The Use of Musical and Visual Interventions for Transitions in Children with Autism.
McGarry, Erin M.
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The purpose of this descriptive survey study was to describe teachers' and therapists' reported use and perceptions of musical and visual transition interventions they use to help children with autism at an early childhood special education program. The perceived effectiveness was defined as the educational support team's perceptions of the effects musical interventions and visual interventions have on transition behaviors. Participants (N=19) were certified special education teachers and therapists who were employed by the early childhood program. An online survey consisting of 16 questions was sent electronically to participants via the employee email system. The survey questions consisted of five sections based on demographic information and the following research questions: 1) How often do teachers and therapists report using music interventions, visual interventions, or a combination of musical and visual interventions to aide children who have autism? 2) Which intervention is perceived to be the most effective? 3) What is the perceived effectiveness of musical interventions, visual interventions, and a combination of musical and visual interventions on social and communicative responsiveness in children with autism? and 4)What strategies do teachers and therapist use when selecting a transition intervention (musical, visual, or a combination of musical and visual) for children who have autism? Data from this survey was also analyzed for variation in perceptions based on professional background. The results showed participants used more musical interventions than visual interventions or a combination of musical and visual interventions, with 50% (n=9) stating they almost always used music when addressing transition behaviors. The results of this study also indicated a combination of musical and visual interventions was perceived as the most effective transition intervention by the teachers and therapists at this early childhood program, as almost all of the participants (n=18, 85.74%) chose this method as the most effective. Nine of these participants reported the musical component should be emphasized when combining musical and visual interventions, while the other nine reported the visual component should be emphasized. In regards to promoting social responsiveness and communication in children with autism, an overwhelming majority of the teachers and therapists in this study (17 out of 19 participants for the social responsiveness category, and 18 out of 19 participants for the communication category) reported a combination of musical and visual interventions was the most effective method for promoting these two key areas of need. When using this combined intervention approach, the musical component was reported as the most important modality in promoting social responsiveness (52.63%, n=l 0), while the visual component was reported as the most important modality in promoting communication (52.63%, n=IO). The results of this study also suggested that the individual needs and preferences of the child were a major factor professionals consider when selecting a transition intervention, as all of the participants in the study (n=19) reported this as a factor. It is the researcher's hope that these results may be used to inform our understanding of which interventions are perceived to be the most effective for children with autism. This study, along with future research, may help to improve transitional performance for children with autism. Keywords and themes for this study include "autism," "music therapy," and "transitions."