For children living with autism, the ability to play an instrument and make music with it can be a profoundly positive and impactful experience. There are numerous simple instruments that produce beautiful and fun sounds that people of all ages can enjoy. You don’t have to have a multi-thousand-dollar concert-quality flute or sitar – plus years of practice, experience, and professional tutelage – to be able to make sounds that bring out emotions in both the player and the listeners.
These examples of the best instrument for an autistic child are not only quick to learn and easy to play, they’re also highly affordable and available at most music stores. Some instruments that non-musicians might see as a toy can actually hold boundless therapeutic and musical value.
Stress is a part of just about everyone’s lives in this modern world, whether you’re a parent or a kid. People who have special challenges are at an even greater risk of feeling overstressed.
Fortunately, music can be a great way to deal with stress in its many forms. Simply listening to music can often do a lot to ease the mind, whether by means of escape or even working out those tough emotions that a busy day inevitably brings.
Hand-eye Coordination/Fine Motor Skills
Being able to manipulate objects and use your hands and feet to make things happen in the real world is essential for the success of just about anyone. Without fun ways to work on these skills, it can seem like torture to try to get a kid to practice their fine motor skills. Putting an instrument in a child’s hands, luckily, should feel more like a treat and less like a punishment.
Countless studies have shown that children who have a means of expressing their creative thoughts do much better in their adult lives. No matter how developed or “beautiful” a creative idea might be, the act of being creative in itself works in many positive ways on the mind of a child.
An Emotional Outlet
One of the major struggles of young people with added challenges in their lives is the difficulty in expressing how they feel. Music, as a universal emotional language, is an incredible tool for giving the innermost feelings of a person a loudspeaker, no matter who they are or what they struggle with.
The Best Instruments for Autistic Children
Ukulele – Best Instrument for Autistic Children
One of the first things that a person thinks about when envisioning a tropical island beach scene is the gentle strumming of a ukulele. The great thing about this simple yet beautiful little instrument is that you don’t have to do much to make it sound nice. Even without putting any fingers on the fretboard, your child can freely strum at an open chord and produce sounds that are almost as relaxing as ocean waves.
The size of the ukulele makes it the perfect fit for small hands. Instead of a child having to attempt wrapping their fingers around the thick neck of a guitar or bass, the neck of a ukulele is much more accomodating and the strings are considerably lighter. And it’s easily transportable, meaning you can take your instrument on the go whenever you want to jam with friends or play at family get-togethers.
See some of our recommended ukuleles.
Although it is sometimes seen as a cliche children’s instrument, many people underestimate the beautiful sounds that can come from a record. With proper breath control, there is an amazing range of expressiveness that a musician can produce on this small instrument. Because of its size, it is another pick that’s great for the small hands of young kids, and it also makes it easy to take the recorder with you everywhere you go. Recorders are also great to play in ensembles, so the more young players you have, the merrier!
There is a family of chromatic percussion instruments that make it exponentially easier for a child – and for many adults, as well – to pick up on some of the basics of music theory. When you can visually see the layout of a scale right in front of you, it’s much easier to figure out which notes are going to sound good and which intervals to avoid. It’s also much nicer for beginners to have easy access to every note; that is, you don’t have to worry about complicated fingering charts, reed placements, or embouchure. With any of the instruments in this particular family, you have every note quite literally at your fingertips.
With the range of options at a range of prices, there’s something in this category for just about everyone. The xylophone and glockenspiel are usually the most affordable choices. Toy pianos can be a lot of fun, particularly for fans of Schroeder from Charlie Brown. While these may be on the costlier side, if your child with autism has fallen in love with a cheap keyboard of bell kit, it might be time to upgrade to something that looks and feels like a real instrument.
See some of our favorite xylophones for kids.
A big advantage with the trumpet and many other brass instruments is the fact that you really only need to use three fingers in order to play it. This means that horns like the baritone and the tuba are also excellent picks for autistic children.
Brass instruments are usually favored by the loudest, most charismatic of musicians. However, it can sometimes be a useful way to help the shyer children find their voices and be heard. Whether your kid is as introverted as can be or already a social butterfly, it might be a life-changing decision to put something like a trumpet in their hands.
One of the most natural things for a child is to use their hands to hit a surface. Banging on a drum – and learning to tap it gently – can help with hand-eye coordination, fine motor skills, and muscle control. As a child starts to get the hang of rhythm and the different sounds made from hitting specific parts of the drum, the parent or teacher can start to incorporate dynamics – loud notes and soft notes – to help the child develop greater control of their muscles.
Percussion instruments like bongos are excellent for kids who have a lot of pent up energy left over by the end of the day. The physical motion and experience of hitting a drum with your hands, no matter how stylistic or rhythmically accurate, can do a lot to blow off steam for kids who are rising to challenges every day that most kids don’t ever have to face.