The Effectiveness of Music Therapy for Rett Syndrome

Speechless Yet Communicative: Enhancing Communication Through Music

Hero image courtesy of Resso MT.

Music therapy instills improved social interaction, communication skills, and reduced seizure occurrence amongst Rett patients. Rett Syndrome is a rare genetic disorder that leaves severe impairments in the ability to speak, eat, walk, and even breathe easily. Music therapy has risen as a promising avenue for treating symptoms for neurological diseases. As well as improving social skills, music therapy can improve emotional verbal exchanges in individuals suffering from Rett Syndrome. 

Parents of a child who suffers from Rett Syndrome undergo a large amount of stress over long periods of time and this stress can greatly affect their health. Music therapy can also help with this. Music can improve the parent-child relationship and interaction by promoting awareness of nonverbal interactions between the parent and child. Overall, this article will be discussing the effectiveness of music therapy in helping with Retts Syndrome. 

The topics that will be explained in the next several pages include:

  • Definition and effects of Rett Syndrome
  • Musical activities for Rett Syndrome
  • How Incadence can help and provide assistance

What is Rett Syndrome?

Definition of Rett Syndrome

The road to a diagnosis is a trying time for most parents and the cognitive and physical tests are even harder on parents. Image courtesy of Gillette Children’s

Unless you know someone suffering from Rett Syndrome, you may be unsure as to what the disease is. Rett Syndrome is a rare neurological genetic disorder that occurs almost exclusively in girls. Due to the fact that boys have a different chromosomal makeup, boys who do have the genetic mutation that causes the disease die before birth or in early infancy. There is a rare mutation that a very small number of boys have that is a less destructive form of the disease. Boys with this mutation are likely to live into adulthood, but are still at a number risks for developmental and intellectual problems. Rett Syndrome affects less than one percent of children and is nonetheless a rare condition. The genetic mutations that are known to cause Rett Syndrome are random and no risk factors have thus been identified. In a few cases, inherited factors do play a role, but this is a very rare occurrence. There is unfortunately no cure for Rett Syndrome but research and testing is currently underway on new drugs that could help manage and improve symptoms. 

Effects of Rett Syndrome

 There are generally four stages to Rett Syndrome: 

  • Stage I -  This stage is called early onset and typically presents between six and eighteen months. This stage appears as the slowing of development at first and may become more noticeable as the infant makes less eye contact and has a reduced interest in toys. 
  • Stage II - This stage is called the rapid destructive stage and typically presents between ages one and four and may last weeks or months. The stages’ onset may be rapid as the child loses purposeful hand skills and spoken language. Breathing irregularities such as episodes of apnea and hyperventilation become heavily prevalent at this stage.
  • Stage III - This stage is called the plateau or pseudo-stationary stage and begins between ages 2 and 10 and usually lasts for years. Apraxia, motor problems, and seizures are prominent during this stage. Many girls will remain in this stage for the rest of their lives. 
  • Stage IV - This stage is known as the late deterioration stage and can last for years or decades. Prominent features of this stage include reduced mobility, curvature of the spine (Scoliosis), rigidity, and spasticity. Girls who were previously able to walk may lose this ability. 

Rett Syndrome is so rare that the family featured above never heard of it until their daughter, who is now forty, was diagnosed with it when she was six. Image courtesy of RSAM.

Musical Activities as Therapy for Rett Syndrome

5 Common Musical Activities Used for Rett Syndrome

Music has been studied as a common talent, strength, and interest amongst girls suffering from Rett Syndrome. Music and Rett Syndrome research supports the benefits of music therapy for Rett Syndrome. Music, rhythm, and musical instruments have been seen as a significant interest and motivation of girls with the disorder. Music has been successfully used in preliminary studies to increase purposeful hand use, communication, choice making, activation of augmentative devices, and overall self-regulation. Here are five musical activities that are of common use in the music therapy field for Rett Syndrome:

  • 1.) Playing eye catching music/ instruments: Playing instruments such as an ocean drum or a colorful tambourine in various positions can help improve visual tracking. 
  • 2.) Using pictures of the child’s favorite songs, instruments, or musicians: Doing this during decision making activities can improve memory. 
  • 3.) Adding musical sound effects: Using musical instruments and various sound effects to stories can help the child gain attention as well as focus. 
  • 4.) Velcro-wrist bells: Using wrist bells, a cabasa, or chime trees can improve dexterity and muscle movement.
  • 5.) Recording the last word of a song: Having a child fill in the blank to their favorite song can also help with memory. 

These activities cannot cure the disorder but can help allow an overall improvement to quality of life for you child. 

Music therapy can help develop communicative, emotional, sensory, and cognitive skills that contribute to a child’s overall development. Image courtesy of RessoMT

How Incadence Can Help

Incadence is a music therapy company that specializes in helping people who have all sorts of disorders and overall health concerns. Their music therapists are board certified and dedicated to giving the best quality of care to all of their clients. If you are unsure of where to turn, call Incadence. They will match you with one of their therapists who will assist you with any questions you might have. Call now! 

Edited by Cara Jernigan on January 17, 2021

Haley Wisniewski
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