Music is universal;
it doesn’t differentiate between
language or abilities or age.
However, playgrounds and outdoor spaces for children might. Many are designed for active kids who are jumping, running, and climbing. This can make it difficult for kids of other abilities to join in the fun. Musical instruments provide an alternative solution. They are for everyone, everywhere.
Musical instruments are a leveler between different abilities. They enable children with a disability to participate with those who are able-bodied. In fact, music therapy has proven effective in helping children with conditions such as autism, Asperger’s syndrome and those who have diminished social skills to participate in play and be more engaged.
Music and children with autism
Autism is a condition defined by an individual’s inability to communicate and interact with others. Playing musical instruments stimulates the autistic brain to make new connections and strengthen existing ones resulting in improved mental health and cognitive ability.
Music is well-suited to the needs of autistic children because it captures and maintains their attention in ways that other mediums do not. Playing musical instruments assists the child to participate in socially acceptable ways and helps to reinforce desired responses.
For children with autism, exposure to music and musical instruments helps:
- Improve communication
- Develop social skills (such as greeting, taking turns and eye contact)
- Develop both fine and gross motor skills
- Sensory regulation (the use of rhythm and instrument play can help a child feel organized and grounded)
Percussion Play’s Duo, for example, is particularly beneficial for those with autism because the instrument allows for close social interaction without forcing close physical proximity. Children can interact with each other in a safe space without the need for direct eye contact.
Music and children with developmental disabilities
Developmental disabilities are “severe, long-term problems” and can be physical or mental, sometimes both.
Pentatonic instruments are particularly suited to those with developmental delays as the notes of the pentatonic scale all sound good together. This makes it easy to improvise and create music that is pleasing to the ear. The satisfaction this brings means that those who may struggle to succeed in other areas of their life find they can succeed with music.
Music and children with Special Educational Needs (SEN)
For children with SEN, music teaches a whole range of skills and social behaviors in a natural and non-threatening way. It gives children a safe way to experiment with self-expression, the ability to express emotions, develop a sense of rhythm, develop communication skills and benefit from auditory and tactile stimulation.
Musical instruments, which are often visually varied with different shapes and forms, can be invaluable for those with difficulties in hearing, seeing, moving, thinking or responding; each can experience the music in his or her own unique way.
Children’s Healing Center, Grand Rapids, MI,
...is a year-round recreational center for children who have weakened immune systems. The Center built an outdoor garden to give children who may not otherwise have the opportunity to go outside and play a place to interact, form friendships and bond. Percussion Play musical instruments, including the Babel drum, Duo and Tubular Bells, were chosen because they enabled multiple children the chance to play together at the same time adding to the garden’s accessibility and interactivity. Easy to clean and maintain stainless steel and aluminum musical instruments provide safe, clean play for children with compromised immune systems – and the children love them, too.
Music and children using mobility devices
Outdoor musical instruments can be set up to be easily accessible. For instance, the musical gardens we create are spread out within the setting so that a child in a wheelchair has plenty of space to maneuver. Some of the outdoor musical instruments we produce, such as the Akadinda, have been designed specifically to accommodate wheelchair users and those who have reduced mobility.
Ergonomically designed percussion instruments can motivate a child with mobility problems to expand the range of his or her movements to attain more sounds. Because the instruments are accessible, they can be played with very simple movements and are specially designed to have angles that maximize the ease of play for those in wheelchairs.
Outdoor musical instruments for accessibility
Outdoor musical instruments facilitate social interaction because they are colorful, visually stimulating, and encourage spontaneity in those who play them. There are no difficult movements required to play them and they can be easily accessed by those with physical impairments. Because the beaters are attached to the Percussion Play instruments, they can be played instantly so there is no delayed gratification. This means that those with sensory processing disorder, developmental disabilities and SEN do not feel frustrated when making music.