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Autism Research and Treatment
Volume 2016, Article ID 1284790, 8 pages
Research Article

A Preliminary Investigation of a Specialized Music Therapy Model for Children with Disabilities Delivered in a Classroom Setting

1Department of Psychology, The University of North Carolina at Greensboro, Greensboro, NC, USA
2Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Duke University, Durham, NC, USA
3Education and Human Development Incubator and Social Science Research Institute, Duke University, Durham, NC, USA
4Program in Education, Duke University, Durham, NC, USA

Received 11 July 2016; Revised 28 September 2016; Accepted 23 October 2016

Academic Editor: Mohammad Ghaziuddin

Copyright © 2016 Jenna Mendelson et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Music therapy is gaining popularity as an intervention strategy for children with developmental disabilities, including autism spectrum disorder (ASD). This study was a pilot investigation of a classroom-based music-based intervention, Voices Together®, for improving communication skills in children with ASD and children with intellectual disabilities. Four local public elementary school special education classrooms, serving 5 children with a classification of autistic disorder and 32 children with intellectual disability without autism, were randomly selected to receive one of two levels of exposure to Voices Together music therapy: “long-term” (15 weeks beginning in January 2015 (Time 1), ) or “short-term” (7 weeks beginning 7 weeks later in February (Time 2), ). Using observational ratings, investigators reliably scored participants live in terms of their level of verbal responsiveness to prompts during three songs featured each week of the program. Both groups demonstrated increases in verbal responses over time; however, only the long-term group demonstrated significant within-group increases. Preliminary findings suggest that music therapy delivered in a classroom in 45-minute weekly sessions for 15 weeks can promote improvements in verbal responsiveness among individuals with autism and other developmental disabilities. Findings warrant further investigation into the efficacy of classroom-based music therapy programs.