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Music and Movement for Addressing Motor Dyspraxia and Social Skills of Children With Autism

" Children and adolescents with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) present with difficulties in sensory processing, motor planning, coordination, and sequencing, which affect their ability to access their environment. They also may have difficulties with social communication and connecting with peers, but studies have shown that music interventions can improve social skills in adolescents with ASD (Eren, 2015), and dance movement therapy can be an effective therapy approach to increase body awareness and social skills with children with ASD (Koch et al., 2015).

Research Surrounding Music Interventions

  • Adolescents with ASD sometimes experience more loneliness than their peers, and the use of music has been shown to help decrease the anxiety associated with direct interaction with peers while improving social skills (Eren, 2015). Eren (2015) explained that music interventions can provide an environment where individuals with ASD can feel safe, begin trusting those around them, and build nonjudgmental friendships. It also allows them an opportunity to address issues that they might encounter in the outside world and learn coping strategies.

  • A majority of the research around music interventions has focused on addressing communication and social skills, with limited research on the effect of music and dance in addressing dyspraxia.

Role of Occupational Therapy

  • Occupational therapy has always played a key role in treating ASD because of the expertise of practitioners in sensory motor development and providing a holistic, family-centered approach in treatment. Occupational therapy practitioners have used various interventions, such as sensory integration, to address the needs of the client and improve well-being. This article examines the results of a music and movement group that was designed to address the needs of the ASD population as part of a clinical doctorate project.

Music and Movement Group

  • The occupational therapy music and movement group focused on weekly dance routines and movement games to foster creativity and target areas of difficulty. Six 1-hour sessions were carried over a 6-week period (1 session per week). The Pediatric Quality of Life Inventory was administered at the start of the program and at the end of the 6 weeks. Parents were given an ADL self-dressing checklist to fill out on their child before the first session and at the end of the 6 weeks. A standing balance test was administered before the start of the group and at the end of the 6 weeks. Parents were given weekly handouts and homework for each week.

Clinical Observations

  • Parents completed a self-dressing checklist for their child before the group began and at 6 weeks. One parent stated that her child initially had difficulties with orienting her clothes, and after participating in the group, she was able to orient her clothes independently. Another parent noted that her son initially was unable to consistently don and orient his socks, tie shoelaces, and bathe himself. After participating in the group, the parent stated that her son was able to complete these activities independently.

  • Children were also observed interacting more with one other and modeling appropriate behavior during various games. Children were observed attending to each other’s well-being during group and helping each other during movement games.

  • At the beginning of the group the children needed maximal verbal, visual, and tactile cues to follow the dance steps. By the end of the 6 weeks, the children were able to complete a six-step dance routine with minimal verbal and visual cues.


  • The children showed improved physical, emotional, social, and school functioning after the 6 weeks, which suggests that music and movement could be a beneficial form of intervention for children with ASD to address motor dyspraxia and social skills. Because this is a small sample over a 6-week period, more studies are needed to examine the effectiveness of this intervention, but it provides insight into the potential benefits of music and movement groups for children with autism."

Article Created by:

Bonnel, M. J. (2020, January 22). Music and Movement for Addressing Motor Dyspraxia and Social Skills of Children With Autism. Retrieved June 26, 2020, from

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