Therapeutic Power of Music

I just ran across an article published in Scotland on Sunday titled “Doctor Beat”. The author Janet Christie highlights some of the current research findings uncovering the therapeutic  power of music. Included within is a spotlight on the music research conducted by my friend and colleague Vera Brandes at the Paracelsus Private Medical University in Salzburg, Austria. Her study demonstrated clinically significant  improvements in heart-rate variability after patients followed a specific music program 2 x 30 minutes a day for five weeks. Heart-rate variability is an indicator of autonomic nervous system function.

Coincidently the article also highlights the story of young Ethan, a boy diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome who benefited from listening to our very own The Listening Program® method for 2 X15 minutes a day for eighteen months at his primary school in Midlothian, Scotland. His mother, Wendy Brooks shares “The music helped with his concentration and social skills, which is a huge thing when you’ve got Asperger’s. He used to get frustrated and upset really quickly but he became a lot calmer and it became easier to get through to him. He’s a maths whizz, so that became more focused too, because he can concentrate better. Before the program, he just wasn’t listening,” she says. “It has had a very powerful effect because he hasn’t been as difficult to deal with and his conversational skills are very good now. You’d never know how he was at three years old.”

While the article focuses on varied examples of the healing effects of music including music therapy, interestingly it concludes with a list of music that is reported to inflict pain and distress by military and law enforcement agencies. I would have never considered the theme of Sesame Street as torture, however I can see repeated exposure to the Bee Gees “Staying Alive” as being a detriment to my cognitive and emotional state. 

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Autism Awareness Month-Best Possible Life


It’s Autism Awareness Month. This is a time the world is bringing autism spectrum disorders (ASD) to light, so they can be better understood and appreciated.

The autism community is unfortunately divided. Lines are drawn in the sand, Accept/Cure, and on. This post will not delve into the divide. I am not a parent of a child on the spectrum and  have not walked in their shoes. 

However, I am someone who cares deeply for families touched by autism as my family has for generations. What I think important is that we recognize each individual labeled as having an autism spectrum disorder as the unique and special person they are. For they like everyone I want nothing more than the BEST possible life they can have.  And, for those that love them to appreciate they have infinite potential. We should do all that we can to understand the cause(s), develop reliable early indentification, and provide sufficient opportunities for growth, learning, and personal development.

My company is the developer of The Listening Program® method of music-based auditory stimulation. It’s used by parents, educators, and healthcare professionals with hundreds if not thousands of people diagnosed with ASD’s on a daily basis.  I am vested in this discussion.  We work with people across the globe challenged with how to provide the best opportunities for families touched by these disorders.  Ultimately we all want the same thing, a happy, fulfilling life for those we serve. That’s where my awareness centers, today and everyday. 

Here are a few links I hope you find helpful:


Autism Hangout

Autism Research Institute

Autism Treatment Center of America  

Autism-Asperger’s Digest Magazine


Dr.Charles Shidlofsky 


National Association for Child Development 

SI Focus Magazine

The Listening Program®

Autism: What the Experts Know (Disclaimer, while a contributor to this resource I in no way see myself as an expert on autism).

Research Poster: Exploring Porges’ Theory of Social Engagement

Exploring Porges’ Theory of Social Engagement: Using a music stimulation program for an 8 year old boy with autism

This research poster was presented November 16-19 at the Mozart & Science 2008 – 2nd International Congress for the Interdisciplinary Research on the Effects and the Experience of Music at the Palais Niedrosterreich in Vienna, Austria.

This case study compares the elements, protocols, and reported outcomes of an enhanced music stimulation program and the listening project created by Porges to test his theory of social engagement on autistic individuals who are known to have difficulties in this area.

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To learn more about The Listening Program® method of music-based auditory stimulation used in this research please visit

Fight-Flight, Music Improves Social Engagement

Earlier this year the publisher of SI Focus Magazine- Kathleen E. Morris, MS, CCC/SLP invited me to write an article on The Listening Program® method of music-based auditory stimulation for their Spring 2008 Issue.  The article touches on the role of the auditory system in the regulation of social engagement.  It also explores the use of The Listening Program as an intervention that has demonstrated improvements in social engagement for children on the autism spectrum. 

The close of the article includes a case summary of a young boy called Michael who I am fortunate to have met. It is children like Michael that make our work at ABT so meaningful.

We recently received re-print permission so I thought I would share the article here. I look forward to your comments.