WASHINGTON, Aug. 8 (Xinhua) -- A new study published Tuesday has cast doubt on the effectiveness of improvisational music therapy for kids with autism, saying it resulted in no significant difference in symptom severity when compared to those who received enhanced standard care alone.
Christian Gold of the Grieg Academy Music Therapy Research Center in Norway and colleagues enrolled 364 children aged four to seven years with autism from nine countries, including Australia, Austria, Brazil, Israel, Italy, South Korea, Norway, United Kingdom and United States.
Half of the children were randomly assigned to enhanced standard care for five months and the other half to enhanced standard care plus improvisational music therapy for five months.
Enhanced standard care consisted of the locally available usual care for kids with autism plus parent counseling to discuss their concerns and provide information about the condition.
In improvisational music therapy, trained music therapists sang or played music with each child, attuned and adapted to the child's focus of attention.
The researchers found that after five months, the amount of improvement in both groups was small, and that there was no significant difference in autism symptom severity based on measures of social affect.
"These findings do not support the use of improvisational music therapy for symptom reduction in children with autism spectrum disorder," the researchers concluded.
The study was published Journal of the American Medical Association.
In an accompanying editorial, Sarabeth Broder-Fingert of Boston University School of Medicine and colleagues said the findings contrast with those of another meta-analysis study that found sufficient evidence that music therapy was associated with improvement in core symptoms of autism, such as social interaction, nonverbal communication, social-emotional reciprocity, and parent-child relationship.
"So, where does the field go from here?" asked the editorial. "Is it time to abandon music therapy for (autism), or is it worth the investment to conduct further studies in more controlled settings, with carefully chosen populations, and more patient- and family-centered outcomes? This is the question now facing the (autism) research and patient communities."