Research Fun

I can see it now:

There is a significant lack of information in regards to such a prevalent field of study.

Yeah? Say what? Your point? Can you explain what you’re talking about? Just a little bit; that’s all we want.

I’m doing, as part of my coursework this semester (as a grad student in music therapy at Texas Woman’s University), a content analysis on the available literature, with a strong concentration on academic/peer-reviewed journals, on either Asperger’s Syndrome and music therapy, or on Asperger’s Syndrome, High-Functioning Autism and anything else that could be included under the “mild Autism” umbrella and Music Therapy.


Not only that, but I have to trim it down even more, narrow the focus more. My purpose for doing the content analysis has to tackle a problem of some kind (right now my problem is an almost bizarrely low number of articles that even mention the words “Asperger’s/Asperger Syndrome”) that somehow affects the working lives of either music therapists currently in the field, music therapy researchers, music therapy students and/or everyone in-between. Not only that, but it might even be a problem that they are unaware of having, but me, with my careful eye towards detail, can help point out.


There is a CD ROM that AMTA (American Music Therapist’s Association) puts out that contains all of the journal articles from three different MT Journals from 1964-2003:

  1. Journal of Music Therapy
  2. Music Therapy
  3. Music Therapy Perspectives

Now, there are more than just 3 MT journals out there; not a lot more, not in English anyways *rolls eyes*, but more still.

You know how many articles I found containing the either the words, “Asperger’s Syndrome” or “Asperger Syndrome”?


This is a 39 year history of journals. Now, I know that Asperger’s Syndrome didn’t really hit the limelight until 1994, but it was introduced to the world by Lorna Wing in 1981 in preference to the term “autistic psychopathy” which had been put forth first by Asperger himself in 1943, I believe. She felt that the term was inappropriate for the negative connotations it put forth as a mental disorder.

Okay, so from there I go to look under “pervasive developmental disorders,” which brought back 18 articles. Well, that’s encouraging, I think, until I actually look at them and see that they all have to do with either Rett Syndrome or autism in the classic sense.

Then, I decide on an ill thought out whim just to try “autism.” 73 articles. ARGH. 3 is too few and 73 is too many (for all at once anyway). Besides. I don’t want to read 73 articles only to get done with them and decide that NONE are appropriate for what I’m trying to do (which, as of yet, I’m unsure).

This leads me to try a few more terms:

  1. Autism + Bullying = Nada
  2. Autism + Theory of Mind = Nada
  3. Autism + Drumming = 23 articles, but only after I found the advanced search options and changed the criteria from “find exact phrase” to “find all the words” *rolls eyes some more*
  4. Autism + Social = 73 (wasn’t I just here?)
  5. Autism + Mild = 46 (not bad, only issue is that the articles mostly have to do with mild OTHER things)
  6. We can set delimits on our content analyses. I chose to do that at this point and only include articles from the last 10 or 11 years; pretty well determining that anything before that probably wasn’t speaking the same language anyways.
  7. Autism + High-functioning = 10 articles. Of those 10, only 7 are from last 11 years. Of those 7, 4 have already been found in previous searches. *headdesk*
  8. Autism + Communication (limited to only those in the last 10 years) = 19 articles. Hmm. *eyebrow goes up*
  9. Okay, seriously, does this sound like a good article if I’m interested in studying the upper end of the spectrum?:
  10. Relating Improvisational Music Therapy with Severely and Multiply Disabled Children to Communication Development

Then again, you run across articles like:

Music Therapy Assessment for Severely Emotionally Disturbed Children: A Pilot Study
Deborah L. Layman, MT-BC
Beech Brook, Cleveland, Ohio
David L. Hussey, PhD
Kent State University, Department of Justice Studies
Sarah J. Laing, MM Ed, MT-BC

And you might find yourself thinking the same thing as before, like with the previous article (which I did glance through even so), only to read one of the references that you’ve actually read the original of, thanks to weeks of research already, and you suddenly realize that although the subjects are put forth as “low-functioning” and mentally retarded (they always include those two together, I swear and not just in MT journals), you know that the subjects that the reference worked with, were mostly misdiagnosed. They were non-verbal for the most part, but unintelligent they were not. And more than that, they didn’t carry with them nearly enough of the classic autism signs to truly be dxed by today’s standards. Today’s standards? I just said that? *headdesk* Today’s standards are so effed up, I feel like slapping the researchers who quote them sometimes . . . and then I just feel like slapping the originators of the standards . . .

Then, of course, you’re back to the issue of what truly is the difference between low and high functioning? And that might be what my paper’s about if I can somehow get permission . . . and also figure out a way to word it so that it makes sense outside the muddled confines of my poorly overworked brain. Let’s see here then, the difference between low and high functioning is important, because the types of activities that a MT would do with a person on the low functioning end is not at all the same as the high functioning end.

By the way (oh god, I spelled it out), the reference that set me off onto this entire ramble saga is:

Clarkson, G. (1998). I dreamed I was normal. St. Louis, MO: MMB Music, Inc.

I think that reference is written correctly. I spend more of my time citing journals than books and sometimes I get confused at the end. Plus it’s nearly 2 in the morning and I’m crazy after having spent every available moment for the past 3 weeks on this.

BTW, speaking of APA, did you know that it’s no longer acceptable practice to double-space after sentences using their latest format? Speaking of things that are effed up . . . *trails off*

Anyways, the clients in that book used FC (Facilitated Communication) to express their thoughts/wishes/whatnot in the session, in other words, to communicate with. I found that one young man’s words [in reference to music] struck me internally and I keep coming back to them:

Great music speaks to our hearts and souls and we don’t need words at all then. The sounds go right through my body and give it a massage so my body relaxes and my mind feels alert.*

*Periods were added by me.

Ballastexistenz is technically defined as low functioning, but there are many who would argue that in spite of her outward physical appearance, she should be defined rather as high-functioning, because of her way of being able to express herself, among other things.

Argh. I feel that my brain is trying to implode on itself once more.

I’ll finish this post with two more books (well, one’s a thesis) that I’m currently reading. I’ve got a pile of InterLibrary Loan books about 10 or 15 high (when they’re stacked appropriately and not in a scattered mess demonstrating my frustration with the entire process).

Actually, I ordered a master’s thesis through ILL recently as well, called “I go to you: a theoretical and practical exploration of interaffectivity, creativity and autism,” by Susan Melissa Skeele in 1997, as part of her Master of Arts in Dance/Movement Therapy at Antioch New England Graduate School.

In my Music Bibliography Grad class last semester that I had to take (bleah), we had to read some master theses (note what these rhyme with; I’ll give you a hint, it starts with an F). Master theses aren’t exactly what’s normally considered interesting to read, let alone fun, but there’s something about this one, maybe she’s just a good writer, but either way, I’m on page 30, and I’ve read nearly straight through from the beginning. Oh my. *blinks with wide eyes* So far we’re dealing with classic autism here, but the methods are Dance/Movement Therapy, right? I can’t see for the life of me why this isn’t the same as Music Therapy and why I wouldn’t be able to get it counted as part of the MT literature. I have to give a history and standing practice for MT and autism and probably something else where I could probably shove this in. I figure, hey, if it’s good, it’s good.

The other book that I know I’ll be able to shove in, if nothing else, just in the [excellent] related literature section, is Olga Bogdashina’s Theory of Mind and the Triad of Perspectives on Autism and Asperger Syndrome (2006). I mean, woah. This is one of those great books that actually details the idea that she understands the current situation. It’s comforting, in a way, for someone to write about what’s really happening, rather than just all that theoretical crap I keep having to read. Bleah. I mean, she cites Jim Sinclair, for god’s sake. There are only a few things missing in its approach:

  1. It makes mention of those with the view that Autism Speaks puts out, but it does not mention Autism Speaks.
  2. It does not mention Wrong Planet either

I’m fairly positive that Wrong Planet has been around since 2006, since its copyright is for 2004-2008 . . .

I don’t know why she didn’t include these two entities. Maybe she overlooked them, or decided for the sake of the book to completely ignore them/leave them be.

Anyways, that’s where I am currently. If anyone has any suggestions, advice, or angles that they think I should look at, feel free to post it. I might not take it, but I will read it.


~ by lastcrazyhorn on February 9, 2008.

9 Responses to “Research Fun”

  1. Hope you found:
    and Comparing the social and communication behaviors of adolescent males with Asperger’s syndrome in verbal and instrumental improvisation groups /

    Melodi G Montgomery
    English Book Book : Thesis/dissertation/manuscript Archival Material Archival Material vii, 38 leaves

    There is a larger body of scholarly articles on music therapy and autism.

  2. Hey, thanks! Awesomeness! 🙂

  3. I can’t be as useful but I can say that doing the kind of thing you’re doing is worthwhile for more reasons than just the obvious.

    Here’s a quote from a book I was reading that I hope will warm your heart (and I hope the connection is clear and not just in my mind).

    The book is “Cybernetics or Control and Communication in The Animal and The Machine” by Norbert Wiener.

    Here’s a short thing that gives some context:

    “It is these boundary regions of science which offer the richest opportunities to the qualified investigator.”

    And here’s the passage I had in mind:

    “We had dreamed for years of an institution of independent scientists, working together in one of these backwoods of science, not as subordinates of some great executive officer, but joined by the desire, indeed by the spiritual necessity, to understand the region as a whole, and to lend one another the strength of that understanding.”

  4. Check out my blog on current research on Asperger’s 🙂 I’ll keep an eye open for research related to music!


  5. Ariane – Asperger’s and music therapy if you can. 🙂

    ABS – thanks for your encouraging words. They mean a lot. 😀

  6. What a gigantic vacuum there is in the literature on this topic! Good thing that you are going to fix that!

    If you haven’t already, you should try google scholar

  7. Ooo, linky. Thanks for the heads up. 🙂

  8. Im low content asperger, you’d never tell uless you saw me among my own age group, then its obvious. see
    Some music really connects with me. Mitch Mitchell drumming with Jimi Hendrix and the late Beethoven string quartets, op59 onwards. To my mind drama would have been useful at school not music therapy. But then again the affliction is only mild. I’m fifty, married thirty years and never wanted kids because of the way I am.

  9. […] look yesterday from a professor, but she didn’t say anything. Remember that I have to do a content analysis/literature review, right?  Well, we were going over one in my psych of music class, and my […]

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