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Music-assisted programmes: Developing communication in autism spectrum disorder through music making

Project description

Music-assisted language intervention for autistic children

Approximately a third of children with autism do not develop functional speech and remain minimally verbal even after years of speech, language and educational interventions. The EU-funded MAP project aims to develop and test whether individualised, easily used music-assisted programmes (MAP) would increase spoken language in autistic children with no or few words. This will include a structured training procedure to teach language through songs using interactive activities in naturalistic settings. The efficacy of MAP will be evaluated using a feasibility randomised controlled trial, by comparing MAP with treatment as usual. An app will also be developed for parents to play MAP songs at home. The project could lead to further improvements in language acquisition of autistic individuals.


Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a neurodevelopmental disorder characterised by atypical social communication and interaction, and repetitive and restricted behaviours, activities and interests, affecting around 1% of the general population worldwide. It is estimated that about 30% of children with ASD do not develop functional speech, and remain non-verbal or minimally verbal even after years of speech, language and educational interventions. Although a wide range of programmes have been developed for treating language impairments in ASD, none has been effective in eliciting functional speech in ASD children.

Building on the research findings of the CAASD project, this proof of concept grant aims to develop a set of multifaceted, individualized, easily implemented, music-assisted intervention programmes (MAP) to increase spoken language ability in 2-4-year-old, nonverbal or minimally verbal children with ASD. Specifically, we will develop a structured training protocol, delivered through naturalistic strategies and interactive activities, to teach language to ASD children through songs and music making. Over a period of 12 weeks, randomised controlled trials will be run on two groups of ASD children, randomly assigned to the treatment (undertaking music-assisted language interventions) or the control group (receiving traditional speech and language therapy). The efficacy of MAP will be assessed through the learning of 36 target words that relate to naturalistic, everyday activities that the children spontaneously engage in. Ultimately, an app will be built and developed for parents or carers of children with ASD to learn the songs and implement the associated activities wherever there is a need.

Addressing the urgent need for language interventions in ASD, MAP has the potential to open the neural pathways to language in the autistic brain and to create genuine and lasting outcomes to resolve the socio-neuro-constructionist issues in ASD.

Host institution

Net EU contribution
€ 150 000,00
RG6 6AH Reading
United Kingdom

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South East (England) Berkshire, Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire Berkshire
Activity type
Higher or Secondary Education Establishments
Total cost
€ 150 000,00

Beneficiaries (1)