We hear regularly about the importance of music in the lives of individuals with Down syndrome who come to our clinic. Elvis, Johnny Cash, Taylor Swift, Grease, High School Musical, and Mamma Mia! are but a few of the favorites. Music can be enjoyable as well as beneficial to the health of individuals with and without Down syndrome. Music can be used clinically as well as more informally to promote health.
Music therapy is an established health profession. It is the clinical use of music within a therapeutic relationship to address physical, emotional, cognitive, and social needs of individuals (American Music Therapy Association). Music therapy may be a beneficial form of therapy, especially for those who do not communicate verbally or have difficulty expressing themselves.
Music and Alzheimer's disease
Music therapy and music in general can help individuals with Alzheimer’s disease. Some of the potential benefits include helping individuals recall memories, improving cognition, and reducing agitation and anxiety. The Alzheimer’s Association website provides tips for selecting music for a person with Alzheimer’s disease. While we could not find information specific to Down syndrome, many families have shared that music has helped their loved ones with Down syndrome and Alzheimer’s disease.
Music and mental wellness
Music can be used as a coping mechanism to improve our mood, decrease stress, and help us calm down. In our social skills groups for adults with Down syndrome, participants frequently share that they listen to music when they feel sad, stressed, or angry.
Music and physical activity
Turn on an upbeat song and you can’t help but start dancing, which is a fun and equipment-free form of physical activity. Listening to music while exercising also has physical and psychological benefits, including increasing our pace or the length of time we exercise, fighting boredom, and distracting us from pain and fatigue.
These are just a few of the many health benefits of music. Additional health benefits of music are discussed on the National Institutes of Health website. Has music been beneficial for a person with Down syndrome in your life? We would enjoy hearing about your experience.