Effects of relational music therapy on communication of children with autism: a randomized controlled study

Gustavo Gattino, Rudimar Riesgo, Danae Longo, Julio Leite, Lavínia Schüler-Faccini

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65 Citations (Scopus)


The intent of this study (registration ACTRN12608000625370) was to investigate the effects of Relational Music Therapy (RMT) in verbal, nonverbal and social communication of children with autism spectrum disorders (ASDs). A randomized controlled trial (RCT) with 24 boys from the Programme for Invasive Developmental Disorders (Porto Alegre City, Brazil), was designed to compare individuals treated with music therapy (n = 12) and standard treatment (clinical routine activities including medical examinations and consultations, n = 12). The outcomes were assessed by two blind evaluators, before and after interventions, through the verbal, nonverbal and social communication scores of Brazilian version of the Childhood Autism Rating Scale (CARS-BR). The CARS-BR scores in T1 and T2 did not show a statistically significant difference in the three measured outcomes. However, the study found a positive statistically significant difference on subgroup analysis of nonverbal communication among patients with autistic disorder, p = 0.008 and standard mean difference of 2.22 (95% CI 1.90 to 2.53). The results observed in the investigation of the effects of relational music therapy on communication skills of ASD children are inconclusive. The next investigations need more rigorous designs leading to smaller effect size estimates and more accurate tools for the outcome assessment (including some specific instrument of music therapy). These modifications will increase the accuracy to observe the treatment effects in this population.
Original languageEnglish
JournalNordic Journal of Music Therapy
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2011
Externally publishedYes


  • autism
  • communication
  • music therapy


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