Children with cerebral palsy, for example, might play the drums to encourage them to stretch and use muscles in a way that might seem painful during physical therapy, Cevasco said. Singing can be used with special education students to help them learn to vocalize sounds properly or to teach social skills such as taking turns. For dementia patients, music from their earlier years may be used to help orient them in time and evoke pleasant memories, Pitts said.
"Music therapy can be fun and take away the monotony of whatever it is we are trying to accomplish," Pitts said. "Music provides a certain emotional and even a physical response. For people in hospice, it can give them a moment to come together as a family, to remember a wonderful time and to have one positive thing come out of that person dying."
Read more about music therapy at the American Music Therapy Association.
SOURCES: Sarah Pitts, student, University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa, Ala.; Dena Register, Ph.D., associate professor, music therapy, University of Kansas, Lawrence, Kan.; Andrea Cevasco, assistant professor, music, University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa, Ala.