Efficacy of music therapy intervention in children and adolescents with Autism Spectrum Disorder: A meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials

2018 edition


Objective: To investigate the effectiveness of music therapy interventions on social, emotional, and behavioral deficits of children and adolescents with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD).

Background literature: Evidence is mixed regarding the success of music therapy over controls in randomized controlled trials (RCT) in ASD. Such results may be due to study characteristics, such as limited sample size or short treatment duration.  Furthermore, although primary outcome variables may find limited or no treatment effects of music therapy, other social, emotional, cognitive, or behavioral factors may improve among the patients.

Method: Electronic databases searches and grant funding agency reports will be examined to locate RCT comparing treatment effectiveness of music therapy to control.  Requests to listservs of music therapy researchers will attempt to gather unpublished RCTs in order to reduce the file drawer effect. Two coders will code all data to ensure inter-rater reliability. A random effects model will be employed to account for variability in effects sizes across studies and to allow moderation tests to be performed on factors that may influence outcomes, such as sample size, treatment duration, therapist qualifications, single- vs. double-blindness, type of disorder, etc. Publication bias will be tested.

Results will be analyzed within subgroups of effects that focus on other beneficial aspects of music therapy, including social skills, verbal skills, nonverbal skills, social adaptation, and initiation behavior.