“Seventeen children, ages 6 to 9, with a diagnosis of ASD were randomly assigned to the music therapy group or the no-music social skills group for ten 50-minute group sessions over a period of 5 weeks…The music therapy group showed greater gains in both joint attention and eye gaze towards persons.”

Some of the Movement patterns in response to the environment could be adapted when persons with ASD were provided with the opportunity to explore in relation to external stimuli.

External cues that provide an anchor for movements within a meaningful and flexible experience that promotes self-discovery of behaviors. The rhythmic and structural components of music stimuli may provide an external cue or anchor to further help children with ASD to organize, predict, and respond to their environment.

Rhythm and music provide an accommodation for these deficits, as music stimulus has been widely shown in the rehabilitation literature to help with motor planning and execution. Structured musical experiences may be utilized to provide clear cues to anticipate a response, giving time to plan and sequence a series of actions, as needed for social interaction. Within this clear time-based musical structure, there is also flexibility for creative musical/nonmusical response. This allows for the skill of social interaction to be practiced within a structured experience that provides accommodations to promote success.

Persons with ASD are demonstrated to have enhanced pitch and/or melodic perception.

These areas coincided with a greater activation of frontal-posterior networks, suggesting that musical stimuli may more effectively engage children with ASD. If persons with ASD can better process musical stimuli, then music may assist learning in areas of deficit, including social skills.

Source: LaGasse, A. B. (2014).  Effects of a music therapy group intervention on enhancing social skills in children with autism.  Journal of Music Therapy, 51(3), pp. 250-275.