After completing her HND in Music Performance at Edinburgh College in 2013, Ruth went on to complete her Honours year at Wolverhampton University. It was during this year she found her love for research and how music can influence daily life. Her dissertation looked at the musical influences within society, in particular the elderly society, which was awarded with the highest mark within her cohort. After graduating with a First Class BA(Hons) in Performance Industries in 2014 she went on and completed her MSc in Educational Research with merit at the University of Edinburgh. During her MSc she explored the learners’ perceptions of the effects of instrument tuition during adolescence on their emotion and behaviour regulation. In September 2017 she started her PhD at the University of Edinburgh under the supervision of Dr. Katie Overy (music) and Dr. Sue Fletcher-Watson (psychology).
Music and Autism
Music is widely used by therapists as a way of facilitating communication and social interaction. Music therapy has helped to develop the communication skills of children with autism. It can also enable autistic children, who may struggle to communicate their emotions or thoughts, to express themselves.
Most studies look at music in a group setting: in school, in a play group or in a therapy group. There has been almost no research on the effects of learning to play an instrument for individual children or adults, with the exception of Koleman, 2013, who found that learning to play the clarinet had significant benefits for his daughter. Numerous other studies from musicological and from educational perspectives have found significant benefits to non-autistic individuals from learning to play an instrument or sing. To try and fill the gap in the research I will be looking at how learning to play an instrument might affect a person with autism.
The participants for this research will be autistic people between the ages of 10 and 17 years, who have not yet had music lessons. It is during this period in life, for all individuals, that some of the most challenging emotional and social issues arise. We want to see if learning to play an instrument can be beneficial at this tricky time.
The project will involve personal narratives, audio and video diaries, familial ethnographies and observation to provide a detailed picture of experiences. I will therefore work closely with around 10-20 adolescents, alongside their families and music teachers. I will be seeking people who are willing and able to contribute substantially to the research.
Why this study?
My research is intended to address the neglected yet important question of whether the process of learning to play an instrument or sing can be a support to an individual with autism and how this effects their daily life. This research will contribute to the growing area of music and wellbeing research, as well as contributing in a broader sense to the understanding of music and the public good.
Pilot Study, learning to play an instrument (March 2018)
I am looking for Autistic teenagers (13-17) who have not yet had music lessons, but are looking to learn to play an instrument. During the study the participant will receive weekly lessons for 6 weeks. Are you, or do you know someone interested, please feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
2017 – ongoing PhD Music, University of Edinburgh, UK
The objective of this research is to enquire whether music tuition benefits individuals with autism and if so, how?
2015-2016 MSc Educational Research (Merit) – University of Edinburgh, UK
Main subjects: qualitative and quantitative research skills, designing and executing research projects, philosophy of Education and creating trainings for businesses.
2013-2014 BA (hons) Performance Industries (First Class) – University of Wolverhampton, UK
Graduated with overall average of >80%. Transferred to the Academy of Music and Sound, part of University of Wolverhampton from Edinburgh College for the final year of my undergraduate. Main subjects included performance, producing, marketing, and research.
2011-2013 HND Music Performance – Edinburgh College, UK
Main subjects: Performance, Song writing, Producing, Teaching, Business.