The developmental progress in social behavior of children with Autism Spectrum Disorder getting music therapy. A multiple case study

Mathieu Pater*, Marinus Spreen, Tom van Yperen

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Music therapy is claimed to have a positive effect on the social behavior of children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). However, in most studies the target behaviors and the interventions are insufficiently defined and described. Also, it is often doubtful whether accurate research designs were performed to study the intervention to full satisfaction.

To answer the question whether the development of social behavior of children with ASD has improved during and after finishing the intervention of the ‘Papageno Music Therapy Program’ (PMTP).

A multiple case study design was used, with a baseline and intervention phase. Ten children were observed over a period of 23 weeks. The social behavior was rated prior, after 10 weeks and at the end of the therapy by the Questionnaire for the Inventory of Social Behavior of Children (VISK), as well as on a weekly basis by the Social Behavior Questionnaire (SBQ).

This study shows that during 20 weeks of music therapy sessions the development of the social behavior of children with ASD has accelerated. At least five children had a moderate improvement in the areas of ‘makes eye contact’, ‘is able to focus for five minutes on a game’, ‘is able to cope with changes’, ‘behavior has adapted to the situation’, ‘communicates verbally’, ‘is able to focus on something together’, ‘is able to take another person into account’ and ‘takes initiative’ from the SBQ. The largest progress, with three children showing a strong improvement, was found in the areas of ‘is able to focus on something together’ and 'takes initiative'. The findings on the social behavior were partly confirmed by the VISK scores. Additional statistical analyses of these aspects show a significant trend in the data that indicates growth that may be associated with the intervention phase.

This study confirms previous studies indicating that during music therapy the social behavior of children with ASD improves, compared to the developmental pace prior to therapy. Although this study was performed with a standardized intervention manual, a thorough description of the target behavior, and a rigor multiple case study design with a baseline and control condition, a larger study, preferably with an alternative intervention offered to a control group, is required to attribute the results more specifically to the PMTP and its elements.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1057-1067
Number of pages10
JournalChildren and Youth Services Review
Publication statusPublished - Jan-2021

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