Music Research with Children and Youth with Disabilities and Typically Developing Peers: A Systematic Review

By Brown, Laura S.; Jellison, Judith A. | Journal of Music Therapy, Fall 2012 | Go to article overview

Music Research with Children and Youth with Disabilities and Typically Developing Peers: A Systematic Review


Brown, Laura S., Jellison, Judith A., Journal of Music Therapy


Background: Systematic reviews of research provide pertinent information to both practitioners and researchers. While there are several recent reviews of music research and children with specific disabilities (primarily autism), there is no current review of music research with children with a wide variety of disabilities.

Objective: The aim of the current study is to identify and systematically review music research with children and youth published in peer reviewed journals for the years 1999 through 2009. Research questions focused on participant characteristics; research purposes, methodologies, and findings; as well as the presence of ideas from special education policies, and practices. We also asked how results have changed from those from an earlier review (Jellison, 2000).

Methods: Using computer and hand-searches, we identified 45 articles that met our criteria for inclusion.Once identified, through a process of consensus we analyzed articles based on criteria, categories, and codes used in the earlier review. Additionally we analyzed measurement instruments and effectiveness of interventions as reported by the authors.

Results: Primary findings show a large majority of studies were experimental with most reporting effective or partially effective interventions, particularly for social variables. Compared to the earlier review, increases were found for participants with autism and for reports including ideas from special education. Percentages of articles measuring generalization and examining high-incident disability populations (specific learning disabilities) were low.

Conclusions: The findings from this review and comparisons to the earlier review reveal important implications for practices with children with autism and preparation of researchers to design and conduct studies in inclusive music settings.

Keywords: music; children; disability; inclusion

Systematic reviews of music research with children with disabilities can provide education and health professionals with substantive information regarding the scope of research and the effectiveness of educational and therapeutic practices. Reviews of empirical research with children with disabilities are prominent in the literature; some relate to inclusion (e.g., Webster & Carter, 2007) and several relate to autism (e.g., Chan et al., 2009; Odom et al., 2003). Recently, systematic reviews have examined music research with disability populations. Among the music research are reviews with children with autism spectrum disorders (Accordino, Comer, & Heller, 2007; Gold, Wigram, & Elefant, 2006; Whipple, 2004). Other reviews have focused on intellectual disabilities (Hooper, Wigram, Carson, & Lindsey, 2008a, 2008b) and psychopathologies, including some children with disabilities (Gold, Voracek, & Wigram, 2004).

In 1988, the American Music Therapy Association (AMTA) published a comprehensive compilation of music research reviews documenting the effectiveness of music therapy practices. The compilation was revised twice (in 1996 and 2000) with updated reviews of music research with a wide range of populations. Reviews of music research with children with disabilities and youth are included in several chapters; each focuses on a specific disability (e.g., blindness, physical disabilities). One chapter (Jellison, 2000) focuses more broadly on music research in special education, defined as music research with children and youth with disabilities who are eligible for services under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). From the findings, Jellison recommended increasing research in inclusive settings and incorporating language into reports that more closely reflects special education policies and practices.

Research from decades past provides an important historical perspective, and articles focusing on specific disabilities contribute to data bases for music therapy and music education practices. …

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