Voices Together: Music Therapy and Autism

We are a Bass ConnectionsIMG_4645-2 research team designing, developing, and implementing a project that can contribute to enhancing teacher skill in exceptional children’s classrooms and generalizing positive student outcomes. Voices Together (VT), our community partner, developed a music therapy curriculum to increase communication skills, improve social skills, and develop self-esteem and self-control among children with developmental disabilities. During typical sessions, VT music therapists use non-directive strategies, such as student-directed decision making, responsive prompting, and the creation of a safe space.

Over the past 6 years they have implemented this music therapy model in several school systems in North Carolina. The 2014-2015 Bass Connections team evaluated the effectiveness of VT music therapy sessions in exceptional classrooms on increasing students’ verbal responsiveness. They found that students participating in these music therapy sessions significantly increased their verbal responses, and student responses shifted from one-word responses to partial sentence responses compared to students who did not participate in the music therapy sessions.

IMG_4791Because of this success, the creators of the VT music therapy program are aiming to find a way to help extend these learned skills to other contexts.  One of the ways they can do this is by having teachers help their students learn and use these skills in the classroom, a place where students spend a large part of their day.  They have since created the Voices Together Teacher Toolbox, a curriculum designed to develop teacher talent through coaching and collaboration by teaching educators how to incorporate non-directive music therapy strategies in their own classroom.  

Our research project entitled Voices Together Teacher Toolbox: An Evaluation of Teacher Strategies for Exceptional Children’s Classrooms will focus on assessing the efficacy of teaching educators a set of non-directive music therapy strategies to incorporate into their daily curricula, with the ultimate goal of promoting skill-building and valuable engagement among students with disabilities.


To find out more about Voices Together please visit: http://voicestogether.net

To find out more about Bass Connections: Education and Human Development please visit:  http://sites.duke.edu/ehdbassconnections/

To read more about our partnership please read the 2015 spring edition of Gist Magazine: http://issuu.com/ssriduke/docs/gist_spring15/1?e=3562890/11775738  


*Photos courtesy of Yasmine White