A Case Study of the Social and Musical Behavioral Patterns of a Child With Autism

October 17, 2011 / By: Sarah Hass

The problem of this study was to observe, document, and analyze a fourth grade child diagnosed with autism.  It was the intention of this study to identify similarities and dissimilarities in the social, communicative, and musical behavior patterns between a child with autism and non-autistic children within an Orff-Schulwerk classroom, and to be able to identify the nature of the interplay of autistic and musical behavior.

Theoretical questions served as the framework for the research and investigation in this study.  Chapter two is a discussion of the social, communicative and other visual behaviors present in a child diagnosed with autism, as well as the typical social and communicative behaviors present in a non-autistic child; specifically using Jean Piaget’s stages of cognitive development.  Musical behaviors were investigated in chapter three, including fine and gross motor skills, audiation, problem-solving, and physical, vocal, and language expression.  Chapter four identified the National Music Standards concerning the playing and notating of rhythmic durations, and an explanation of the imitation, exploration, improvisation, and literacy taught in an Orff-Schulwerk classroom pertaining to children with autism and non-autistic children.  Social and musical similarities were discussed in chapter five including the musical learning environment, repetition in learning and communication through music.  Sensory processing in the music classroom, the learning of rhythm and communication in an academic setting were among the social and musical dissimilarities while adaptations for a child with autism were participation and level of support, input and output of instruction and response, and managing physical space.  Chapter six is an explanation of the procedure and behaviors observed in the lessons of the case study as well as conclusions, reflections, and recommendations for further study.

The lessons selected for this case study were the source for observing a child with autism, applying Kodaly rhythm syllables for rhythmic durations as well as rhythmic speech for rhythmic durations.  Three lessons used the Kodaly rhythm syllables with the application of body percussion, un-pitched percussion, and pitched percussion.  Likewise, three lessons used rhythmic speech transferring over to the same three media.

Conclusions were drawn based on the observed lessons and related research.  The main differences observed between a child with autism and a non-autistic child were the social interactions with other students and the delay in sensory processing.  Sensory processing can affect a student’s response time to cues, attention span, a refusal to participate, difficulty with movement activities, appropriate focusing of attention, and comprehension and retention of skills and knowledge.