Music in Intervention for Children and Adolescents with Autism: A Meta-Analysis

Article excerpt

This meta-analysis of 12 dependent variables from 9 quantitative studies comparing music to no-music conditions during treatment of children and adolescents with autism resulted in an overall effect size of d .77 and a mean weighted correlation of r = .36 (p = .00). Since the confidence interval did not include 0, results were considered to be significant. All effects were in a positive direction, indicating benefits of the use of music in intervention. The homogeneity Q value was not significant (p = .83); therefore, results of included studies are considered to be homogeneous and explained by the overall effect size. The significant effect size, combined with the homogeneity of the studies, leads to the conclusion that all music intervention, regardless of purpose or implementation, has been effective for children and adolescents with autism. Included studies are described in terms of type of dependent variables measured; theoretical approach; number of subjects in treatment sessions; participation in and use, selection, and presentation of music; researcher discipline; published or unpublished source; and subject age. Clinical implications as well as recommendations for future research are discussed.

According to the National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities of the Centers for Disease Control (n.d.), the incidence of Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASDs) in the United States is not known. It is clear, however, that the rate of diagnosis of children has increased in recent years to the point that more than 15,000 3- through 5-year-old children and 78,000 6- through 21-year-old students received federally funded services during the 2000-2001 school year based on a diagnosis of autism. This does not include students with ASDs classified by a different category or receiving regular classroom, private school, or home school education.

The use of music in assessment of musical and nonmusical skills has provided insight into individual functioning of children and adolescents with ASDs. Based on a qualitative analysis conducted by Whipple (2003) of 11 American assessment studies, information obtained about musical abilities and preferences as well as other auditory discrimination skills and responses support the use of music in treatment with this population. In addition, 29 American studies involving music in treatment were identified, all demonstrating treatment benefits (Whipple, 2003). Still, additional analysis may be beneficial in more fully determining the efficacy of music in the treatment of this population.

Meta-analysis is a set of statistical procedures in which quantitative research data are compiled, allowing for greater confidence in conclusions about the efficacy of treatment and making large bodies of literature more manageable for readers (Johnson, 1989). In the field of music therapy, meta-analysis originated with examination of music in medical and dental treatment (Standley, 1986), with multiple updates warranted (Standley, 1992, 1996, 2000) due to the increasing literature base. In addition, music therapy metaanalyses have been conducted regarding treatment of dementia (Roger, Chapin, & Brotons, 1999) and premature infant (Standley, 2002), pediatric (Standley & Whipple, 2003), and psychiatric populations (Silverman, 2002). In an endeavor to further examine benefits of music in intervention, the present meta-analysis will contrast the effects of music and no-music conditions on treatment of children and adolescents with autism.


Study Inclusion

Criteria for inclusion in this meta-analysis were studies

1. Using group or individual subject experimental treatment designs;

2. With design, procedures, and results allowing replicated data analysis.

3. With subjects who were children or adolescents diagnosed with autism, eliminating studies incorporating diverse special education populations regardless of inclusion of students with ASDs;

4. …