A Symphony of the Effects of Music Therapy on Children with Intellectual-Developmental Disabilities

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A Symphony of the Effects of Music Therapy on Children with Intellectual-Developmental Disabilities


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The structure of this dissertation is a multi-chapter format. Since it is music related, I used symphony as an analogy for this dissertation work and each chapter is one of the movements of the symphony. This dissertation depicts the story of curiosity, compassion, innovation, collaboration, and perseverance in building the bridge. You will read about music therapy, autism spectrum disorder (ASD), telehealth, the experiences of having a child with disabilities in both China and the U.S., the pilot study of tele-music therapy on children with ASD, and a project called Light in the Well, honoring people with disabilities and their families. This dissertation captured the evolution of my research agenda throughout my PhD career. My historical research project on the development of music therapy in China from my master’s program was completed and published at the beginning of my PhD program. With the understanding of the history, I started to participate service projects in different regions in China. From there, I took more interest in learning about accessibility of disability services and people’s experience of having a child with disabilities. That is how the mixed method China study (Movement 2) came to exist. The relationship formed with the local people led me to this question: how to develop a strategy to serve this population in China remotely? This led me to the core of my dissertation: the tele-music therapy study (Movement 3). The original plan was to compare tele-music therapy and in-person music therapy. Due to COVID restrictions, I only could test the feasibility and efficacy of tele-music therapy. The purpose was to eventually provide tele-music therapy to people in China, so they can also receive the service. At the same time, my work as a music therapist propelled me to look at how to bridge the gap between people with and without disabilities and engage all people through music. I started a project using music to tell the stories of people with disabilities and their families, called Light in the Well (Movement 4). The performance allowed musicians with and without disabilities to come together to tell the emotional journey those featured families have been on. Both people with and without disabilities were in the audience. Light in the Well allowed both groups of people to share an experience at the same time in the same space. This project disseminated previous research funding through fine arts, actualizing the work of music therapy in performance art.


University of Minnesota Ph.D. dissertation. January 2023. Major: Rehabilitation Science. Advisor: Peggy Martin. 1 computer file (PDF); v, 207 pages.

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Wu, Yue. (2023). A Symphony of the Effects of Music Therapy on Children with Intellectual-Developmental Disabilities. Retrieved from the University Digital Conservancy, https://hdl.handle.net/11299/253731.

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