Rhythm and Structure: The Benefits of Music Therapy for Kids with ADHD

Children with attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) need help developing a sense of structure and organization. Problems associated with the disorder include an inability to concentrate and focus on tasks; difficulty listening to direction; and a tendency to be restless and intrusive, among other symptoms. Parents have to be careful about how they organize their child’s daily routines. School can be a significant problem for ADHD kids, who often have trouble completing assigned tasks.

There are many therapeutic treatment approaches for kids with ADHD, but music is uniquely effective at helping them overcome symptoms that can cause trouble in their social and school lives. In fact, few things help instill structure like music, with its combination of rhythms and melodies. Researchers have found that musical exercises can improve an ADHD child’s attention, motor skills and academic performance.


“Music is rhythm, rhythm is structure, and structure is soothing to an ADHD brain struggling to regulate itself to stay on a linear path,” writes Anni Layne Rodgers, ADDitude Magazine. It’s been shown that children can benefit simply by clapping or tapping their feet along to the beat of a song. Kids who undergo music therapy interact with music by playing rudimentary instruments such as drums, cymbals and wooden sticks.

The intrinsic social quality of music is also helpful, as children keep time together and contribute their individual creativity to the achievement of a larger objective: The performance of a piece of music.


Differences in tempo and melody can encourage desired behaviors, calming or stimulating a child’s cognitive and motor functions depending on the song. For example, playing an up-tempo song can help a child burn off pent-up energy, while a slow, relaxing piece of music can help them settle down for meals or bedtime. In fact, changing rhythms periodically can help ADHD children focus because it causes them to pay attention to changes in time and alters their physiological reaction.

As such, music can help children learn to listen and concentrate. Playing music requires them to pick up on changes in tempo, and anticipate changes in melody and harmony. Kids also benefit from having a “voice,” a creative outlet that’s heard alongside others. Exposing your child to such an experience by hiring a certified music therapist can be a little expensive. Fortunately, there are many ways you can incorporate music into your everyday life.

Create a ‘soundtrack’

Record a list of songs your child likes preferably, one that features different rhythms and styles,   and find ways to incorporate it in your daily routine. Play calming music when you’re sitting down to dinner, or something more upbeat when it’s time to do chores, homework or on the way to school in the morning. Sing along with your child, especially when his favorite tunes come on. Consider writing a song with your child, something you can both play and sing when he needs a little mood boost. Let him experiment with different kinds of music. Classical, jazz and certain kinds of rock are good choices, though avoid more aggressive forms of rock.


Learning to play music restructures brain functioning in positive ways. Encourage your child to try an instrument and play in the school band. Kids benefit considerably from the experience, which provides the structure and socialization they need, as well as self-discipline and self-confidence. Be sure to do some research before buying or renting an instrument. You can consult with an expert at your local music store.

A touchstone

Music can be incorporated into your daily routine quite easily. For a child with ADHD, it’s a touchstone in the midst of what can be a confusing and chaotic world. Those who are exposed to music and learn to play an instrument boost their sense of well-being and confidence and often do better in school.

About the Author:

Ashley Taylor is a freelance writer, photographer, and advocate for people with disabilities. She created to provide information and resources to other parents with disabilities. When she isn’t working, she enjoys spending time with her husband and two children.

Visit Ashley’s website for further information and resources!

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