Understanding the Effect of Music Therapy for Students with Autism: Analysis of Voices Together Data (2017-2018)


The Voices Together music therapy program has been a part of local school special-education classrooms for the past five years. Bass Connections has been involved for the past three years. In 2014-2015, the program took place in self-contained special-education elementary classrooms in Durham Public Schools. In 2015-2016, the program took place in self-contained autism-only elementary classrooms in Alamance-Burlington Schools. In 2016-2017, the program is again taking place in self-contained autism-only elementary classrooms in Alamance-Burlington Schools.

Project Description

This project will focus on the analysis and dissemination of the data collected during the implementation of the Voices Together program and on exploring questions about special education and the schools, music therapy and student gain.

Each year’s Bass Connections project team has worked with Voices Together to design a research study to serve the needs of the intervention. Drawing on the collected data, there are a variety of research topics that can be explored during the 2017-2018 Bass Connections project team, such as:

  • Working on the papers under review and supporting the efforts to get 2015-2016 data disseminated
  • Contributing to follow-up papers comparing and/or pooling the data from 2016-2017 with 2015-2016
  • Analyzing therapy sessions from 2015-2016 and comparing them to the 2014-2015 results
  • Analyzing the observations of the Teacher Toolbox intervention from the 2016-2017 study
  • Assessing teachers over time or writing a broad-based paper on special education and autism in central North Carolina using NCERDC as well as project data
  • Assessing the overall merits of Voices Together as an intervention and creating a policy memo for the State of North Carolina.

Anticipated Outcomes

Papers or posters presented at an autism conference or an evaluation conference; manuscripts; policy memo or another public document for schools


Fall 2017 – Spring 2018

  • Fall 2017: Students gain background on developmental disabilities, teacher training, research and program evaluation; students select one or more papers to be actively engaged with by developing a literature review, developing or modifying an analysis plan and developing or modifying a coding strategy
  • Spring 2018: Students gain background on manuscript writing, journals and audience, qualitative and quantitative data analysis; students take part in data analysis; team actively engages in manuscript writing, editing and reviewing in order to have three or more papers under review by the end of the project

Team Outcomes to Date

Understanding the Effect of Music Therapy for Students with Autism: Analysis of Voices Together Data (talk by Jennifer Han and Amber Wolf), EHDx, April 19, 2018

Effect of Music Therapy through Teacher Intervention for Students with Autism (poster by Margaret Darko, Jennifer Han, Paulina Paras and Amber Wolf), presented at EHDx, April 19, 2018

Project team website

See earlier related team, Voices Together: Music Therapy and Autism in Elementary Schools (2016-2017).

/faculty/staff Team Members

  • Geri Dawson, School of Medicine-Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences
  • Megan Gray, Social Science Research Institute*
  • Jan Riggsbee, Arts & Sciences-Program in Education
  • Lorrie Schmid, Social Science Research Institute*
  • Jessica Sperling Smokoski, Social Science Research Institute*

/undergraduate Team Members

  • Margaret Darko, Program II (AB)
  • Jennifer Han, Evolutionary Anthropology (AB)
  • Andrew Jackson, Public Policy Studies (AB), Global Health (AB2)
  • Paulina Paras, Neuroscience (AB)
  • Amber Wolf, Music (AB)

/zcommunity Team Members

  • Yasmine White, Voices Together