Music Therapy and Autism Ranking: Limited positive evidence

Key Features

According to the British Association of Music Therapists website, accessed on 19 May 2016,

“Music plays an important role in our everyday lives. It can be exciting or calming, joyful or poignant, can stir memories and powerfully resonate with our feelings, helping us to express them and to communicate with others.

“Music therapy uses these qualities and the musical components of rhythm, melody and tonality to provide a means of relating within a therapeutic relationship. In music therapy, people work with a wide range of accessible instruments and their voices to create a musical language which reflects their emotional and physical condition; this enables them to build connections with their inner selves and with others around them.

“Music therapists support the client’s communications with a bespoke combination of improvised or pre-composed instrumental music and voice, either sung or spoken. Individual and group sessions are provided in many settings such as hospitals, schools, hospices and care homes, and the therapist’s approach is informed by different theoretical frameworks, depending on their training and the health needs which are to be met”.

In practice music therapy uses singing, live music making and/or composition techniques to encourage people to engage in spontaneous and creative musical activities.

Music therapy is based on the idea that all individuals have the ability to respond to music and sound and that this can lead to positive changes in behaviour and emotional well being.

The music therapist and client use a variety of percussion or tuned instruments, or their voices, to develop shared and interactive musical activities.

The client does not need musical skills to benefit from music therapy but the music therapist does need a high level of musical and therapeutic skill.

Music therapy is sometimes used alongside other therapies, for example dance therapy and in the creation of musical social stories.

Music therapy is usually part of a multi-disciplinary programme, offering an enriched learning environment for the development of communication and other aspects of a child’s personality.  Music therapy should thus be considered as part of a broader programme of support and intervention to individuals on the autism spectrum.

19 Dec 2017
Last Review
01 Sep 2016
Next Review
01 Sep 2019