History of Music Therapy Treatment Interventions for Children with Autism

Article excerpt

The purpose of this paper is to provide a systematic review of the history of music therapy research and treatment of children with autism. Understanding such history is Important in order to improve clinical efficacy and inform future research. This paper includes a history of autism diagnosis, reviews strengths and limitations of music therapy practice with children with autism from 1940-2009, and suggests direction for future music therapy research and clinical practice with this population. Literature was limited to the English language and obtained with the following search terms: autism, autistic, (early) infantile autism, child, therapeutic music, musical therapy, and music therapy. Table of contents from music therapy journals were searched, and reference lists from obtained articles were perused for additional articles. This historical review focused primarily on journal articles, however, books and book chapters that appeared to hold particular historical significance were also included.

Autistic disorder is currendy one of the most prevalent exceptionalities of childhood in the United States. From 1997 to 2007, the number of children ages 6 through 21 with autism who received services under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) rose from 42,517 to 258,305 ? a five-fold increase in 10 years (Data Accountability Center, 2009). The rise in the prevalence of this disability has led to an analogous rise in demand for music dierapy services (Groene, 2003) .

Qualitative studies and small sample quantitative studies have suggested that music dierapy is a valuable treatment option for children with autism. However, both music therapists and nonmusic therapists have exposed a lack of evidence to validate the efficacy of music therapy with this clinical population (Accordino, Comer, & Heller, 2007; Gold, Wigram, & Elefant, 2006; National Autism Center, 2009; New York State Department of Health Early Intervention Program, 1999; Romanczyk & Gillis, 2005; Whipple, 2004; Wigram & Gold, 2006) . An analysis of historical and current practice is valuable in spite of such criticism: it will help create a foundation for the application of evidence-based practice principles, promote advances in music dierapy research, and eventually lead to a wider recognition of music therapy as a valid treatment for this population. Therefore, the objectives of this paper are to: (a) provide a history of autism diagnosis, (b) review historical strengths and limitations of music therapy practice with children with autism (1940-89), (c) appraise current strengths and limitations of music therapy treatment of children with autism (1990 to 2009), and (d) suggest direction for future research and clinical practice in the use of music therapy for children with autism.

For the purpose of this paper, literature was limited to the English language and obtained by searching PsycINFO, MEDLINE, Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, Woridcat, and Google Scholar databases with die following terms: autism, autistic, (early) infantile autism, child, therapeutic music, musical therapy, and music therapy. Table of contents from the following journals were searched: fournal of Music Therapy, British fournal of Music Therapy, Journal of British Music Therapy, Nordic Journal of Music Therapy, Canadian fournal of Music Therapy, Australian fournal of Music Therapy, Music Therapy, Music Therapy Perspectives, The Arts in Psychotherapy. Music Therapy Today and Voices, two international web journals, were also explored, and reference lists from obtained articles were perused for additional articles. This historical review focused primarily on journal articles, however, books and book chapters that appeared to hold a particular historical significance were also included.

History of Autism Diagnosis

Currently, autistic disorder is considered a complex neurobiological disability that appears by age 3, manifests as a varied spectrum of characteristics, and lasts throughout a person's lifetime (American Psychological Association [APA] , 2000) . …