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PhD Monika Geretsegger (m.fl): Is improvisational music therapy an effective intervention for children with autism spectrum disorder? Findings from the multi-site randomised controlled TIME-A trial

PhD; PhD; Dr.; PhD Monika Geretsegger, Łucja Bieleninik, Karin Mössler, & Christian Gold
GAMUT, Uni Research Health

Monika Geretsegger (music therapist and clinical psychologist), Łucja Bieleninik (clinical psychologist), Karin Mössler and Christian Gold (music therapists) represent a research group within GAMUT focusing on the investigation of effects and mechanisms of change in music therapy. Their research activities comprise different clinical fields including autism, severe mental disorders, dementia, and premature infants.

Previous meta-analysis provided some evidence that in individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), music therapy (MT) is more effective than standard care for improving social interaction, non-verbal and verbal communication, initiating behaviour, social-emotional reciprocity, social adaptation, and parent-child relationships (Geretsegger et al., 2014).

Improvisational music therapy (IMT) has been described as a child-centred approach where active, spontaneous music making and the relationship that develops through this is used to facilitate social engagement and reciprocity (Geretsegger et al., 2015). IMT has shown to be effective in earlier trials (e.g., Kim et al., 2008; Thompson et al., 2014), but small sample sizes limited the methodological strength of these findings.

In this trial, children (4;0-6;11 years) with ASD were randomly assigned to one of three conditions: low-intensity IMT (once per week), high-intensity IMT (three times per week), or standard care, over a period of five months. The effect of IMT was measured using the Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule, Social Responsiveness Scale, and visual analogue scales for quality of life at baseline, 2, 5, and 12 months (Geretsegger et al., 2012).

364 children were recruited in nine countries (Australia, Austria, Brazil, Israel, Italy, Korea, Norway, UK, and USA). IMT was well accepted by participating families, as indicated by high follow-up rates. Effects of IMT on autism severity, social responsiveness, and quality of life at two and five months will be presented and discussed.

TIME-A is the first well-controlled multi-site study and the largest randomised trial on non-pharmacological therapy for children with ASD.

Funding: This work was supported by The Research Council of Norway (grant number 213844).

- Geretsegger, M., Elefant, C., Mössler, K. A., & Gold, C. (2014). Music therapy for people with autism spectrum disorder. The Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, 6, CD004381.

- Geretsegger, M., Holck, U., & Gold, C. (2012). Randomised controlled trial of improvisational music therapy's effectiveness for children with autism spectrum disorders (TIME-A): Study protocol. BMC Pediatrics, 12 (2).

- Geretsegger, M., Holck, U., Carpente, J. A., Elefant, C., Kim, J., & Gold, C. (2015). Common characteristics of improvisational approaches in music therapy for children with autism spectrum disorder: Developing treatment guidelines. Journal of Music Therapy, 52(2), 258-281.

-  Kim, J., Wigram, T., & Gold, C. (2008). The effects of improvisational music therapy on joint attention behaviors in autistic children: A randomized controlled study. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 38(9), 1758-1766.

- Thompson, G., McFerran, K. S., & Gold, C. (2014). Family-centred music therapy to promote social engagement in young children with severe autism spectrum disorder: A randomized controlled study. Child:

Care, Health and Development, 40(6), 840-852.

Chair: Simon Gilbertson
Hvor: Trappesalen