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Musical activities can improve autistic children's communication skills

Musical activities like playing instruments and singing can improve autistic children's social communication skills.

The researchers at the Universit de Montr al and McGill University found that musical activities like playing instruments and singing can improve autistic children's social communication skills. These activities can increase brain connectivity in key networks and can also improve their family's quality of life.

According to the Medical Xpress report, more than 70 years ago the link between autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and the music was found, when almost half of those with ASD were said to possess "perfect pitch." From then, with very little but strong evidence of its therapeutic benefits, there have been many anecdotes about the profound impact music can have on individuals with the disorder.

So to get more clarity the researchers from UdeM's International Laboratory for Brain, Music and Sound (BRAMS) and McGill's School of Communication Sciences and Disorders (SCSD) shortlisted 51 children with ASD, aged between 6 to 12, to participate in a clinical trial involving three months of a music-based intervention. The children underwent MRI scans to establish a baseline of brain activity. The parents filled up a form. Then the children were then randomly assigned to two groups, one involving music and the other without any music. Each session was conducted at Westmount Music Therapy and lasted 45 minutes.

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After the sessions, compared to the control group, parents of children in the music group reported significant improvements in their children's communication skills.

Megha Sharda, a postdoctoral fellow at Universit de Montr al and lead author of the new research, published in Translational Psychiatry reportedly said that these findings are exciting and hold much promise for autism intervention.

However, this is the first clinical trial to show that music intervention for school-age children with autism can lead to improvements in both communication and brain connectivity, and provides a possible neuroscientific explanation for improvements in communication.

Aparna Nadig, an associate professor at McGill's SCSD and co-senior author of the study with Krista Hyde, an associate professor of psychology at UdeM reportedly said that the universal appeal of music makes it globally applicable and can be implemented with relatively few resources on a large scale in multiple settings such as home and school.

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