Music Therapy: How can it help with sensory processing and attention in children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)?

paper head puzzle and missing piece

Back in May 2019, I wrote about a research study called “Music Improves Social Communication and Auditory-Motor Connectivity with Children with Autism” (Sharda, M, et al., 2018).  That study looked at roughly 51 children in which half of them received music therapy and the other half received non-music based therapy and focused on how the music affected their socialization skills.  In discussing the results and conclusion, I stated, “Positive results often bleed into improved quality of life issues for the family, who are the main support system and need support in the way of effective therapies.”

This post highlights another study, but this one is using electroencephalography, better known as EEG, to decide how changes in the brain can be measured when a child with ASD receives music therapy.  This study is the first of its kind and therefore sets precedence, or gives a start for similar studies to follow.  

Using only 14 children total, 7 meeting the criteria with a diagnosis of ASD and the other 7 considered typically developing (TD), researchers wanted to compare the differences between the 2 groups.  The children in the ASD group did receive 10 individual sessions with a board certified music therapist over a 5-week period. Researchers went to great lengths to make sure the study was successful to determine whether its feasibility is warranted for further investigation.  Results and discussion concerning the success and use of the EEG to measure the sensory gaiting and attention “indicated mixed results” (p. 308). Specifically, the results for sensory gating showed improvement, but “these improvements were not statistically significant” (p. 309).  While some might be discouraged by these results, research takes trial after trial in order to be proven that changes or differences can be seen using different methods or therapies.

Realizing that both studies mentioned (the one in May and the one today), have different outcomes and results, research is necessary to continue the study of how music therapy can be beneficial, whether that be for children with ASD or individuals with dementia, Alzheimer’s disease or someone who has suffered a traumatic brain injury.  

For more information on music therapy, visit our website at or the American Music Therapy Association’s website at

Stephanie H. Morris, MM, MT-BC

Neurologic Music Therapy Fellow

Central Ohio Music Therapy, LLC

LaGassee, A. B., Manning, R. C. B., Crasta, J. E., Gavin, W. J. and Davies, P. L. (2019).  Assessing the impact of music therapy on sensory gating and attention in children with autism: A pilot and feasibility study.  Journal of Music Therapy, 56(3), 2019, 287-314.  Doi: 10.1093/jmt/thz008