The Effects of Improvisational Music Therapy on Joint Attention Behaviors in Autistic Children: A Randomized Controlled Study


The purpose of this study was to investigate the effects of improvisational music therapy on joint attention behaviors in pre-school children with autism. It was a randomized controlled study employing a single subject comparison design in two different conditions, improvisational music therapy and play sessions with toys, and using standardized tools and DVD analysis of sessions to evaluate behavioral changes in children with autism. The overall results indicated that improvisational music therapy was more effective at facilitating joint attention behaviors and non-verbal social communication skills in children than play. Session analysis showed significantly more and lengthier events of eye contact and turn-taking in improvisational music therapy than play sessions. The implications of these findings are discussed further.

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This study was a part of the first author’s PhD study and was supported by a PhD scholarship, the Graduate School of Music Therapy, Institute for Communication and Psychology, Aalborg University, Denmark. We wish to thank the children and families who participated in the study, and also the clinical research team (Yenok Song, Eunyoung Lee, Kyungsook Kim, Jiyen Jang, Mijung Kwon) for their contribution over the period of the trials (2004–2005) at Jinah Kim Music Therapy Clinic, Seoul, Korea. We are also grateful to Soochurl Cho, Minsup Shin and Sejin Joo, Ira Cohen, Peter Mundy, Michael Siller variously for their expert help.

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Correspondence to Jinah Kim.

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Kim, J., Wigram, T. & Gold, C. The Effects of Improvisational Music Therapy on Joint Attention Behaviors in Autistic Children: A Randomized Controlled Study. J Autism Dev Disord 38, 1758 (2008).

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  • Improvisational music therapy
  • Joint attention
  • Play sessions with toys