Effectiveness of SAMONAS Sound Therapy (SST) in improving social engagement of children with Autism Spectrum Disorder
AuthorPitkola, Suvi Marjatta
AffiliationMelbourne Conservatorium of Music
Document TypePhD thesis
Access StatusOpen Access
© 2016 Dr. Suvi Marjatta Pitkola
Atypical sensory reactivity has been included in the latest diagnostic criteria for Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Compared to typically developing children, children with ASD are more likely to demonstrate atypical sensory responses, such as adverse reactions or indifference to sensations. An increasing body of literature has explored the connections between auditory processing and social engagement. Difficulty orienting towards a parent’s voice has been suggested to have a detrimental impact on a child’s ability to engage with the social world. Severe auditory processing difficulties can be disabling for a child and his or her family. A child with poor auditory filtering might not respond when being called, have difficulty following verbal instructions, and struggle with social engagement and interaction. Treatment options for auditory-based difficulties for children with ASD are, however, limited. For this reason, parents seek other therapies such as sound therapy to help their children. SAMONAS Sound Therapy (SST) is a sound therapy method that involves listening to electronically modified music through headphones over a period of time with the aim of improving listening skills. Evidence of the effectiveness of sound therapies with children with ASD is scarce and limited to studies examining language and behavior. There have not been any studies published on the impact of SST on children with ASD. This Singapore-based study aimed to investigate whether SST impacts social orienting, joint attention, and social interaction of children with ASD. Eleven Asian children between ages four and six years were recruited for the study. All children had severe ASD, difficulty focusing on the voices of their parents, and low cognitive, verbal, and adaptive functioning. Double-blinded randomised controlled trial with repeated measures was employed. The children, randomly allocated into SST and music listening groups, received a combination of clinic- and home-based treatments. Measurements were taken before and after a two-week clinic-based intervention, after an eight-week home program, and at three-month follow-up. Clinician-administered tests were supplemented with parent and teacher questionnaires, parent interviews, and observations of parent–child free play. Statistical analysis of standardized and non-standardised measures indicated a significant effect in favour of SST in some, but not all, clinician-administered measures. SST was more effective than music listening in improving joint attention and reciprocal social interaction in children with ASD. Treatment gains were maintained at three-month follow-up. There were, however, no differences between groups on social orienting. An important finding of this study was that the positive results achieved in the context of therapist–child interaction did not simultaneously generalise to parent–child interaction. Incorporation of parent training is recommended for SST treatment and future trials. These outcomes offer the first indication that SST may be a useful tool for children with severe ASD in particular areas of social engagement.
Keywordsmusic therapy; Autism Spectrum Disorder; social engagement; SAMONAS Sound Therapy
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