Music therapy for people with Autism Spectrum Disorder

“Music therapy uses musical experiences and the relationships that develop through them to enable communication and expression, thus attempting to address some of the core problems of people with ASD,” (Geretsegger, et. al, 2014). This study is an analysis of ten randomized control trials (RCTs) that compare music therapy to standard or ‘placebo’ therapy, and no treatment. 

Music therapy can look several different ways throughout a course of treatment, it can include improvisation, singing/vocalization, listening to live and recorded music, active music making and several other experiences. These interventions can directly support people with ASD to improve and develop communication (verbal and non-verbal), social skills/interactions, initiating behavior, social-emotional reciprocity, and adverse effects. This study states that secondary outcomes found improved social adaptation skills, quality of life in school and home environments, quality of family relationships, cognitive abilities, and no changes to hypersensitivity of sound. Results showed for all but two outcome categories under research, suggesting benefits of music therapy in comparison to other types of care.

“Music therapy has been shown to be superior to standard care and to similar forms of therapy where music was not used, which may be indicative of a specificity of the effect of music within music therapy.” (Geretsegger, et. al, 2014). This states that music therapy can access a different connection to the person receiving music therapy as compared to the connection in other therapeutic services or modalities. The music can be tailored to the client’s own interests and motivations and can be increasingly effective in basic skills such as eye contact or initiating interactions. 

 The author states that “music therapy may help children with ASD to enhance non-verbal communication skills within therapy … furthermore … contributes to increasing social adaptation skills and promoting the quality of parent-child relationships,” (Geretsegger, et. al, 2014). 

By Gwen D’Amico, MT-BC

Geretsegger  M, Elefant C, Mössler  KA, Gold C. Music therapy for people with autism spectrum disorder. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2014, Issue 6. Art. No.: CD004381. DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD004381.pub3.