Music Education Can Help Boost Emotional Development in Kids

It also improves language skills and strengthens social bonds.

Cute kid enjoying music.

(ViDI Studio /

For parents of children with autism, it might be challenging to understand how their kids feel. While finding the words to express themselves is not an easy task, music can be a powerful channel for communication, as well as a tool for the development of these kids, The Conversation, a network of not-for-profit media outlets, points out. And a recent study adds credence to this idea of the transformational power of music to help these kids better express themselves.

Understanding emotions through music

As human beings, our ability to understand emotions is key in our interaction with others. People with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) find it hard to communicate and understand emotions within the social domain. They find it challenging to interpret nonverbal, facial, and bodily expressions of emotion of other individuals. 

However, there is evidence that suggests that many people with ASD show a strong and early connection with music and are able to understand simple and complex musical emotions in childhood and adulthood, a paper, Music: a unique window into the world of autism, from the New York Academy of Sciences,  reveals.

“I saw what I believe to be incredible musical and emotional growth in students with autism after they began to study music” Dawn R. Mitchell White, Doctoral Candidate of the University of South Florida and mother to three young adult sons with high-functioning autism expresses in The Conversation. “As a doctoral student and music teacher, I have seen the emotional transformation from music happen in both my music classroom and my home.” 

Kids enjoying music at home.

(Dragon Images /

Multiple positive impacts 

Apparently, and according to Mitchell White, musical emotions are easier to grasp for kids with autism than regular emotions because they are not as socially complex. There’s no need to use the ability to read facial expressions or to decode the message behind a specific tone of voice. 

Apart from giving many children with autism an outlet to express themselves, music can reinforce speech and improve language skills through the use of songs. This is because the autistic brain is more engaged with song than with speech. A study shows that the brain region that is responsible for the production of language is less activated during speech stimulation but more activated during song stimulation in autistic children with language impairments. 

Music is also an extremely powerful tool for strengthening social bonds through synchronized musical activities and the release of endorphins, associated with feelings of pleasure and reward, another paper on music and social bonding reveals.

But there’s more because an additional study shows that music can also help improve attention and memory. 

Empowering parents as music educators

Although professional help is essential, not only music therapists can use music to help an autistic child. 

Eugenia Hernandez Ruiz, assistant professor in Arizona State University’s School of Music, Dance and Theater has been dedicated to finding ways to help parents of autistic children use music in their children’s development. She was recently awarded The Arthur Flagler Fultz Research Award from the American Music Therapy Association for her research project “Virtual Parent Coaching of Music Interventions for Young Autistic Children”, the Arizona State University News details.

“I realized that we need to develop a resource that we can take to families in their homes and connect with them and provide them with resources, even if they are very far away from any center or do not have the ability to travel,” said Hernandez Ruiz to the university’s publication.

Although an autistic child’s thoughts may remain unknown to his parents most of the time, Hernandez Ruiz believes they can learn to communicate through the language of music. “We want to empower parents to have resources to be better parents,” she expressed. “They are not going to be music therapists. They are going to be better parents.”

Preschoolers learning music with their parents.

(Oksana Kuzima /