Music Therapy and Autism Ranking: Limited positive evidence

Music therapy using drums

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.

Our Opinion

There is a limited amount of low quality research evidence which suggests that music therapy may be helpful in improving communication skills and, to a more limited extent, social skills, in some autistic children and adolescents.

There is a need for more studies on music therapy with better design and larger samples. There is also a need for studies which examine whether or not music therapy works in real-world settings (such as the home or school), whether music therapy leads to meaningful everyday improvements in social functioning, and whether those effects are long lasting.


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17 Jun 2022
Last Review
01 Sep 2016
Next Review
01 Jan 2023