The 'exclusion' of autism : how does music therapy aid the psychological, social and educational difficulties confronted by children with autism in a special education setting? : a thesis presented in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Music Therapy at Massey University, Wellington, New Zealand
This research project explores how music therapy can provide opportunities for
inclusion and exclusion for children with autism. It draws attention to the various
psychological, social and education difficulties faced by children with autism regarding
social inclusion and social exclusion. The project also considers current attitudes
towards social exclusion documented within the fields of special education and child
welfare and rights.
The research was conducted using a qualitative and naturalistic enquiry approach. The
therapeutic method was client centred. Case material is presented for three children with
autism who attended individual music therapy sessions once a week for a period of five
weeks. Characteristic narratives of each music therapy session are included in the body
of the text. From these, the researcher highlighted moments of inclusion and exclusion
observed in the music therapy sessions for each child. These were collaborated and
presented in classification tables designed by the researcher from her observations.
Music therapy sessions reveal evidence of opportunities for both social interaction and
social isolation for three children with autism. Moments were categorised as Inclusion
Moments and Exclusion Moments.
Inclusion Moments were grouped under four headings: Client Initiated Moments,
VerbalNocal Communication Moments, Engaged In Music Non Verbal Moments and
Therapist Supported Inclusion.
Exclusion Moments were grouped under four headings: Inappropriate Social
Behaviours, Purposeful Removal from Musical and Social Interaction, Withdrawal and
Therapist Supported Exclusion.
Techniques to support inclusion included listening, playing, improvising, singing and
movement, adapting the level of attention demanded from the child. Exclusion could be
supported by allowing the child to withdrawal from verbal interaction and providing
them with a safe and non-demanding environment. This research project concludes that there are patterns of inclusion and exclusion in
music therapy sessions and suggests that exclusion does play a role in music therapy for
children with autism. The researcher highlights the difficulty for therapists to find a
position that satisfies the child 's right to social inclusion, while still respecting the
child 's lack of a need for social connectedness.