Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


College of the Arts


John J. Cali School of Music

Thesis Sponsor/Dissertation Chair/Project Chair

Karen Goodman

Committee Member

Amy Clarkson

Committee Member

Brian Abrams


The purpose of this case study was to examine the effects of music therapy on the development of the social skills of a preschooler on the autism spectrum in an inclusive setting. The study was performed in an inclusive preschool classroom at the Ben Samuels Children’s Center on the campus of Montclair State University. A literature review related to this topic included information on Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), the etiology of the disorder and the use of music therapy in the inclusive school setting with students on the autism spectrum. The review also covered the effect music therapy has on the social communicative goals with students on the autism spectrum, comparing music and non-music conditions.

The participant observed in the case study is diagnosed on the autism spectrum and was observed in an inclusive music therapy group and an inclusive non-music classroom group at the Ben Samuels Children’s Center on the Montclair State University campus.

Qualitative session notes based on the developmental milestones established by Greenspan & Wieder (1997) were written after observation of both the music therapy and classroom groups in order to study the student’s social and communicative skills in his inclusive setting with and without the direct influence of music therapy. Further, relationship and expressive language (constituting social and communication) goals were observed in each group and quantified by reviewing videotapes of the sessions. These social communication goals were tracked by counting the number of times certain goals were achieved on an “Evidence of Progress Towards Goals” form, developed by the Ben Samuels Children’s Center, Montclair State University. Comparative data at the conclusion of the study indicated that a higher number of social and communicative goals were achieved during the music therapy sessions than in the classroom sessions. Session notes also describe behaviors and musical elements that were influential to create positive results towards attaining social goals. Results indicate that music therapy is a positive factor that helps the student on the autism spectrum attain his relationship and expressive language goals within the inclusive school setting. Discussion sections follow that describe the musical and classroom behaviors that counted toward achievement of the social goals. Conclusion and Consideration for future study are recommended.

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