People of all ages, cultures, socioeconomic backgrounds, and degrees of abilities respond to aspects of music in daily life. The engaging nature and accessibility of music often elicits positive responses of individuals with ASD (Kern, 2014). Researchers have discussed advanced music memory, responsiveness, and aptitudes within this population; more recent studies show that individuals with ASD may have a heightened musical aptitude and sensitivity to musical elements, yet similar skills of music perception as compared to typically developing peers (Heaton, 2005). While only a small number of individuals with ASD are musical savants (Treffert, 2012), all clients can benefit from music therapy interventions.

The following research-based examples demonstrate the value of music therapy for those with ASD:

  • Music therapy interventions are informed by research evidence and incorporate many of the identified ASD-specific evidence-based practices in each session (Kern, Rivera, Chandler, & Humpal, 2013).
  • Music therapy services for young children with ASD are very effective for improving communication, interpersonal skills, personal responsibility, and play (Whipple, 2012).
  • Music therapy interventions may elicit joint attention (Kalas, 2012); enhance auditory processing, other sensory-motor, perceptual/motor, or gross/fine motor skills (LaGasse & Hardy, 2013); and identify and appropriately express emotions (Katagiri, 2009).
  • Music therapy interventions based on family- centered practice may increase social engagement in the home environment and community (Thompson, McFerran, & Gold, 2013)
  • Music therapy interventions using musically adapted social stories may modify target behavior and teach new skills (Brownell, 2002).

American Music Therapy Association, 2020.