Date of Award

Spring 5-19-2018

Document Type


Degree Name

MA - Master of Arts


Expressive Therapies


Donna C. Owens


This capstone thesis project explores a detail-oriented music therapy approach used to elicit vocalizations and speech for an individual on the autism spectrum. Although there is compelling research on music therapy contributing to speech acquisition for individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), the methods discussed in the literature are vague and do not discuss the music itself in detail. Specifics would be helpful in order to allow these methods to be replicable. To explore specific musical elements, I administered five 30-minute music therapy sessions to a 12-year-old boy on the autism spectrum during his school day. During sessions, I measured vocalizations and intelligible speech within three distinct interventions: preferred song choices, vocal exercises, and client-led improvisation. Client-led improvisation produced not only the most overall vocalizations, but also the most intelligible words spoken by the client in comparison to the other categories studied. This thesis concludes with a discussion of how this method compares to the use of client-preferred songs and further applications for this intervention method and path of inquiry.

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