Music therapy for cerebral palsy is a fun, engaging way to promote neuroplasticity and improve motor function.
Cerebral palsy describes motor impairments caused by damage to the brain before or during birth, as well as in early childhood.
The brain damage is irreversible; however, it also is not progressive, so the brain can be trained to adapt.
This article will go over how music therapy for cerebral palsy works and why it is an effective treatment.
What is Music Therapy for Cerebral Palsy?
Music therapy is defined as “the clinical and evidence-based use of music interventions to accomplish individualized goals within a therapeutic relationship by a credentialed professional who has completed an approved music therapy program,” by the American Music Therapy Association.
It focuses on using music to accomplish non-musical goals.
For children with cerebral palsy, this can include:
- Improving motor function
- Promoting socialization
- Reducing stress and anxiety
- Enhancing cognition
Music therapy is not just passively listening to some music; it requires active participation of the individual.
How Does Music Therapy for Cerebral Palsy Work?
While the damage to the brain that causes cerebral palsy is not reversible, people with cerebral palsy can still improve their motor functions.
Neuroplasticity is the brain’s ability to adapt and rewire itself. The best way to promote neuroplasticity is through lots of repetition.
Music therapy for cerebral palsy focuses on activating neuroplasticity by providing a new, creative, and interactive approach to addressing therapeutic goals.
Although they may still improve their mobility, children tend to easily lose interest and motivation when performing the same mechanical motion repeatedly. This is where incorporating music in addition to repetitive movements comes into play.
Music helps boost engagement, which makes children more likely to perform the repetitions they need to improve functional skills.
Benefits of Music Therapy for Cerebral Palsy
To help you understand the various approaches involved in music therapy, watch the videos below.
Cerebral palsy is an umbrella term, meaning that it describes a large spectrum of varying motor impairments.
Depending on the type of cerebral palsy, people can experience stiffness, uncontrollable movements, and poor balance and coordination.
As you just saw in the videos above, there are a variety of different music-based activities involved in music therapy.
Therefore, people with cerebral palsy of all severities can benefit from music therapy.
Music therapy can help cerebral palsy patients improve:
- Balance by practicing shifting their weight from side to side
- Fine Motor Skills by picking specific items up and tapping or shaking them
- Sensory Integration by using a combination of hearing, touch, vision, and proprioception (knowing where your body is in space)
- Gross Motor Skills by walking, stomping feet, dancing, or using the arms
- Concentration by engaging in challenges
- Memory by matching certain sounds to objects or movements
- Mood by expressing your emotions in a new, effective way
- Social Skills by learning to take turns, be patient, and collaborate with others
- Response/ Reaction Times by learning to anticipate when you should act and when to stop
Rhythmic Auditory Stimulation to Improve Gait
Rhythmic auditory stimulation is a type of music therapy that focuses on synchronizing sound and movement.
Many children with cerebral palsy have difficulties walking due to high muscle tone in their legs.
Rhythmic auditory stimulation encourages children to match their steps to the rhythm of the beat.
Gradually, therapists will increase the tempo of the music to promote a natural, steady pace.
As your child gets comfortable synchronizing their steps to music, they’ll start internalizing the beat in their brains, allowing for carryover of skills outside of music therapy sessions.
This is neuroplasticity in action! The new challenge activates various areas of the central nervous system including the cortex, cerebellum, and spinal tract.
It also keeps children so engaged that they don’t even realize how many repetitions they’re performing.
Eventually, they should be able to walk at a steady pace without music.
Music Therapy at Home with MusicGlove
MusicGlove combines music, hand exercise, and gaming together to boost fine motor skills.
It’s extremely popular with children because it’s gamified, so it doesn’t feel like exercise at all — it just feels like a game!
Unlike traditional music therapy, you don’t have to set an appointment or leave your home to get the repetitions you need to improve your fine motor skills.
All you have to do is synchronize your finger movements with the visual cues on the screen that are synced to match the beats in the music.
The more you play, the better your brain gets at recognizing the movements and the easier it gets.
Music Therapy for Cerebral Palsy Makes Improving Motor Function Fun
That’s a wrap! Let’s go over some of the main takeaways from this article.
Our brains are incredibly adaptable, but they need repetitious activities or exercise to become familiar with new functions.
Music therapy is a fun, motivating way for people with cerebral palsy to perform lots of repetitions.
It combines multiple senses (vision, hearing, touch, and proprioception) to promote better coordination, spatial awareness, and control.
Anyone with any type or severity of cerebral palsy can benefit from music therapy.
Hopefully, this article helped you better understand what music therapy for cerebral palsy is and all of its benefits. Good luck!