The inclusion of pupils on the autism spectrum through music and dance

  • Athina Stamou

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


Over the last 20 years there has been a hotly argued debate about the potentially positive and negative outcomes of including children with special educational needs, particularly those on the autism spectrum, in mainstream schools. The present study explores whether, and in what ways, pupils with autism can benefit from a music and dance intervention in terms of their participation and interaction with their peers, and how it can enhance their inclusion.

This study involves an intervention that was designed and carried out in primary mainstream settings in London with forty two children in total; among which seven were on the autism spectrum, aged 5-8 years. The intervention consists of a story, accompanied by music and dance activities, presented over six sessions. The six sessions were recorded on video. The results were analysed using a mixed-method design to allow comparison of the different variables through quantitative and qualitative analyses. The research used spatial proximity and task participation as proxy measures of inclusion. The main findings show that the pupils with autism and their peers were more engaged during music and that the children on the autism spectrum were more included during music and dance tasks, and less engaged or included during other activities unrelated to music or dance. Music and dance are effective tools for relaxation, helping children to self-regulate and organise their responses to sensory stimuli. The activities also offered opportunities for interaction, enhancing co-operation and inclusion. Music was found to be a positive cue for pupils to remember and perform tasks. The structure of the sessions and the repetition of tasks was also found to have a positive impact. Building on the findings, the study discusses how the inclusion of pupils on the autism spectrum can be successful and suggests introducing music and movement in other curricular areas, including literacy.
Date of Award16 Mar 2017
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Roehampton
SupervisorAdam Ockelford (Supervisor), Lorella Terzi (Supervisor) & Arielle Bonneville-Roussy (Supervisor)

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