Musical Ensemble Participation and Social Behaviors in Autistic Children: Collective Case Study

Musical Ensemble Participation and Social Behaviors in Autistic Children: Collective Case Study

Author: 
Carolyn Cardella
Program of study: 
Ed.D.
Abstract: 
Autism Spectrum Disorders are insidious developmental disorders including autism, Asperger’s disorder, and pervasive developmental disorder-not otherwise specified, affecting an average of 1 in 68 children throughout the country. Although no known prevention or cure for autism exists, various forms of music effectively support individuals with autism in engaging in social activities. Extensive literature on the neurological impairments present in autism coupled with the multitude of evidence indicated the effects of music on the same neurological functions. The need for continued research into the effects of inclusive musical ensemble participation on the social behaviors of children with autism was demonstrated. The significance of the study was to illuminate the potential benefits of participation in inclusive musical ensembles to improve social engagement and build peer relationships for children with autism. Developing musical ensemble skills at an early age may support continued participation and the inherent socialization later in life. The purpose of the descriptive collective case study was to explore the relationship between inclusive musical ensemble participation on the social and nonsocial behaviors of children with autism from the perspective of the children’s parents and teachers. The demographics of nine cases involved three different school systems, three types of inclusive ensembles (chorus, band, and orchestra), 10 parents, five music teachers, and seven regular or special education teachers. The improved social behaviors and increased friendships observed by the study’s participants on behalf of a majority of the children were consistent with neurological and behavioral literature.
Dedication: 
This dissertation is dedicated to my family, who endured nearly incessant ramblings about my topic, my research, and my writing. To my beloved Cheryl, who provided unwavering support through the many emotional peaks and valleys and remained by my side throughout this arduous journey. To my sisters Joanne and Gerrie, who travelled with me to Atlanta for the first two residencies because I was too timid a traveler to go on my own, and who watched out for me as only big sisters can. Also, to my brother Joey, without whom I may never have received the glorious gift of compassion and caring for individuals with disabilities. With this work, I hope to honor my parents, Joe and Carol. Although Dad left the world long before I found the courage to take this voyage into academia, Mom reminded me every step of the way that she was proud of me and Dad would be too. Finally, to my dearest friend Stawn for inspiring me to think big and realize this lifelong dream.
Acknowledgements: 
I wish to thank Dr. Susan (Suzi) Mandel for her encouragement, support, and enthusiasm for my research. Without her expert guidance and inexhaustible patience, I truly do not know if I would have made it this far. I also wish to thank my committee members, Dr. Nancy Kennedy, Dr. Shayne Aloe-Chase (during the proposal stage) and Dr. Vicki Purslow (in the final stage), for their insights, kindness, and professionalism. Like Dr. Suzi, they were prompt with feedback and “spot on” with their observations and comments. I am forever grateful that fate provided this wonderful team of kind, accomplished, brilliant scholars to light my path.