We have long known about the ability of classical music to provide pleasure and stir up deep emotions. Undoubtedly, music has a powerful impact on the brain. Studies have shown that classical music can also help children with special needs through a variety of significant improvements including reduced stress, increased IQ, and improved ability to concentrate. Further, music can make children feel more positive and improve their creative thinking. The bottom line is that classical music can make a huge difference in the lives of those with disorders like autism, Down syndrome, cerebral palsy, ADD and ADHD and mental retardation.
The Mozart Effect and the Power of Music
The term “The Mozart Effect” has gone mainstream, as now there are a variety of products including everything from CDs to toys that use Mozart’s music to improve a person’s ability to perform mental tasks. A wide variety of experts theorize that listening to Mozart can actually boost intelligence too. Don Campbell who wrote The Mozart Effect: Tapping the Power of Music to Heal the Body, Strengthen the Mind, and Unlock the Creative Spirit has declared that the Mozart Effect is “an inclusive term signifying the transformational powers of music in health, education, and well-being.”
An issue of Nature Journal in 1993 published remarkable findings from studies at The University of California at Irvine. In one study, group of students listened to Mozart while a second group listed to a tape with suggestions for relaxation. A third test group just had 10 minutes of silence. When these students were given a test on spatial IQ, those who listened to Mozart showed to have a significantly higher spatial IQ.
Some scientists speculate that complicated sounds like classical music boosts the operation of firing patterns in the brain’s cortex. Studies have also shown that those even with Alzheimer’s disease do better on spatial IQ tests after listening to Mozart. One of the reasons that classical music is so powerful in contrast to other forms of music is that it has sequences that repeat throughout a musical piece. Often these sequences appear about every 20 or 30 seconds. Due to the fact that brain wave patterns also take place in 30-second cycles, this type of music can provide the most powerful type of response.
The Mozart Effect has very real implications for those with learning disorders. Listening to classical music will not only boost IQ, but it will also help children concentrate better and memorize new information. When a child hears classical music, it can create the ideal conditions for learning and creativity.
One additional boost to the implications of classical music’s positive impact on learning and the brain occurred in 1998 when the governor of Georgia Zell Miller included over $100,000 annually in the budget for the state for tapes and CDs of classical music for all of children born in Georgia. He was persuaded to take this bold step due to the various studies that listening to classical music spurs intelligence.
Classical music can positively impact everything from emotional development to motor skills to cognitive functioning. There is an entire field of psychology called Music Therapy where therapists improve the health of their clients through using music. Professionals like teachers, physicians and psychologists regularly refer children for music therapy. Music Therapists can even help rehabilitate people who have had strokes through the power of music.
Kids with learning disorders like ADD, ADHD, and autism can benefit from Music Therapy, as it will help them to feel calmer and less impulsive. Further, many children will feel more comfortable opening up about their feelings when they are exposed to music. At this point, therapists can help children to overcome their frustrations and assist to boost their self-esteem.
Distractions and Music
One thing that many children with learning disorders have in common is that they are easily distracted. Different noises can take their attention away from a task at hand. However, when classical music is used therapeutically, it changes the way the ear functions and stimulates the brain.
Children with a variety of learning disorders including autism are experiencing positive results from Tomatis Listening Therapy. During therapy sessions, classical music is sent into the right ear and the sound is also vibrated through the bones in the body. One of the goals of this therapy is to get the ears in sync and re-balance the system. The philosophy behind this treatment is that it can allow its recipients to begin performing to the best of their abilities.
Many children have also improved their ADHD conditions through learning to play a music instrument. The act of practicing playing classical music and listening to it at the same time can teach kids to lengthen their attention span.
The Calming Ability of Music
When children with special needs listen to classical music, it provides a positive and relaxing experience. Remarkably, classical music can also reduce stress and ease frustrations. Further, it can reduce muscle tension and slow down the heart rate. When these changes occur, the mind is more open to learning and also to communicating with others.
One study at the Baltimore St Agnes Health Care by Raymond Bahr, MD showed that when doctors played classical music for their heart patients it had the same impact as a 10 mg dose of Valium! The implications of this study for those with special needs are clear. When children with autism, cerebral palsy, ADD, ADHD, and mental retardation are able to relax and calm down, dramatic changes in their behavior become possible.