Music strikes the right note with children with autism

ABU DHABI // More than 100 children with autism attended a 30-minute music session to mark Autism Awareness month.

The New England Centre for Children, in collaboration with UK-based Music for Autism International, has been holding annual workshops for their students and incorporated music classes into their curriculum after noticing positive reactions during the sessions.

Dr Pam Olsen, chief programme officer at The New England Centre for Children, said the children’s response was evident from the start.

“The first time we held it, we saw how much the children enjoyed music and interacting with musicians, so we ended up incorporating music into the curriculum,” she said.

UAE composer Eman Al Hashimi, who hosted the workshop, said most autistic children have an affinity for music.

“I have been hosting these sessions for three years now and the talent these autistic children have with music feels like they were born musicians,” she said.

“Music helps them heal and understand their surroundings. They have a gift from God, that they know the rhythm of music.

“Some people study this for years, but to them it comes naturally, we don’t know why but it is true.”

Music also helps to calm the child, Al Hashimi said.

“Every session I have gone to, I noticed that music helps them become calmer and is a very positive way to communicate with them,” she said.

“If a child is very aggressive, you will notice music helps them control it. It is a step out from their world, the rhythm really gets their attention.

“Maybe music will not be able to heal the children 100 per cent, but it is definitely a step forward. I would encourage parents and teachers who have children suffering from autism to help their children with music and it will definitely be a positive step in their development,” she said.

mmannan@thenational.ae

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