Music Therapy with Children on the Autistic Spectrum - Two Investigations

Amelia Oldfield


This study consists of two clinical music therapy research investigations.

Project 1: Pre-school children and their parents at the Child Development Centre, Addenbrooke's, Cambridge

This investigation involves studying ten pairs of parents and children receiving weekly individual music therapy sessions for two terms. The children are all of pre-school age and have a diagnosis of autism. The sessions are being videotaped and the videotapes are then being analysed, to determine how progress has been made. Across the ten children progress towards aims set at the start of the work will be compared.

In addition, the mothers of the children have been interviewed before and after treatment to determine how their perceptions of their children may have changed during the treatment.

As well as analysing the results of the video observations and the interviews, the work with the children and the parents will be described. Observations will be made about what seems to characterise music therapy with pre-school children, and what role the music therapist plays with the parents who take part in the sessions.

Project 2: Music Therapy Diagnostic Assessments at the Croft Unit for Child and Family Psychiatry, Cambridge

Thirty children receiving both Music Therapy Diagnostic Assessments (MTDA) and Autistic Diagnostic Observation Schedules (ADOS) are being studied and the results of the two assessments will be compared. It is hypothesised that MTDAs will be shown to be effective at highlighting important aspects of behaviour which are symptomatic of pervasive developmental disorder. In particular it is thought that this will include non-verbal communicative behaviour.

The MTDA will also be described in detail and it will be explained how this assessment evolved at the Croft Unit for Child and Family Psychiatry.

Both investigations will be preceded by detailed literature surveys. The study will conclude by reflecting on the relevance of these results to music therapy and autism in general as well the practical considerations that might be useful to music therapists working in these areas.