The Effects of Music Therapy on the Interactive Lives of Children Who Have Autism
Gombert, Debra Jelinek
Master of Arts in Music Therapy
The purpose of this study was to observe the effects of a music therapy intervention on the interactive lives of pre-school children with Autistic Spectrum Disorders (ASD). The participants were a convenience sample of 11 children who had been previously diagnosed as having an ASD, and live in a suburban area of the Midwest. The children ranged in age from 3 to 5.5 years of age. Parents and an observer rated the children’s interactions with others using a pre-test post-test pre-experimental design. The hypothesis was that a four-week music therapy intervention would result in a positive change in each child’s interactive life, as measured by the Interactive Life component of the Adult-Child Relationship Map (IARM), a tool developed by MacDonald (2004). The term interactive life is defined as having three components: social play, imitation, and reciprocal turn-taking. Since impairments in social interaction are a hallmark symptom of ASD, interventions that focus on these elements are essential for children who have ASD. A trained observer reported a statistically significant average increase of 0.8 points on the I-ARM. When the measure was completed by the parents, only 5 out of 11 children had an increase in scores on the I-ARM; thus these increases were not statistically significant. Since the results from the trained observer’s report did show a statistically significant increase on the measure, this study indicates that music therapy may be a valuable intervention to increase a child’s social interaction. Recommendations for further research include conducting the intervention over a longer period of time, using two observers to view each child’s sessions, and using a mixed-methods approach in future study with the I-ARM.