My name is Ruth and I’m a third year PhD student researching the impact of music lessons on autistic teenagers. My background is mainly in music performance, but during the final year of my undergraduate degree I realised how much I loved research and wanted to know why music has such an impact on individuals.
I have just started a project which reviews the impact of learning to play the piano on autistic teenagers. If you want to know more please read about the project and if you, or someone you know, might be interested in taking part please do get in touch!
For this research project we are following the Scottish guidelines and will be closely monitoring the situation and amending any processes in place accordingly.
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.
I am looking for autistic individuals between the ages of 12 and 18, 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, familial ethnographies and observation to provide a detailed picture of experiences. I will therefore work closely with around 10-15 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 can be a support to an individual with autism and how this impacts 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.
Research study, learning to play an instrument (March 2020)
I am looking for Autistic teenagers (12-18) 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 14 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%.
Main subjects: performance, producing, marketing, composing and research.
2011-2013 HND Music Performance – Edinburgh College, UK
Main subjects: Performance, Song writing, Producing, Teaching, Business.
You will receive 14 weeks of lessons, ideally taking place weekly, and be expected to practice 3 times per week. The lessons will take place at your home or the teacher’s home and will last 30 minutes. You will receive a portable piano on loan for the duration of the study. Before the start of the lessons you will be asked what your favourite style of music is and if there is anything in particular you would like to learn, for example a specific technique or song.
The lesson structure
Your lesson will always start with a few warm up exercises. This will help warm up your hands and stretch the muscles ready for the lesson.
After the warm up you will do some exercises. These exercises are important to help you learn the right technique to play your favourite tunes.
After the exercises you will go move on to the musical piece. You will work through the piece and any tricky bits you found difficult to do during your practice throughout the week.
At the end of the lesson your teacher will go through what they want you to practice during the week.
Here are a few examples of some of the music you could be learning during your lessons!
- Ode to Joy – Handel
- I Got a Feeling – Black Eyed Peas
- Finger Jogging Boogie – Steven Duro