourage them to learn their favorite tunes as an extracurricular activity. This will make the experience more their own, and less a lesson plan, and will pique their interest.
  • Music has the power to change your mood and even alter your brain chemistry. Music therapy is the practice of using that power to help make life better for people with mood disorders, chronic pain, and other serious conditions. Children with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) benefit from the structure, social aspects, and brain chemistry boosting effects of music. To hold your child’s interest in playing music, start small with a simpler instrument that will not overwhelm them. Stay active and interested in their development and encourage them to have fun with music by learning to play songs they love outside of formal lessons.

Charles Carpenter

  • Charles is the father of a son with ADHD who loves to share the benefits of music therapy with other parents of children with ADHD. He created Healing Sounds because he believes in the healing therapeutic power of music, and wants to spread the word. He is located in San Antonio, TX and you can email him at Thanks Charles.
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