Music Therapy: Why Auditory Processing is Developed through Movement and Music Education

Music Therapy: Why Auditory Processing is Developed through Movement and Music

This post contains information regarding the benefits of music therapy and movement for children with learning challenges. Affiliate links are included for your convenience. 

Children do not come in perfect, orderly little packages. They come with diversity, spontaneity, energy and amazing personality. Some come with physical disabilities, learning challenges and/or behavioral issues. With each of these differences, it can be difficult to find the right intervention and programs that help children in the classroom so they can reach their potential. More than 20 years ago when I was trying to find the right intervention for my own children, I tried just about everything to see what would help them do well and improve in school. Some programs worked, while others didn’t.

Music Therapy: Why Auditory Processing is Developed through Movement and Music | ilslearningcorner.com

As I began teaching my own students and researching better methods to help them succeed, I soon found that there is no one magic program that fits every child. In fact, some programs that work for many of our students, don’t work for others. Depending on the child and their specific needs, we must find where the gaps and breakdowns are before integrating methods that help. More importantly, as you begin looking for programs and methods to help your child or student, if you come across those that tell you “this program will fix all our child’s problems,” it’s probably too good to be true.

Every program and method we use is only one piece to the greater puzzle. It typically takes several types of programs to help each area of the child’s academic development. For some children, we have to start helping them at their lower subcortical levels because they have developmental delays, problems with speech and language, issues with vestibular, fine motor and proprioception, while others only need help at the higher subcortical levels used for reading, writing, math and comprehension.

Movement Therapy Works

As you may have read in our previous articles, we are huge advocates of movement therapy. In all my years of tutoring and training, the one constant “miracle program” that works is movement. Movement-based activities help your child’s brain become a “whole” brain. It works the left and right sides of the brain to build those neural connections, while also building the brain from top to bottom and back to front, which are areas that improve expressive language, retention, comprehension, emotional grounding, fight or flight responses, reasoning, critical thinking and much more. If you have a child that struggles in school, this is where I would begin to see if there are gaps in learning due to a breakdown with those neural connections. However, as we mentioned above, movement is a critical pieces to our child’s academic puzzle, but it is not the only answer.

Why movement does wonders for your child’s vestibular, visual, and proprioception systems along with hand-eye coordination, fine motor and retained primitive reflexes, it still does not do a complete job of helping your child with auditory processing (how your child retains their letters and sounds, remembers how to follow directions, can recall details needed for a test or homework assignment).

Music Therapy: Why Auditory Processing is Developed through Movement and Music | ilslearningcorner.com

Enter Music Therapy

Because movement therapy doesn’t correct all your child or student’s academic struggles, we incorporate music-based therapy to open up the child’s auditory for higher learning and we add it in conjunction with the movement. For example, say the teacher tells your child that show-in-tell is coming up and they can bring something to share with the class. She then proceeds to go over what is appropriate to bring and what is not. Your child must first use their auditory to acknowledge that they know what show-in-tell is and how it works. Then your child must use their auditory to remember that the teacher said show-in-tell was this Friday and they have to retain what was appropriate to bring and what was not. Finally, they must use their auditory to store that information and recall or repeat the details to you when they come home from school.

You’d be surprised at how many children struggle with this on a daily basis and often can’t remember what they need to do with their homework or can’t recall facts and details when they get ready to take a test or exam. They are usually the student that asks the teacher, “Now what am I supposed to do again?” or “What was that assignment?” Many parents often tell us they will practice spelling words and letters before bed at night, they see their child making progress, and then in the morning it’s like their child had never seen those same sight words and letters before in their life. The retention just isn’t there. This is the reason and purpose behind using music-based therapy programs to help children store, retain, recall and remember facts and details.

In addition, music-based therapy has helped many of our students with speech and language problems. Those students who came to us with non-verbal issues made tremendous progress and began babbling, saying words, and eventually progressed to full conversations during the movement and music phases of therapy.

Music Therapy: Why Auditory Processing is Developed through Movement and Music | ilslearningcorner.com

However, not just any music will work. As much as I love Mozart and there are many learning benefits that come from all types of classical music, to get your child’s auditory working and functioning correctly for reading, writing and math, acoustically filtered music is vital.

Ron Minson, MD and Clinical Director of Integrated Listening Systems (iLs), developed and improved his own listening program after witnessing the successful treatment of his own daughter who had severe dyslexia and depression (read more in The Brain’s Way of Healing). iLs’ sound therapy techniques have helped thousands of children struggling with learning challenges (including our own) stay off medication and improve their academics. With extensive research and case studies, iLs determined the impact sound therapy had on improving attention, auditory processing disorders (see study here), ADHD, Dyslexia, Autism, social and behavioral challenges, and many other learning issues.

As shown in this study, sound therapy combined with movement therapy improves the subcortical levels (lower levels) of the brain, which are used for motor skills, attention and behavior, and other developmental systems. In addition, many learning centers across the country and throughout the world have used bone conduction (sound therapy) with traditional movement therapy as a way to help children with Sensory Processing Disorders, as you see in this study, get the “sensory diet” they need to regulate their bodies for learning in the classroom.

Jeanette Farmer, handwriting remediation specialist, talks about the correlation between music and better handwriting and how it helps the brain. She says, “By using movement and music to activate and engage the brain’s lower levels, the regulated stimulation is critical for at-risk, learning disabled students as it primes the higher brain for the learning process.”

How to use iLs Programs

While there are several bone conduction and sound therapy programs available, iLs and also Advanced Brain Technologies (ABT) are by far the best we’ve used with our students. However, their systems are only accessible through a provider (like us) to use at home or in your center. If you are interested, please email us at info@ilslearning.com.

Remember, the most effective way to use this program is with a combination of music and movement therapy.

Music Therapy: Why Auditory Processing is Developed through Movement and Music | ilslearningcorner.com

Why Music Improves Academics

“Music is a more potent instrument than any other for education.” Plato

There are many vast benefits to utilizing music in one’s life. Music can be a powerful tool to calm the senses and it provides relief in a stressful world. While music is often tied to calming the body, it is also linked to improving intelligence and academics. In Good Music Brighter Children, Sharlene Habermeyer describes the dynamic connection between music and learning. She says, “When music is taught comprehensively and sequentially in the schools, it increases math, science, reading, history, and SAT scores.”

Habermeyer also discusses when a child is learning to read he first uses his ears to decipher how to verbalize the word. The auditory cortex must be ignited to read words on the page. For example, if I held up the word “cat” in Chinese, the child may try to say the word, but until someone speaks the word to him, they do not know how to pronounce it correctly. When a child is learning to read, ears come first, eyes come second.

Music strengthens the auditory cortex, the part of the temporal lobe that processes aural information. Logically, if music strengthens this important part of the brain, it should reinforce reading development. There is a relationship between strong reading test scores and music instruction. In the Journal of Aesthetic Education it describes a reliable association between reading test scores and music training after analysis of 24 case studies. Scientists at the University of California at Irvine and University of Wisconsin also show how music provides extensive brain-developing value. It can increase memory and concentration.

This is another great example of why children, especially those with learning challenges, should participate in music programs at school or play a musical instrument in addition to the bone conduction and music therapy mentioned above.

When children study music, patterns within the mind are altered. This has an impact on how learning processes are developed in the first years of life. (Source: Laura Saari, “The Sound of Learning, “ The Orange County Register.” 1997). Music involves a structured sequence of patterns, which, in turn, leads to improvement with spatial skills. Music lessons and spatial skills are exercising the same brain circuits. Why are spatial skills important? Spatial-temporal reasoning is the mental ability to see a dimensional pattern and to understand how each part or piece fits together in a logical manner. This kind of reasoning is used in higher levels of math and science and is key for subjects involving ratios, proportions, physics, and advanced science concepts.

In this Psychology of Music article, it describes improvements made with music and children that have dyslexia. The literacy problems associated with dyslexia are based behind deficits in motor and cognitive processes, which are temporal processing problems. Because music training requires accurate timing skills, it can improve temporal processing functioning. Some work in this area shows encouraging results with relation to music therapy and helping dyslexic individuals.

Music is Key

From developing math skills to focus and higher reasoning, music can substantially assist in many areas when it comes to the education of your child. Most children are naturally drawn to rhythm and sound, which makes it easier to incorporate music in their everyday lives.

For additional articles and studies that support music therapy as a way to improve learning, please read the following:

Music Therapy: Why Auditory Processing is Developed through Movement and Music | ilslearningcorner.com


Integrated Learning Strategies is a Utah-based center dedicated to helping mainstream children and children with learning disabilities achieve academic success. Our services provide kids with non-traditional tutoring programs within the Davis County, Kaysville, Layton, Syracuse, Farmington, and Centerville areas. Areas to find Integrated Learning Strategies include: Reading tutors in Kaysville, Math tutors in Kaysville, Common Core Tutors in Kaysville, Tutors in Utah, Utah Tutoring Programs


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