MacPhail’s Music Therapy Helps People with Autism Thrive

In White Bear Lake and other Minn. locations, the nonprofit MacPhail Center for Music offers music therapy to help people with autism and other diagnoses reach goals centered on bettering non-musical abilities.
Whereas music lessons have musical goals, music therapy’s goals are different. Jane Sheffler, former music therapy manager for the center says that music therapy “uses the power of music in a focused, concentrated way, for healing and change.” With a clinical model rooted in an educational setting, music therapists use evidence-based practices to create a treatment plan unique to each client. Although music therapy is highly individualized, a typical session involves a warmup to work on focus and sensory integration, such as dancing to music. A learning or creativity goal is addressed through playing an instrument, singing or writing a song, followed by a cool down and goodbye song.

Through music therapy, Sheffler says individuals with autism have shown increased attention and socialization, improved cognition and verbal skills, decreased-self stimulation and enhanced sensory-motor skills.

With the end goal of generating positive change and better overall well-being, the center makes music education accessible to thousands of people of all ages and abilities.