Publication Date



Open access

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PHD)


Music Theory and Composition (Music)

Date of Defense


First Committee Member

Shannon K. de l'Etoile

Second Committee Member

Edward P. Asmus

Third Committee Member

Teresa L. Lesiuk

Fourth Committee Member

Ross T. Harbaugh

Fifth Committee Member

Peter C. Mundy


Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders demonstrate deficits in speech and language, with the most outstanding speech impairments being in comprehension, semantics, prosody, and pragmatics. Perception and production of music and speech in children with ASD appear to follow the same principles of Gestalt pattern perceptual organization. In addition, common neuroanatomical structures and similar patterns of cortical activation mediate the perception and production of speech and music. Therefore, the purpose of this study was to explore how the perception of musical stimuli would impact the perception and production of speech and language in children with ASD. The study examined the effect of developmental speech-language training through music on the speech production of children with ASD. The participants were 50 children with ASD, age range 3 to 5 years, who had previously been evaluated on standard tests of language and level of functioning. The children completed the pre-test, six sessions of training, and the post-test. The pre-and post-tests consisted of the Verbal Production Evaluation Scale (VPES) and measured each participant's verbal production including semantics, phonology, pragmatics, and prosody, of 36 target words. Eighteen participants completed music training, in which they watched a music video containing six songs and pictures of the 36 target words. Another group of eighteen participants completed speech training, in which they watched a speech video containing six stories and pictures of target words. Fourteen participants were randomly assigned to a no-training condition. Results of the study showed that participants in both music and speech training significantly increased their scores on the VPES from the pre-test to the post-test. Both music and speech training were effective for enhancing participants' speech production including semantics, phonology, pragmatics, and prosody. Participants who received music training made greater progress on speech production than participants who received the speech training; however, the difference was not statistically significant. Results of the study also indicated that the level of speech production was influenced by the level of functioning in children with ASD. An interaction between level of functioning and training conditions on speech production approached significance. The results indicate that both high and low functioning participants improved their speech production after receiving either music or speech training; however, low functioning participants showed a greater improvement in speech production after the music training than after the speech training. Collectively, music training was more effective for speech production in low functioning children with ASD than was speech training. The study suggests that the superior performance in speech production in children with ASD who received music training might be generated from music stimuli which were organized by the Gestalt laws of pattern perception. In conclusion, children with ASD appear to perceive important linguistic information (i.e., target words) embedded in music stimuli, and can verbally produce the words as functional speech. These results provide evidence for the use of music as an effective way to enhance speech production in children with ASD.


Music And Autism Spectrum Disorders; The Effect Of Music Therapy For Children With Auti; Music And Speech Production; Developmental Speech-Language Training Through Mus