Playing the drums for an hour a week can help autistic children learn in school, according to a new study.

The study, from researchers at the University of Chichester and University Centre Hartpury in England, found that students’ ability to follow instructions improved after 10 weeks of drumming, with the students showing significant improvements in dexterity, rhythm, and timing.

The study also showed that the students’ ability to follow their teachers’ instructions improved significantly. Drumming also enhanced the kids’ social interactions with other students and members of school staff.

The study involved pupils from Milestone School in Gloucester who took part in a 10-week drumming program made up of two 30-minute sessions each week, researchers explained.

The study is a continuation of research undertaken by academics, known collectively as the Clem Burke Drumming Project, that includes the iconic Blondie drummer, and is aimed at demonstrating the value of musical instruments to students requiring additional education support.

“This is a unique and remarkable research project that has demonstrated the positive impact on a pupil’s health and well-being following rock drumming practice,” said lead researcher Dr. Marcus Smith, a Reader in Sport and Exercise Physiology at the University of Chichester.

“Rock drumming as a potent intervention for individuals experiencing brain disorders, such as autism, is fascinating and I am delighted that it builds upon the pioneering work undertaken by colleagues from the Clem Burke Drumming Project.”

Teachers evaluated behavioral changes within the classroom across the 10-week drumming intervention, with preliminary evidence highlighting positive outcomes, according to the researchers. Each lesson was delivered by drum tutors using electronic drum kits provided by charities in Gloucestershire.

Preliminary results showed:

  • vast improvement in movement control while playing the drums, including dexterity, rhythm,  and timing;
  • movement control was also enhanced while performing daily tasks outside the school environment, including an improved ability to concentrate during homework;
  • a range of positive changes in behavior within the school environment, which were observed and reported by teachers, such as improved concentration and enhanced communication with peers and adults.

The focus of the sessions, held at an agriculture classroom at Hartpury, was on learning and having fun while playing to popular songs, researchers noted.

“Drumming has a unique blend of physical activity, coordination, and musicality, all of which are known to be beneficial to well-being,” said Dr. Steve Draper, Dean of Research and Knowledge Exchange at Hartpury.

“It has been amazing to watch the children thrive and develop to this challenge. Drumming has the potential to positively impact a wide range of people.”

Source: University of Chichester