The Mozart Effect and Autism, ADHD and Other Developmental Delays

The Mozart Effect and Autism, ADHD and Other Developmental DelaysAn interview with Don Campbell, author of “The Mozart Effect: Tapping the Power of Music to Heal the Body, Strengthen the Mind and Unlock the Creative Spirit” and Founder of the Institute of Music, Health and Education

Mr. Campbell, your book explains how exposure to sound and music can have a lifelong effect on health, learning, and behavior. Why is music so important?

Music is essential for childhood development because it helps integrate many sensorial qualities. The ear is not just an organ of hearing. It is also the organ of balance and time/space perception. It teaches us to communicate, speak, and sing and dance. So, when we work with music, we’re working on multiple levels simultaneously.

Can you tell us about the Mozart Effect and autism, ADHD and other developmental delays?

These children often have trouble listening. Alfred Tomatis, a French physician, has spent his life studying vocal, auditory, and learning disorders, and he believes that faulty listening is the underlying cause of many difficulties.

Children may hear adequately, but frequently they listen poorly.  Hearing is the passive ability to receive auditory information through the ears, skin, and bones.

Listening — very different — is the active ability to filter, focus on, remember, and respond to sound. It helps us perceive distance and spatial relationships. Listening well creates a range of positive effects, including more energy, a better disposition, and improved vocal control, handwriting and posture.

Children with listening disorders may have speech impediments, poor motor coordination, and difficulties in standing, sitting, crawling, or walking. Tomatis found that listening or learning problems can be corrected by stimulating the muscles of the middle ear, where distinctions between listening and hearing begin.

Why does Mozart stimulate those muscles better than, say, Gershwin?

Much of Mozart’s music is in the high-frequency range, which Tomatis found to be the most stimulating and charging aspects of sound.  The higher frequencies – sort of sonic Vitamin C – help activate our brains and increase atten­tiveness.  The Tomatis Method relies on filtered high-frequency recordings of Gregorian chant and the spoken voice, as well.

How does music help children with sensory difficulties to learn?

The remarkable thing about music is that it’s fun! It adds a tremendous joy factor to learning and training.  It can be the wonderful source that allows sensory integration to happen on many levels, because you can simultaneously deal with speech and movement, emotions, and articulation.

An example, please?

(Tapping a pencil deliberately on the desk to accentuate every other word) The simplest rhythmic pattern and an unhurried beat can slow down our thinking.  Often, inattentive children will respond to slower speech.  So, get a metronome and put it at 50 or 55 beats per minute to help the child become better regulated.

What are other ways parents can help their children through music?

Parents can use music at home to calm a child who is highly overstimulated.  Listening to Mozart in half-hour doses works wonders!  Also, making music – playing drums and simple instruments – can allow the child to release stress.  Music a\so allows the family unit to participate in creative and trust-building experiences.  Music is far more than art and entertainment; it is also a treatment and a cure.

Try This

On your sound system, lower the bass and the midrange, and raise the treble.  Music with violins will get you the best results, but even the high hiss of a cassette (which you can create by turning up the treble) can help for a few minutes each day.  Frequencies from 2,000 through 8,000 hertz produce the greatest charge.  Your right ear should be directed toward the speaker.

The Mozart Effect May Benefit Children with:

  • Attention Deficit disorder (ADD); attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
  • Autism
  • Cerebral palsy
  • Developmental delays
  • Down Syndrome
  • Immunological disorders
  • Learning disabilities
  • Neuromuscular and skeletal disorders
  • Premature birth
  • Psychosocial developmental problems
  • Sleeping problems
  • Toileting problems

To learn more about workshops, lectures, and training with Don Campbell, contact The Mozart Effect Resource Center, 3526 Washington Ave., St. Louis, MO 63103-1019.  Telephone: 800-721-2177; 314-531-4756. Fax: 314-531-8384. Website: <>