Effects of Music Therapy for Adolescents with Autism

Table of Contents

Identification & Definition of the Topic

Autism is a puzzling disease that has, for a long time, bemused medical society. It is a condition that starts almost after birth and typically affects children below the age of three years. Autism is a disorder that has an impounding effect on children for a long time in life.

The medical fraternity has struggled to combat this disorder but has failed to achieve a major breakthrough in efforts geared towards the search for its cure. Temporary solutions such as improved nutrition and nutritional supplementation, environmental medicine, auditory training, craniosacral therapy, and music have been advanced as capable in reversing the trend of this complication.

According to American Music Therapy Association (1999), “Music Therapy is the clinical and evidence-based use of music interventions to accomplish individualized goals within a therapeutic relationship by a credentialed professional who has completed an approved music therapy program.”

Significance of the research

Agitation leads to severe disturbances in the quality of life of people with autism disease and their carers. It is well known that the incidences of autism and other medical complications are steadily rising due to the partial increase in the average life expectancy observed over the past century (Miller, 2008).

While most research articles abide by one fact that music therapy remains an effective intervention technique in handling the symptoms of autism, the qualitative nature of the reviewed and methodological approaches observed in the analysis of the studies failed to effectively provide a conclusion on the most effective form of music and therapy practices.

There is, therefore, the need to focus more energy on the understating of the role of music therapy on older residents. The significance of this research is to enhance my skills as a music educator in a way that I will be able to cater to students of any musical or intellectual level to advance a better understanding of students with a disability when it comes to music learning and performance.

Research questions

The research questions that this research study will seek to address include;

How did the child respond to the imitation of my rhythm modeling?

What was their attitude like as they entered the classroom, what was it like when I was initiating the activities, during the activities?

Did all students ever respond similarly and simultaneously? If not, why did each student respond so differently to each activity?

Literature Review

The recent qualitative review of literature in the area of music and music therapy and autism published on this topic suggest that “music and music therapy is an effective intervention for maintaining and improving active involvement, social, emotional, and cognitive skills and for the decreasing behavioral problems of individuals with autistic disorder” (American Music Therapy Association, 1999).

The role of the present qualitative analysis on this topic has been done with the view of understanding the quality of these studies and carry out a deep analysis on how their methodological approaches influenced the effectiveness of the therapy.

A number of literature on this topic has concurred in one conclusion to the fact that this approach is effective in the reduction of the level of pain and anxiety on adolescents with autism. Adolescents with autistic disorder demonstrate high levels of agitation and anxiety often manifested in a lot of stress and lack of self-control.

The explanations provided by a number of research articles towards the effective role of music and music therapy include the effect of music on attention. Familiar music may serve to regulate a person’s arousal to a moderate level or redirect a person’s attention from misleading or confusing stimuli (Michel, 1976).

Hicks-Moore (2005), in his study, has successfully presented a comprehensive and relevant academic, theoretical as well as empirical review of literature in their study.

In the analysis of the background to the study, Hicks-Moore (2005) has first presented early studies as well as more recent information that is coherent with this article. A literature search was carried out on observations, the role of different types of music, and ‘phenomenology research methods.’

Another well-documented article on the role of music and well being of people with autism and dementia is by Sixsmith and Gibson (2007). These authors abide by the findings of other researchers on the effectiveness of music therapy.

The authors began by demonstrating the need to incorporate the elements of a phenomenological approach to the study that could have an in-depth exploration of problems to be addressed in what he termed as “Seeing things up close’ – using the philosophy of Husserl as a base.

Relevant demonstrative capacity and in-depth analysis of this topic are manifested by Sixsmith and Gibson (2007) to demonstrating connections to other academic works on the topic.

In this endeavor, they have achieved the relevance of this study to the current demands in understanding the problems adolescents with autism go through due to the complications of this medical problem always presented in the form of agitation and anxiety. Recent studies have focused on the need to exploring strategies aimed at reducing autism on adolescents with autism through the application of music and music therapy.

Another very effective article towards the understanding of this topic by Choi , Lee , Cheong and , Lee (2009) on “Effects of group music intervention on behavioral and psychological symptoms in patients with autism: a pilot-controlled trial” seeks to avail the details of the comparison made among studies conducted by trained music therapists and other professionals on the interventions requiring active participation in activities like singing and playing instruments or games versus passive involvement such as listening to music, studies using live versus, taped music and an assessment of behavioral, cognitive or social variables.

It is therefore prudent enough to confidently state that the aim of these research articles, the research questions, and research problems are comprehensively addressed, and all literature evaluated in this research paper relevant.


The methodology would involve recording data of lunchtime workshops (due to the consent given by the students’ parent/guardian). These workshops will provide the basis of retrieving data from the musical activities that will be based on the Music Arts Drama (MAD) Concert repertoire.

The music sessions will be organized on a weekly basis during lunchtime. In addition to the autistic adolescents that will form the subjects of the study, I will invite other normal students to come along and create a positive learning atmosphere for these four children with autism.


American Music Therapy Association (1999). Music Therapy.

Choi, A. N., Lee, M.S., Cheong, K.J. and Lee, J.S. (2009). Effects of group music intervention on behavioral and psychological symptoms in patients with dementia: a pilot-controlled trial. International Journal of Neuroscience vol. 119. No. 4. 471–81.

Hicks-Moore, S.L. (2005). Relaxing music at mealtime in nursing homes: effects on agitated patients with Autism. Journal of Gerontological Nursing. Vol.31. no.12. 26-32.

Michel, D.E. (1976). Music therapy: an introduction to therapy and special education through music. New York: C. C. Thomas.

Miller, C.A. (2008). Nursing for wellness in older adults. Washington: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins.

Sixsmith, A. and Gibson, G. (2007). Music and the wellbeing of people with Autism. Ageing and Society. Vol. 27, no.1.127-145.

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