Effect of long-term interactive music therapy on behavior profile and musical skills in young adults with severe autism

J Altern Complement Med. 2007 Sep;13(7):709-12. doi: 10.1089/acm.2006.6334.


Background: Data on the potential behavioral effects of music therapy in autism are scarce.

Objective: The aim of this study was to investigate whether a musical training program based on interactive music therapy sessions could enhance the behavioral profile and the musical skills of young adults affected by severe autism.

Methodology: Young adults (N = 8) with severe (Childhood Autism Rating Scale >30) autism took part in a total of 52 weekly active music therapy sessions lasting 60 minutes. Each session consisted of a wide range of different musical activities including singing, piano playing, and drumming. Clinical rating scales included the Clinical Global Impression (CGI) scale and the Brief Psychiatric Rating Scale (BPRS). Musical skills-including singing a short or long melody, playing the C scale on a keyboard, music absorption, rhythm reproduction, and execution of complex rhythmic patterns-were rated on a 5-point Likert-type scale ranging from "completely/entirely absent" to "completely/entirely present."

Results: At the end of the 52-week training period, significant improvements were found on both the CGI and BPRS scales. Similarly, the patients' musical skills significantly ameliorated as compared to baseline ratings.

Conclusions: Our pilot data seem to suggest that active music therapy sessions could be of aid in improving autistic symptoms, as well as personal musical skills in young adults with severe autism.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Autistic Disorder / complications
  • Autistic Disorder / therapy*
  • Brief Psychiatric Rating Scale
  • Cognition Disorders / etiology
  • Cognition Disorders / therapy*
  • Developmental Disabilities / etiology
  • Developmental Disabilities / therapy*
  • Humans
  • Italy
  • Music
  • Music Therapy / methods*
  • Outcome Assessment, Health Care
  • Psychomotor Performance*
  • Quality of Life
  • Rehabilitation Centers