MUSIC THERAPY IN THE ASSESSMENT AND TREATMENT OF AUTISTIC SPECTRUM DISORDER: CLINICAL APPLICATION AND RESEARCH EVIDENCE
- T. Wigram
- C. Gold
Child: Care, Health and Development
Volume 32, Issue 5, pages 535–542, September 2006
Background Children and adolescents with autistic spectrum disorder (ASD) presenting with significant limitations in conventional forms of verbal and non-verbal communication are found to respond positively to music therapy intervention involving both active, improvizational methods and receptive music therapy approaches. Improvizational musical activity with therapeutic objectives and outcomes has been found to facilitate motivation, communication skills and social interaction, as well as sustaining and developing attention. The structure and predictability found in music assist in reciprocal interaction, from which tolerance, flexibility and social engagement to build relationships emerge, relying on a systematic approach to promote appropriate and meaningful interpersonal responses.
Results Published reports of the value and effectiveness of music therapy as an intervention for children with ASD range from controlled studies to clinical case reports. Further documentation has emphasized the role music therapy plays in diagnostic and clinical assessment. Music therapy assessment can identify limitations and weaknesses in children, as well as strengths and potentials. Research evidence from a systematic review found two randomized controlled trials that examined short-term effects of structured music therapy intervention. Significant effects were found in these studies even with extremely small samples, and the findings are important because they demonstrate the potential of the medium of music for autistic children. Case series studies were identified that examined the effects of improvizational music therapy where communicative behaviour, language development, emotional responsiveness, attention span and behavioural control improved over the course of an intervention of improvizational music therapy.