\u201cIf I say everything I see, I might ruin someone\u2019s day!\u201d Ava Driskell is singing to herself, repeating a musical reminder meant to help the 10 year-old with autism better filter what thoughts she says out loud.\u00a0 \u201cShe usually says everything that comes to her mind. Her speech is very factual,\u201d says mom Mary Driskell. \u201cNow, I\u2019ll hear her stop and start singing the song, and I know it\u2019s helping her decide what she says to others.\u201d This tactic is one of several the family credits to music therapy, an avenue they explored when, at age 3, Ava had lost all of her speech but could still communicate by singing. \u201cWe wanted to focus on her strengths. We knew she had deficits everywhere, so we looked for something she was good at,\u201d Mary remembers. \u201cWe\u2019re so thankful we found music therapy because it covers such a wide range of areas. It really is amazing.\u201d What is music therapy? Music therapy is the clinical and evidence-based use of musical interventions to target an individual\u2019s functional needs \u2013 including physical, psychological, cognitive and social skills. \u201cMusic therapy focuses on needs for everyday life, like improving speech by singing songs or boosting independent finger movement through playing the piano,\u201d says Lindsey Wright, a board-certified music therapist and president of the Association for Indiana Music Therapy. \u201cWhen we listen to music or sing, we\u2019re using a different part of our brain than we typically use for these skills, so we\u2019re building new neural pathways and targeting trouble spots.\u201d Music therapy and autism\u00a0 Wright, who is the director of music therapy at Opportunities for Positive Growth Inc. which offers facility-based music therapy in Fishers, Lafayette and Kokomo, says the unique, engaging aspect of music therapy particularly resonates with children on the autism spectrum. \u201cFor those who are attracted to patterns and predictability, music can be very calming,\u201d she says. \u201cEven if you don\u2019t know a song at all, you know where things are going, unlike other activities you do during therapy.\u201d Music can also help keep children\u2019s attention on their therapy longer, especially if the work involves a favorite song or instrument. \u201cMusic can be the backdoor approach to therapy because it\u2019s fun,\u201d says Sarah Ardoin, a board-certified music therapist and music therapy director for Meaningful Day Services, offering home-based music therapy across the state. One of her therapists recalls working with a five year-old boy with autism who wasn\u2019t able to stay focused for more than a minute. By the end of his time in music therapy, he could stay in the room for a full hour, make choices and sing along. \u201cMusic brought him into it,\u201d Ardoin says. \u201cWe\u2019ll often have parents observe sessions and say after, \u2018I\u2019ve never seen him do that!\u2019 Music is just a great outlet for expression.\u201d Finding a music therapist\u00a0 Music therapy is growing in popularity in Indiana, with close to 200 people passing boards to become certified here in the last five years, according to the National Music Therapy Registry. Music therapy is covered under IDEA (the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act) and Hoosier families have the distinct advantage of having music therapy covered by two Medicaid Home and Community-Based Services waivers \u2013 the Family Supports Waiver and the Community Integration and Habilitation Waiver.\u00a0 \u201cMore and more people are finding music therapy when they learn how it targets specific areas and works on multiple domains, when other therapy can only work on one at a time,\u201d Wright says. \u201cFor families of children with autism, I think they\u2019ll see a lot of progress with music therapy. We just want to get the word out there.\u201d For a list of certified music therapists in Indiana, visit The Association for Indiana Music Therapy at www.indianamusictherapists.com \u00a0and click on Find a Music Therapist under the About Us tab. For a national registry, visit the American Music Therapy Association at www.musictherapy.org.