Dyadic drum playing and social skills: Implications for rhythm-mediated intervention for children with autism spectrum disorder

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20 Scopus citations


Current perspectives on social skills development of individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) emphasize the interplay between motor and social skills. Given the evidence supporting this relationship, studies are needed to explore the potential beneft of rhythmic behaviors to improve social skills in children with ASD. The purpose of this two-part study was to confrm the relationship between dyadic drum playing and social skills and to further develop a rhythm-mediated music therapy intervention for improving the social skills of children with ASD. In Study 1, we conducted a factor analysis to examine whether dyadic drum playing was related to social skills in 42 children with typical development and 10 children with high-functioning ASD. In Study 2, we conducted a preliminary pilot of a rhythm-mediated music therapy intervention with eight children with ASD and measured changes in social skills (e.g., imitation and engagement in joint action with others) and dyadic drum playing behaviors. Study 1 fndings included identifcation of four factors related to dyadic drum playing. The presence of rhythmic cueing and tempo adjustment correlated with social skills, providing a strong rationale for the use of dyadic drum playing to address social skills. In Study 2, participants showed decreased asynchrony when tapping with a partner at adjusted tempi after the rhythm-mediated intervention. Furthermore, participants showed greater engagement in joint action following the intervention. This study supports potential beneft of the rhythm-mediated intervention using dyadic drum playing and provides preliminary evidence strengthening its use in the social domain for individuals with ASD.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)340-375
Number of pages36
JournalJournal of Music Therapy
Issue number3
StatePublished - 8 Sep 2018


  • Autism spectrum disorder
  • Dyadic drumming
  • Intervention
  • Rhythm mediation
  • Social skills


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