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Creative Therapy Adelaide

#CASESTUDY

Music Therapy and ECEI

Author: Natalie Oliveri, Registered Music Therapist

Music therapy and ECEI

This photograph is for illustrative purposes only and does not represent the person featured in this case study.

Participant’s Situation

Eric (pseudonym) is a 4-year-old boy with autism who found music to be overwhelming due to his auditory sensitivities. This sensitivity made it challenging for Eric to go out in the community with his family.

Therapy Goal

In music therapy, Eric’s main aim was to build a positive relationship with music while reducing his sensitivity to sounds. We wanted to use music as a tool to help him feel more comfortable with different sounds and gradually become more tolerant to them.

Areas of Intervention

To support Eric, we started with quiet and non-intrusive sounds, slowly introducing elements of music. We used low-volume live music, singing without instruments, and then gently added instrumentation like a guitar. Visual aids were also used to help Eric understand and anticipate the musical elements. We integrated rhythm and movement into the session to provide strategies for Eric and his family to use at home to manage physical outbursts associated with his sensitivity to music.

Working closely with Eric’s parents and caregivers, we identified specific triggers and preferences. Together, we created a collection of music that Eric could tolerate, selecting genres and instruments that didn’t cause discomfort and used these, gradually transitioning into a wider repertoire of music.

Benefits Gained Through Therapy

As therapy progressed, Eric showed significant improvements in managing his sensitivity to sounds. Though he initially felt distressed during musical activities, consistent exposure in a safe and caring environment helped him engage more comfortably. We noticed that he became more tolerant of a wider range of songs, musical elements and instruments over time.

The therapy also positively affected Eric’s social interactions. Making music together with his family facilitated shared attention and turn-taking, improving his social engagement and communication skills. Eric’s parents shared that they developed effective coping strategies for sensory challenges in their daily lives, applying the tools learned in therapy at home and in the community.

Summary

This case demonstrates the success of a carefully tailored music therapy approach for Eric, an autistic child with auditory sensitivities. By recognising and addressing Eric’s unique needs, the therapy not only helped him manage his sensory challenges, but also created positive experiences with music that he shared with his family. This resulted in broader therapeutic benefits for Eric’s social and emotional well-being.

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