Publication Date



Open access

Embargo Period


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Music (MM)


Music Education and Music Therapy (Music)

Date of Defense


First Committee Member

Shannon K. de l'Etoile

Second Committee Member

Teresa L. Lesiuk

Third Committee Member

Michael Alessandri


The purpose of this study was to examine retrospective and current parental perceptions of music therapy (MT) for children diagnosed with autism spectrum disorders (ASD). This study also investigated the differences between parents’ retrospective and current perceptions, as well as the variables that predict current parental perceptions and changes in parental perceptions. Participants (N=50) were parents of children diagnosed with ASD under the age of seven years old, who had received or were receiving MT services. Participants completed an online survey, “Parental Perception of Music Therapy for Children Diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorders.” Results revealed that parents’ retrospective perceptions of MT were generally positive, with musical skills reported as the most anticipated change in children’s functional skills. Parents’ current perceptions of MT tended to be extremely positive, with musical skills also reported as the most observed change in children’s functional skills. Results indicated a significant difference between parents’ retrospective and current perceptions, with current perceptions of MT being more favorable. Several variables were examined as predictors of current parental perception, including demographics, therapeutic context, and observed changes in functional skills. Results indicated that observed changes in children’s functional skills, specifically in musical, social, and motor skills, were significant predictors of current parental perception of MT. Demographics, therapeutic context, and observed changes in functional skills were also examined as predictors of change in parental perception; however, no significant results were found. A number of limitations existed for this study, including sample composition and the number of variables in the study. The homogenous sample may impact how well the results can generalize to the larger ASD population. Furthermore, the large number of variables explored in the survey may have reduced the power needed to detect true relationships between the predictor variables and parental perception. The findings of this study have clinical implications for music therapists that directly benefit parents and their children diagnosed with ASD. Music therapists need to be aware that many parents expect improvements in their child’s musical skills and may not recognize the functional benefits of MT (e.g., improvements in language or attention). Therefore, music therapists should educate parents on the functional outcomes that can be anticipated during their children’s treatment. Parents who recognize functional outcomes, outside of musical skills, may be more likely to continue MT sessions and be compliant with treatment recommendations. As parents benefit from the findings of this study, the ultimate beneficiary will be children diagnosed with ASD.


music therapy; autism; perception; parent; view; early intervention