Music Therapists' Perceptions of the Therapeutic Potentials Using Music When Working with Verbal Children on the Autism Spectrum: A Qualitative Analysis

Shulamit Epstein, Cochavit Elefant, Grace Thompson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

While there are numerous descriptions of the use of music and its therapeutic potential by music therapists working with nonverbal children on the autism spectrum, only limited literature focuses on exploring how music therapists use music and perceive its therapeutic potential when working with children on the spectrum who have verbal skills. This qualitative study aimed to explore music therapists' descriptions of the use of music and its therapeutic potential in their work with children on the autism spectrum who have verbal skills. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with six qualified music therapists from Israel and then analyzed according to the principles of interpretative phenomenological analysis (IPA). Three main themes were identified: (a) musical infrastructure, which describes how the music therapists facilitated musical experiences to support the children's ability to regulate their arousal, attention and emotions; (b) the meeting point between musical and verbal playfulness, which reflects the music therapists' beliefs about how musical experiences add vitality and support the development of both verbal and nonverbal imaginative play; and (c) musical responses, which describes the different ways music therapists use their voice and songs to interact musically with verbal children. The experiences described by the participants emphasize the importance of the therapist musically attuning to the child's emotional, physiological, creative, and playful qualities, even when the child has verbal skills. These musical interactions help to create a shared experience between the child and therapist that are perceived to help the child's different forms of regulation, continuity, and vitality within the play.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)66-90
Number of pages25
JournalJournal of Music Therapy
Volume57
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - 25 Feb 2020

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2019 American Music Therapy Association 2019. All rights reserved.

Keywords

  • autism spectrum
  • children
  • music therapy
  • verbal language

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Music
  • Complementary and Manual Therapy

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