Date on Honors Thesis

Spring 5-2025


Communication Disorders


Theatre Performance

Examining Committee Member

Dr. Alison Brown, Advisor

Examining Committee Member

Megan Smetana, Committee Member

Examining Committee Member

Becky Jones, Committee Member


The goal of this research was to determine how music is being used in speech and music therapy sessions for children with a diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder, to discover the most common targets of these therapy sessions, and to examine the anatomical and physiological constructs that support the inclusion of music. This study was a review of literature, and included research from a variety of articles, several written in the past 25 years. Overall, results showed that music-based speech interventions such as Melodic Based Communication Therapy and Developmental Speech and Language Training, as well as music therapy interventions, are used to target behavior, communication, social interaction, or attention and motor control. Most often, music is used to create more engagement between the speech therapist and client, or between the caregiver and the client. These increased interactions can lead to more social engagement and help children with autism diagnoses gain confidence and increase their motivation to be involved in the therapy session. This paper also analyzes neurological studies that underscore how music engages the frontal and temporal areas of the brain, as well as the neural pathways between these regions. This research, along with insight into the structure and function of an autistic brain, helps to explain and support the combination of music with more traditional speech therapy approaches when working with those on the autism spectrum. It also indicates a need to conduct further studies on how music can be used to support speech acquisition and functional communication growth, as there is a current lack of research in this area.