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 Book Review: Music therapy, Sensory Integration and the Autistic Child

by Tricia Luker



This book has been awarded the

Bridges4Kids ACCESS Award



We recently had had a serendipitous experience on a trip we took to visit dear friends in the Grain Belt. Our “traveling companion” on the plane (the woman in the window seat) was a recently retired music professor. She told us how she was looking forward to doing research in her retirement on the relationship between right and left-brain learners and music. It was all Greek to us.

At our destination airport we boarded the airport shuttle and our new traveling companion was a woman who, after a long career as a teacher, was now providing paraprofessional services to children who have autism. The airport van dropped us off at the home of our friend’s son for dinner.

Our host for the evening was a young man who has autism. Our arrival day was music therapy day for our host, and he invited us to join him for the session before we sat down to eat. What unrestrained exuberance we saw in him. The joy – true joy – was contagious. Even now, we struggle to find words that faithfully describe how music transfixed and transformed our host for 45 minutes, and set him and us on a bright path toward supper and our next days.

When we got home this month’s book, “Music Therapy, Sensory Integration and the Autistic Child,” by Dorita S. Berger, was waiting for us. It seems the whole trip serendipitously connected us to the positive power of music in the life of people who have autism. How could we not write this review now?

“Music Therapy, Sensory Integration and the Autistic Child” does a master job of explaining music therapy and its benefits. It’s an unwritten language that opens wide doors of communication, understanding and skill building for children who have autism – and we think children in general.

Berger’s book opens with a concise, 8-page description of sensory systems, and how autism exists in its own sensory realm. Anyone wishing to discover this facet of autism will find this section illuminating. The book otherwise is well organized and directed to explaining how music therapy acts as a devise that will enhance development of numerous educational related skills, including spontaneous and appropriate physical response to stimuli; self-management of behavior’ self-esteem; sequential memory and recall of information; temp/rhythm; gross and fine motor skills, to name a few.

Berger includes sample goals and objectives for each of the developmental areas. Her text explains the needs and benefits in a way that parents, advocates and professionals can use to support their requests for IEP directed music therapy services. Each subject area contains a useful listing of other sources for those who seek additional information.

In the past we have referred to tool kits and vital tools for successful parent advocacy. Berger’s book – and our trip to the Grain Belt – has opened our eyes to the vast possibilities music therapy presents to children needing skill building experiences. It isn’t about learning to play an instrument or to sing, it’s about using music to open the channels of communication, physical development and emotional experience.

Now that our eyes have been opened to the power of music therapy through our friend, we will evaluate its use in all future IEPs we are involved in. We cannot say enough for the power and value of music therapy. We feel the same way about “Music Therapy, Sensory Integration and the Autistic Child.” We excitedly recommend it and award it the Bridges4Kids Book Access Award.

We have developed a sample letter that parents and advocates can use to request that a school district evaluate a student for music therapy services. The letter, labeled “Ltr requesting music therapy evaluation” may be found on the Bridges4kids website, at


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