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The purpose of this study was to examine the effect of background music and song texts to teach emotional understanding to children with autism. Participants were 12 students (mean age 11.5 years) with a primary diagnosis of autism who were attending schools in Japan. Each participant was taught four emotions to decode and encode: happiness, sadness, anger, and fear by the counterbalanced treatment-order. The treatment consisted of the four conditions: (1) no contact control (NCC)—no purposeful teaching of the selected emotion, (2) contact control (CC)—teaching the selected emotion using verbal instructions alone, (3) background music (BM)—teaching the selected emotion by verbal instructions with background music representing the emotion, and (4) singing songs (SS)—teaching the selected emotion by singing specially composed songs about the emotion. Participants were given a pretest and a posttest and received eight individual sessions between the pre- and posttests. Specific research questions were: (1) which of the four conditions (NCC, CC, BM, and SS) is the most effective in improving participants' understanding of the four selected emotions?; (2) the understanding of which emotion (happiness, sadness, anger, and fear) will be most improved by the intervention conditions?; (3) which receptive or expressive skill of emotional understanding will be most improved by the intervention conditions? The results indicated that all participants improved significantly in their understanding of the four selected emotions. All condition interventions resulted in significant improvements in participants' emotional understanding, though background music resulted in the greatest improvements. Understanding of the emotions of sadness, fear, and anger improved significantly more than the understanding of happiness. Participants' decoding skills were more improved by the intervention conditions than their encoding skills. These findings suggest that background music and song texts can be effective tools to increase emotional understanding in children with autism, which is crucial to their social interactions.
Emotional Understanding, Background Music, Song Texts, Children With Autism
Date of Defense
September 28, 2007.
A Thesis submitted to the College of Music in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Music Therapy.
Includes bibliographical references.
Alice-Ann Darrow, Professor Directing Thesis; Clifford K. Madsen, Committee Member; Jayne M. Standley, Committee Member.
Florida State University
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