Parents, Peers, and Musical Play: A Mixed-Methods Analysis of an Inclusive Parent-Child Music Class Program for Families of Children with and without ASD

Poster Presentation
Thursday, May 2, 2019: 11:30 AM-1:30 PM
Room: 710 (Palais des congres de Montreal)
M. D. Lense1 and S. Beck2, (1)Vanderbilt University Medical Center, Nashville, TN, (2)Randolph College, Lynchburg, VA
Background: Inclusive community experiences are important for skill development and generalization, the development of relationships, and emotional well-being for individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and their families (Askari et al., 2015; King et al., 2003). Musical activities, a natural type of parent-child and peer play, may provide a good platform for inclusion and interaction because they are motivating and provide a predictable context to scaffold engagement (Lense & Camarata, 2018). Shared musical experiences are associated with prosocial behaviors in typically developing (TD) individuals (Pearce et al., 2015; Kirschner & Tomasello, 2010), while music therapy may support social and communication development in children with ASD (Kim et at., 2008). However, less is known about the potential impact of inclusive parent-child community music programs.

Objectives: A mixed-methods pilot study to examine correlates of participation in an inclusive parent- child music class that provides parent training and peer inclusion through musical play.

Methods: 14 preschoolers with ASD (mean (SD): 38.6 (11.2) months; 11 males) and 14 TD preschoolers (34.1 (9.6) months; 11 males) participated in a 10-week music program with their parents. Children’s engagement in an early and late class session were coded from video using 5-second partial interval coding. Parents completed weekly logs about their families’ social music engagement and practice at home. At the start and end of the program, children with ASD completed tests of motor imitation skills (Stone et al., 1997) and parents completed an inventory of their child’s communicative gestures/social play (Fenson et al., 2007) and a parenting stress questionnaire (Abidin, 2012). Interviews with all parents about their experience in the program were coded using a general inductive approach.

Results: There were no significant differences between ASD and TD children in regard to active or passive engagement in classes or time spent in practice at home though children with ASD initially spent more time unengaged in the class (p=0.018). Over the course of the program, both TD and ASD children increased in active engagement (p<.001) and ASD children significantly decreased time spent unengaged (p=0.022). Children with ASD demonstrated significant increases in imitation skills (23.4% (19.1%), p<0.001) and gestures/actions repertoire (4.5 (4.5), p=0.002) over their time in the program. Parents reported significant decreases in parenting stress (p<0.01). Interviews highlighted that important aspects of the program for parents included forming connections within and across families, increased understanding of child development and ASD, and learning specific parenting skills through musical activities.

Conclusions: This pilot study suggests that parent-child inclusion music classes may provide a potential vehicle for supporting community participation, increasing connections within and across families, and scaffolding specific social communication goals such as imitation and gestures for children with ASD. As an ecologically valid form of social play, musical experiences may provide a platform for supporting families because they are predictable, reinforcing, emotional, and scaffold shared attention to an activity. We will discuss implications and limitations of current pilot findings, as well as next steps including an ongoing waitlist-controlled study of this parent-child music program.