Music Therapy-Based Social Skills Enhancement For Adolescent and Young Adult Students With Autism Spectrum Disorders: A Pilot Study

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Hemenway, Amy
Master of Arts in Music Therapy
Autism spectrum disorders (ASD) have been increasing at an alarming rate for several decades.The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) estimates that 1 in 68 children in the United States have been diagnosed with some form of autism. Social development is considered one of the more serious deficits affecting these individuals. Although several studies have been dedicated to the socialization needs of children with ASD, fewer studies have been developed to address social skills enhancement and support for adolescents and young adults with ASD. Most educational support programs and services generally recede after secondary school education is complete. Numerous individuals with ASD have poor adult psychosocial functioning even those without intellectual disability. This purpose of this qualitative, descriptive study is to examine the role music therapy interventions play in relation to social skills enhancement in adolescents and young adults with ASD. The researcher conducted 10 group music therapy sessions over a 5-week period, with six participants ages 15-21 at a specialized school for children with ASD. The intent of the sessions was to provide opportunities for social skills enhancement through various improvisational, lyrical analysis and songwriting endeavors. A video camera was used to record each session which was viewed and transcribed by the researcher. Data analysis involved uncovering various themes that occurred throughout the data collection process. The transcribed data was then coded or organized into specific themed categories. The categories contain excerpts from the transcripts displaying numerous verbal utterances produced by the participants.These results indicated positive overall outcomes with regard to music therapy-based interventions and the improvement of social skills. Further research actions may include utilizing additional qualitative or quantitative means to expand on the results of this pilot study. Perhaps a comparison study involving social skills groups with and without music therapy interventions may provide beneficial data for developing programs for people with autism spectrum disorders.