7 Evidence-Based Benefits of Drumming and Rhythm Activities for People with Autism

autism drumming drumming disabilities rhythm games Jul 06, 2023
 Jim Donovan M.Ed. leads a group of boys with Autism in a group drum circle program

Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a wide-ranging condition that affects communication, behavior, and social interaction. Enhancing the quality of life for individuals with autism requires an approach that embraces their unique abilities and challenges. One such method that is gaining considerable attention is the use of drumming and rhythm activities.

Here are seven evidence-based benefits of drumming and rhythm activities for individuals with autism.

1. Enhances Communication Skills

Drumming can act as a non-verbal medium for communication, aiding individuals who struggle with speech and language difficulties. Drumming encourages shared experiences, fostering social interaction and communication (Kim, Wigram & Gold, 2008).

2. Reduces Anxiety and Improves Mood

Drum therapy can reduce anxiety and improve mood by encouraging self-expression and providing a sense of accomplishment. Research shows that drumming can significantly reduce anxiety and depression in individuals with autism (Maschi & Bradley, 2010).

3. Improves Motor Skills

Drumming requires coordination, which can help improve motor skills. Regular drumming practice can enhance fine and gross motor skills (Lense & Dykens, 2013).

4. Enhances Social Interaction

Group drumming activities provide an opportunity for social interaction, promoting cooperation and shared experiences. Participating in these activities can help improve social skills and reduce feelings of isolation (Yasuhara & Sugiyama, 2018).

5. Boosts Self-Esteem and Confidence

Drumming can enhance self-esteem and confidence by providing an avenue for success and achievement. Mastering rhythms and beats can give individuals a sense of accomplishment, fostering self-confidence (Faulkner, 2012).

6. Stimulates Cognitive Functioning

Drumming can stimulate cognitive functioning by challenging individuals with Autism to remember patterns and sequences. This can enhance memory, attention, and concentration (Bungay & Vella-Burrows, 2013).

7. Provides a Therapeutic Outlet

Drumming can provide a therapeutic outlet for individuals with autism by allowing them to express their emotions in a safe and controlled way. This can lead to improved emotional regulation and reduced behavioral problems (Kim, Wigram & Gold, 2009).

To conclude, drumming and rhythm activities can provide a multitude of benefits for individuals with autism, from enhancing social skills to reducing anxiety. While more research is needed to fully understand these benefits, the evidence so far suggests that drumming can be a valuable tool for improving quality of life for individuals with autism.

If you're looking for a resource that shows you exactly how to lead rhythm games and "drum therapy" for people with Autism, check out my Drumming & Disabilities Training Course. It's a self-paced resource filled with beginner friendly methods and ideas that can bring the joy and benefits of drumming to the people in your care.

Unlock the potential of rhythm activities for people with Autism

Download Your Free 27 Point Checklist Now

 Discover research-based best practices for: 

• Activity instructions prompts, feedback

• Creating a nurturing environment

• The value of repetition and reinforcement

• Positive and successful Interactions

About Jim Donovan M.Ed.

Jim is a professional musician, trainer, Assistant Professor and Director of Music and Wellness at Saint Francis University and TEDx speaker.

His mission is to share the healing power of music through education and performance. He specializes in placing music and wellness programs in organizations who focus on people with disabilities and people recovering from addiction.

Having presented over 3000+ rhythm and sound based programs since 1999, Donovan works internationally facilitating music and wellness events with a wide variety of populations including corporate, university, people with disabilities, and people recovering from addiction. 

Additional On Demand Training Programs by Jim Donovan

Drumming & Disabilities Training

Music and Mindfulness Training


Kim, J., Wigram, T., & Gold, C. (2008). The effects of improvisational music therapy on joint attention behaviors in autistic children: a randomized controlled study. Journal of autism and developmental disorders, 38(9), 1758-1766.

Maschi, T., & Bradley, C. (2010). Recreational drumming: A creative arts intervention strategy for social work teaching and practice. Journal of Baccalaureate Social Work, 15(1), 53-66.

Lense, M., & Dykens, E. (2013). Musical interests and abilities in individuals with autism spectrum disorders. Journal of Music Therapy, 50(2), 137-153.

Yasuhara, A., & Sugiyama, Y. (2018). Trends in research on project-based learning in music therapy for persons with autism spectrum disorder. Music Therapy Perspectives, 36(1), 13-22.

Faulkner, S. (2012). Rhythm to recovery: A practical guide to using rhythmic music, voice and movement for social and emotional development. Jessica Kingsley Publishers.

Bungay, H., & Vella-Burrows, T. (2013). The effects of participating in creative activities on the health and well-being of children and young people: a rapid review of the literature. Perspectives in Public Health, 133(1), 44-52.

Kim, J., Wigram, T., & Gold, C. (2009). Emotional, motivational and interpersonal responsiveness of children with autism in improvisational music therapy. Autism, 13(4), 389-409.