Making music is one of the many ways how camps promote creativity, relaxation, well-being, and teamwork for camp guests. But music is also an important tool for camps to use with guests who have disabilities.

Over the last year, Percussion Play has seen a rise in sales of its outdoor musical instruments for camps as they look to use music for play, but also therapy.

Studies suggest that playing outdoor musical instruments can lead to improved communication skills for those on the autistic spectrum. Improved communication can lead to improved social skills and in addition provides self-expression, which is sometimes missing if verbal communication is difficult or limited.

Playing musical instruments promotes social development because people of all ages and abilities can play together, creating multi-generational interactions. It also increases confidence in people which results in improved self-esteem. Often people who live with developmental disabilities lack self-confidence and have low self-esteem because of their condition. Arriving at a new camp can be a daunting experience for everyone, especially guests with a disability. Music can help bring camp guests together and improve confidence by playing music together.

Some musical instruments are designed to be "pentatonic," which means that they consist of notes that can be played in any order and still sound good. These complimentary sounds encourage tactile play and creativity because it is impossible to produce "wrong" notes. The sounds of pentatonic instruments are always harmonious and so maximize the feelings of safety for people who play them. This means that camp guests become less anxious and are more likely to engage with their peers, meaning that communication channels are opened.

Research has revealed that children who received musical education improved their ability to tell the difference between sounds and increased their performance in fine motor tasks. When brain imaging was carried out on the children after they had completed 15 months of weekly music lessons it was found that the networks in their brains associated with these abilities had changed. Therefore, camp guests who have limited development in these neural areas would also benefit from having regular music sessions in camp to improve their fine motor skills and auditory recognition.

Listening or playing music increases dopamine levels. Dopamine is the chemical in our brain that is activated when we experience pleasure, and it plays a vital role in our survival. People with disabilities often experience reduced dopamine levels because their lives generally entail more frustrations, and they are sometimes unable to access the types of sensory experiences that increase levels of dopamine. For this reason, playing musical instruments can be a powerful and very accessible way to increase these feel-good chemicals and enhance the quality of life for those who have disabilities.

There are also many benefits to having access to outdoor musical instruments for wheelchair users. Ergonomically designed percussion instruments can motivate an individual with mobility problems to expand the range of their movements to make more sounds. This encourages balance, core strength and improves spatial orientation. Because the instruments are safe and accessible, they can be played with very simple movements with some being specially designed to have angles that make it easy for wheelchair users to play. They do not require strenuous movements to play and so the instruments are ideal for those who are limited physically.

In summary, there are numerous benefits to incorporating outdoor music into camp itineraries, especially for guests with disabilities.

For further information about how outdoor musical instruments can improve the experience of camp guests with disabilities, click here.

Periodically, the American Camp Association (ACA) makes timely and relevant information about products and services available to its members so they can make informed decisions for their camps. However, the ACA does not endorse products, services, or companies.