Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

PHD - Doctor of Philosophy


Expressive Therapies


This study evaluated a Developmental Individual Differences Relationship-based (DIR®) creative arts therapy (CAT) program for children with ASD. The study was intended to assess whether the program met its stated goals to stimulate individualized social-emotional growth for children with ASD. The study was motivated by a central research question: Do DIR®-based creative arts therapies promote the social-emotional growth of children with ASD? A summative, longitudinal program evaluation research design was used to examine the program’s fidelity and outcomes. The evaluation included assessments for pre- and post-test quantitative standardized measures for data collection and analysis. The study also collected data from treatment logs composed of both qualitative and quantitative information. The study was conducted in a non-profit, parent-founded private day school in a large city on the East Coast of the United States. All individuals in the program (N=21) were recruited via parent flyer and an email circulated to parents at the school. All children currently enrolled in the school as of September 2014 and participating in the CAT program were invited to join the study. Participants ranged from age 5 to 19 (M=11.9 years; SD=4.83). All 21 participants underwent 45-minute DIR®-based music or art therapy sessions at least once weekly throughout the 6 months examination period (during the 2014-2015 school year). The study found moderate evidence supporting the proposition that children who participated in a DIR®-based creative arts therapies program experienced increased and improved social/emotional skills. More specifically, the study found statistically significant growth in participants according to the FEAS and DASH assessment scores. In addition, 10 qualitative findings of themes in therapists’ notes of Regulation, Engagement, and Communication, provided further support for the program’s fidelity and effectiveness.



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