Why you as a parent are practicing effective treatment when using the activities in The Music Initiative

I read a current article in the Journal of Music Therapy today that sparked my interest.

The authors brought up the topic of evidence-based practices (inventions and treatments). The National Research Council (NRC) states that focus should be placed on interventions that are effective, individualized, and functional (improvement of “everyday life skills”) (NRC, 2001). Focusing on improvement of life skills is logical, as there is no cure for ASD; attention should be on therapeutic interventions.

In 2005 the National Autism Center (NRC) began researching and categorizing evidence based, effective treatments for individuals diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder. The results were published in 2009, and categorized treatments as Established, Emerging, Unestablished, and Ineffective/Harmful.

Music therapy is listed as an emerging treatment, meaning that there is some evidentiary support, but more evidence-based research is needed before the treatment can be considered Established. This sounds promising; music therapy is being carefully considered, and not ignored. And if it becomes an Established treatment as defined by the NAC, maybe music therapy will gain more support through insurance, the education system, and the medical and science community. (Big thanks to all within those systems who are already encouraging music therapy to become a widely recognized treatment option).

The 11 treatments that the NAC have classified as Established are primarily rooted in behavior research (examples are not comprehensive):

Antecedent Package Cueing/prompting, priming, time delay
Behavioral Package Progressive relaxation, token economy
Comprehensive Behavioral Treatment for Young Children Applied Behavior Analysis
Joint Attention Interventions Ex: Pointing to objects, showing something to another
Modeling Viewing a modeled behavior and imitating it
Naturalistic Teaching Strategies Focused stimulation, incidental teaching
Peer Training Package Buddy skills, integrated play groups, peer-mediated social interactions
Pivotal Response Treatment Targets pivotal behavioral areas
Schedules Written, pictures, photographs, work stations
Self-Management Checklists, wrist counters, visual prompts
Story-based Intervention Package Social stories; seek to answer who, what, when, where, and why

But why is this important to you when using music therapy based activities with your child?

I’m so glad you asked!  As the authors of the article so nicely put it,

“Normally, evidence is measured on focused interventions, not on the discipline (e.g. prompting, not special education). Based on these findings, music therapists appear to be implementing all the guiding principles of practice (NAC, 2009) on a very high level, except for serving clients in natural and inclusive environments” (Kern, et. al. 2013).

And here’s where you come in—you are providing activities in the natural and inclusive environment! Congrats, you, on meeting one of the requirements or effective treatment! J

Actually, I think it is very important to note that music therapists really do incorporate many of these effective treatments through their specialized medium of music. Over 80% of the music therapists  that participated in the study reported using several of the 11 recommended treatment options in their practice. The most common being prompting, reinforcement, joint attention, and picture schedules.

Many of these techniques are explained in The Music Initiative: Children with Special Needs Book! No! Really? Yes! 😉

And all of this doesn’t even include the subjective concept that music is emotionally beneficial in and of itself.

So play on, I say. And keep the music going!



Kern, P., Rivera, N. R., Chandler, A., & Humpal, M. (2013). Music therapy services for individual with Autism Spectrum Disorder: A survey of clinical practices and training needs. Journal of Music Therapy, 50(4), 274-303.

National Research Council. (2001). Educating children with autism. Committee on educational interventions for children with autism. Retrieved on 3.2.2014 from http://www.nationalautismcenter.org/nsp/reports.php