Sometimes We Have to Look at Things Differently

As a therapist, re-evaluation is always a part of the process.  Is what I am doing working?  Is this really benefitting my client? I find myself asking these questions many times in sessions and often will look to see if a new technique or intervention is needed.  If I don’t do that, then I am not being the best therapist I can be.

A study by T. B. Janzen and M. H. Thaut wanted to take a closer look at how music interacts with those diagnosed with ASD (Autism spectrum disorders).  Knowing that many studies have been conducted and that sometimes those on the “spectrum” have challenges in social situations and overall communication, they wanted to explore how motor function and issues with attention could be a contributing factor.  This article wanted to “provide a critical appraisal of new research developments” (pg. 1) because staying abreast of the latest research is important to being current for treatment and understanding.  The focus is “to provide a theoretical framework to support the application of rhythm-based interventions in the treatment of autism” (pg. 2).

The authors selected research that highlighted work in communication, social, and emotional outcomes done by previous researchers.  In communication, the emphasis was speech production in children with limited speech or pre-speech and focused on children using songs, instrument playing and movement.  In the social category, the highlighted research used improvisation as a technique to focus on “self-expression, communication and interaction” (pg. 3).  For emotional outcomes, the study mentioned in this section sought to help those with ASD identify four different emotions using improvisation.  However, the authors determined that more research is needed especially in the area of motor control.  

So how does motor control play a role in all of this?  Study after study is noted in this article of motor challenges for individuals with ASD.  They quoted a number of research articles that document poor motor development in infants recorded in home videos by parents demonstrating difficulties in neuro-typical motor development.  Janzen and Thaut stated, “Therefore, this growing body of research indicates that the earliest observable symptoms of autism may involve motor behavior and that impaired motor functions in ASD are strong predictors of core social, communicative and behavioral features of autism” (pg. 6).

Where does this information lead us? They “suggest that music-based developmental training for attention and motor control may receive a critical new functional role in the treatment of autism due to the significant effect of auditory-motor entrainment on motor and attention functions and brain connectivity” (pg. 10).

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

Janzen, T. B., & Thaut, M.H. (2018).  Rethinking the role of music in the neurodevelopment of autism spectrum disorder.  Music & Science 1, 1-18.  DOI: 10.1177/205920431876963

Stephanie H. Morris, MM, MT-BC

Neurologic Music Therapy Fellow

Central Ohio Music Therapy, LLC