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The Gift of CALM
How Music and Auditory
Stimulation Can Calm the Senses
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by Jeff Strong
Steve is ten. He struggles at school with the transition from the largely unstructured mealtime to the more structured work time in the classroom. His response to this change: a tantrum or aggressive outburst.
Nancy is twelve. She is non-compliant, becoming agitated and then aggressive to others around her by pushing and grabbing fellow students or school staff.
Thomas, on the other hand, is extremely sensitive to sounds and grabs his ears and screams when exposed to loud, highpitched or unexpected sounds. Thomas is ten. Anxiety is common in children and adults with autism.
For some, it manifests as a reactivity born out of hypervigilance; for others, it is an internal tension that reveals itself as a self-stimulatory behavior. Still others experience anxiety as an outburst in resistance to change—change in environment, change in engagement or change in activity.
Parents, professionals and educators witness those types of multiple manifestations of anxiety at various times and on countless occasions. For me, never was it more clearly defined as when I conducted a study in an elementary school setting with ten children on the autism spectrum. The goal of the study was to explore the use of musical rhythm to induce calm. Steve, Nancy and Thomas were all part of this study.
Sound and music have a long history of creating calm. When we examine the world of music and our use of it, we can identify that calming our anxiety with music usually falls into two distinct approaches: Musical and Rhythmic.
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