Kimberley D. Lakes 1 , * , Ross Neville 2 , Spyridoula Vazou 3 , Sabrina E. B. Schuck 4 , Katherine Stavropoulos 5 , Kavita Krishnan 4 , Irene Gonzalez 4 , Kayla Guzman 4 , Arya Tavakoulnia 4 , Annamarie Stehli 4 , Andrew Palermo 6
17 April 2019
Movement in response to music represents one of the natural social environments in which physical activity occurs. The study of music and movement, including dance, requires a careful, holistic consideration of many features, which may include music, physical activity, motor learning, social engagement, emotion, and creativity. The overarching goal of this manuscript is to examine qualitative characteristics of and individual responses to a music and movement intervention (Creatively Able) for children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). We provide a description of Creatively Able, illustrating how the program design and physical and social environment were informed by children’s needs and preferences in order to provide an enriched environment in which to promote multiple systems in children with ASD. Using data from two pilot studies with 20 children with ASD, we illustrate how researchers can use observational research methods to measure important aspects of the social environment (e.g., children’s engagement during intervention sessions) as well as engagement of potential underlying behavioral mechanisms (e.g., self-regulation) that might reduce clinical symptoms. We further illustrate how individual responses to intervention (e.g., improvements in behaviors or symptoms) can be studied in physically active interventions. Our pilot study results showed group-level reductions in Stereotyped and Compulsive behaviors of 8% and 4%, respectively; posthoc analysis revealed that there were substantial individual differences in children’s responses to the intervention. This research illustrates robust methods that can be applied to intervention research to improve our understanding of important features of interventions that might help promote development in various domains, including executive functions and self-regulation.