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Palgrave Macmillan

Music Therapy with Autistic Children in Aotearoa, New Zealand

Haumanu ā-Puoro mā ngā Tamariki Takiwātanga i Aotearoa

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  • © 2022


  • Explores the effectiveness of music therapy for children with autism spectrum conditions
  • Makes use of narrative assessment to analyse findings
  • Discusses whether music therapy could be considered an evidence-based practice

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Table of contents (24 chapters)


About this book

In this unique text, ten cases of music therapy with autistic children (tamariki takiwātanga) are critiqued through the eyes of family members and other autism experts. Rickson uses her wealth of experience to contextualise their rich observations in a thorough review of research and practice literature, to illustrate the ways music therapists engage autistic children in the music therapy process, highlight the various ways music therapy can support their health and well-being, and demonstrate how music therapy processes align with good practice as outlined in the New Zealand Autism Spectrum Disorder Guideline.


“For many music therapists in the global community, work with autistic children can often be at the very core of their practice. Rickson’s passion for the work shows through in this book. Readers will be drawn close into the therapy experience through the rich exploration of ten case studies of music therapy with autistic children in Aotearoa, New Zealand. They will gain a real understanding of the importance of the work to the children, their families, and educational and healthcare professionals. The book provides compelling reading; it is well-crafted and elegantly written. It truly brings music therapy practice to life and will be a resource for music therapy students and practitioners to return to time and time again throughout their professional career.” (Dr Liz Coombes, Lecturer, University of South Wales)

“This is a fascinating book centred around ten individual music therapy case studies with autistic children. The children are seen by ten different New Zealandmusic therapists in a variety of settings. Each case tells an engaging and varied story primarily through the eyes of family members and multi-disciplinary professionals who have ‘witnessed’ the music therapy via video excerpts and detailed stories of the practice written by the child’s music therapist. Rickson draws these wide-ranging perspectives together in an honest and skilful way, commenting on the different music therapy approaches and key areas of progress. In later chapters, she reflects on what she considers to be characteristic and essential in the work. This book is a ‘must read’ for music therapists working with autistic children not just in New Zealand but all over the world.” (Emeritus Professor Amelia Oldfield, Anglia Ruskin University, Cambridge Institute for Music Therapy Research (CIMTR)) 

“This very approachable book gives an overview of the role and effectiveness of music therapy with autistic children in New Zealand. Case studies with commentaries from family, friends, and commentators from other disciplines, medical and educational, give both life and insight into the work. Rickson’s critique of each case, providing supportive commentary and alternative suggestions for the work, is particularly interesting. She is very open about her familial experience of autism and refers to the challenges of cultural differences found in the New Zealand population. This timely book will appeal not only to music therapists but also to other practitioners and, most importantly, to families with children on the autistic spectrum and to autistic people themselves.” (Auriel Warwick, Co-author, Alvin & Warwick (1992) Music therapy for the autistic child, Oxford University Press, UK) 

“This is a valuable and inclusive text from Daphne Rickson, a highly experienced music therapist, educator, researcher, and passionate advocate of music in schools for children and young people. By inviting a team of music therapists and people with a keen interest in the well-being of takiwātanga tamariki to be part of a research project, Rickson has been able to present the stories of ten autistic children and to critically review the practice of music therapy. This comprehensive text offers the reader valuable insight into the research origins, process, and findings of the study. The different contributions and perspectives from the various experts are effectively woven and integrated with the author’s reflections, creating a fully collaborative and honest account. This book will be useful for all persons interested in music and the wellbeing of children with Autism. It offers a wealth of information on music and music therapy for children with Autism, with literature to turn to and pointers to research that has been undertaken around the world. This is an essential text for people interested in person-centred research. It outlines research methods and data presentation in depth and is bold and innovative in its pursuit of person-centred values and participant-led perspectives.” (Dr Philippa Derrington, Senior Lecturer and Programme Leader, Music Therapy, Queen Margaret University, Edinburgh) 

Authors and Affiliations

  • New Zealand School of Music, Victoria University of Wellington, Wellington, New Zealand

    Daphne Rickson

About the author

Daphne Rickson is an Adjunct Professor in music therapy at Te Herenga Waka, Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand. She has family experience of autism and has worked with many autistic children (tamariki takiwātanga) and their families. Her research focus has primarily involved critical analysis of the concept of disability and investigation into music as an inclusive resource.

Bibliographic Information

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