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

Kimberly Sena Moore

Second Committee Member

Shannon K. de l'Etoile

Third Committee Member

Anibal Gutierrez


Children with an Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) diagnosis may exhibit sensory dysfunction, particularly related to deficits in processing proprioceptive input. These deficits impact multiple skills related to self-regulation and subsequently, academic performance, especially attention. Current research suggests that listening to music and rhythmic patterns can improve attention in children with ASD, which may be a sign of improved sensory integration, yet this connection has yet to be explored. The purpose of this study was to examine the immediate effects of rhythmic auditory stimuli combined with proprioceptive input on attention in children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Fifteen school-aged children with ASD and identified proprioceptive deficits participated in the study. Nine participants received seven minutes of rhythmic proprioceptive input (RPI) while six participants received seven minutes of proprioceptive input (PI) without a rhythmic auditory stimulus. Following the protocol, each participant took a series of sustained and selective visual and auditory attention assessments. A series of independent samples t-tests were completed to identify any significant differences in attentional outcomes between conditions. Analysis of covariances (ANCOVAs) were completed to determine whether level of ASD or proprioceptive dysfunction influenced the effect of each protocol on attention. Results indicated a statistically significant difference between individuals who received RPI and individuals who received PI on commission errors within a visual attention assessment (p = .007). Individuals who received RPI committed significantly fewer commissions. There were no statistically significant differences between groups on all other visual and auditory sustained and selective attention assessments (p > .05); however, the RPI group generally performed better across all measures. Furthermore, results showed no statistically significant main effect of functioning level or level of proprioceptive dysfunction on treatment effectiveness or attentional outcomes (p > .22). The results gathered from this study suggest that the addition of rhythmic auditory stimuli to proprioceptive input enhances sensory integration and attention. This connection is explored, and recommendations are made for future research and the need for more appropriate attention assessments for children with ASD.


autism; attention; sensory; proprioceptive; rhythm; music