Music Therapy with Young Children on the Autism Spectrum: How does it affect a families’ quality of life?

As far as I know, no child comes with a “Here’s How to Raise Your Child” manual.  For parents who have a child on the autism spectrum, the challenges and questions can possibly be greater than a typically developing child.  What if your family was provided music therapy to help you as a parent learn music strategies and provide support to improve the over quality of life for everyone?  But what happens after the sessions are over? Can families continue to use the strategies and knowledge gained over the long term?

One such researcher in Australia did just that and conducted a series of music therapy sessions with twenty-one families over 16 weeks.  Four years later, eight mothers were interviewed for follow up and to determine what lasting benefits were still being felt and to verify how those benefits impacted the family’s overall quality of life.

For this type of research, Dr. Grace Thompson conducted a qualitative study which resulted in “five global themes, including improvement in mother’s confidence to engage their child; rare opportunities for mutual mothers-child enjoyment; improved child social communication and quality of life; and more opportunities for continuing the child’s interest in music” (p. 432). Each of the eight mothers were asked basically the same series of questions so their answers could be compared and therefore categorized into ‘themes.’  These five global themes grew from thirteen collective themes, which the mothers stated throughout their interviews.

In her discussion, Dr. Thompson points out that this study supports previous research highlighting the benefits of “family-centered music therapy” (p. 452).  She stated, “mothers…participating…with their child…gave them a sense of confidence in finding a way to connect with their child and engage them in social interactions”(p. 455).  She also highlighted the benefits of engaging mothers and children in the early stages of their child’s development showed long-term benefits for social interaction.

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

Thompson, G. (2017).  Long-term perspectives of family quality of life following music therapy with young children on the autism spectrum: A Phenomenological Study.  Journal of Music Therapy, 54(4), 2017. 432-459; doi 10.1093/jmt/thx013