Research studies in the past have examined the effect of music therapy on socio-emotional reciprocity in children with ASD (Kim, Wigram, & Gold, 2009; Srinivasan et al., 2015; Thompson, McFerran, & Gold, 2013; Venuti et al., 2017). In the first study of this section, Kim et al. (2009) investigated the characteristics of musical interaction that motivate interpersonal engagement between the therapist and the child. Ten children aged 3 to 5 were recruited from a psychiatric institution for examination in the study.
Using a randomized control trial design, the researchers randomly allocated each participant to either one of two intervention groups, which included the music group and the play-based activity group. Participants in the music group played musical instruments, while the participants in the play-based activity group played with toys. For each group, the researchers measured the participants frequency of engagement initiation, compliant response, and no response. Both the frequency and duration were measured for joy and emotional synchronicity. The researchers hypothesized that each of these outcome measures would improve more in the music therapy group than the play-based activity group.
The researchers found that music sessions evoked more frequent and durable cases of emotional synchronicity, joy, and initiation of engagement in the participants than play-based toy sessions (Kim et al., 2009). Positively compliant responses to therapist demands were found to be more frequent in music sessions than in play-based toy sessions, and no responses were found to be twice as such in play-based toy sessions. These findings support the hypothesis of the study and the overall thesis of the present, because they show that that music can foster social skills and rehabilitate impairment in the reciprocal behaviors of children with ASD.
The next study in this section investigated the effects of improvisational music therapy (IMT) on synchrony in children with ASD. The researchers’ goal in this study was to investigate the efficacy of music intervention (IMT) on enhancing synchrony in children with ASD. Synchrony is operationally defined as the simultaneous sharing of affect (or emotion) and behavior between two partners (Venuti et al., 2017). The researchers enrolled twenty-five children with ASD, aged 4 to 6, for participation in the study. Using a standard dyadic design, the researchers paired each participant with a credited music therapist, thus, forming a dyad. All participants underwent a total of 20 improvisational music therapy sessions that lasted 50 minutes per week. The researchers used an observational metric instrument for coding both the behavioral and emotive states of synchrony between the child and the therapist