Thursday, May 20, 2010
Franklin Hall B Level 4 (Philadelphia Marriott Downtown)9:00 AM
Background: Individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) exhibit above average auditory processing abilities including enhanced pitch memory (Heaton, Hermelin, & Pring, 1998) and discrimination (Bonnel et al., 2003; Mottron, Peretz, & Ménard, 2000). They can also recognize basic emotions in music (Heaton, Hermelin, & Pring, 1999; Heaton et al., 2008). Although a growing interest for music perception in ASD has fuelled studies over the past decade, most studies have assessed performance of participants with ASD on laboratory tasks and few studies have collected information on use of music in everyday lives of individuals with ASD. Allen and colleagues (2009) conducted a semi-structured interview with adults with ASD to investigate their musical habits. They found that adults with ASD respond to and appreciate music in a similar fashion as the typical listener. Objectives: The aim of this study was to assess responsivity to music and musical habits, experience and ability in children and adolescents with ASD. We also investigated sensitivity to sounds in early childhood. Methods: Children and adolescents (7-17 years old) with typical development (N = 32, FSIQ: 79-130) and ASD (N = 27, FSIQ: 65-133), with comparable auditory working memory (p = .05) and musical training and experience (p >.05) participated in the study. The Salk and McGill Musical Inventory (Levitin et al., 2004) was completed by parents and a semi-structured interview was conducted with the participants (Queen's University Music Questionnaire – Revised, based on Cuddy et al., 2005). Results: There were more participants with ASD than TD who showed unusual fright or sensitivity in response to certain sounds in early childhood (p < .001). Children with ASD were viewed as being generally more musical than children with TD (p = .01), however the amount of interest in music was greater for the TD group than the ASD group (p = .04). The number of weekly hours spent listening to music as well as the strength of positive reactions to upbeat music and negative reactions to sad music did not differ between groups. Conclusions: Though the parents of children with ASD in our study reported more frequent hypersensitivity to sounds than parents of typical controls, this hypersensitivity appeared to have no detrimental effect on the musicality of children with ASD. Musical responsivity in everyday life seems to be similar in ASD and TD. Although parent report bias may explain why parents of children with ASD view their children as more musical, possibly in comparison to other aspects of their profile, this result warrants future studies on the islets of abilities of children with ASD. The positive view of parents with regards to their child's responsivity to music can fuel ideas for therapeutic use of music in family therapies for ASD.