Valuing Neurodiversity: A humanistic, non-normative model of music therapy exploring Rogers’ Person-centred Approach with young adults with autism spectrum conditions

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


This chapter presents and reflects upon individual music therapy with six individuals who had Autism Spectrum Conditions and learning disabilities at a newly founded post-compulsory educational unit. The music therapy practice was informed by a person-centred approach (Rogers, 1961, 1985; Cooper et al., 2013) and a belief in a non-normative, social model of disability (Watson, Roulstone and Thomas, 2014; Barnes, 2014). This perspective is potentially under-represented in music therapy literature (Straus, 2014) and contrasts with some established, behaviourist informed interventions in Autism education (Keenan et al., 2006; Kalyva, 2011). It is considered whether framing the clinical practice and its potential impact from a humanistic perspective can contribute to the social construction of disability incorporating a narrative of both neurodiversity (Silberman, 2015) and “able identity” through music therapy (Magee, 2002, p.191).
This work represents an important client group in terms of research in music therapy and ASC across the life span, as Howlin and Taylor (2015, p. 771) describe the life experiences of adults with ASC as “woefully under-researched”. Despite the assertion that “arguably it is the client group [ASC] with which music therapy has the highest reputation” (Dimitriadis and Smeijsters, 2011, p. 108), it appears that not all age groups of those who have Autism are represented in the literature. Of specific relevance to this client group was the therapeutic aim of developing autonomy through the clinical work, recognised as a construct of centrality in enabling young people with Autism transitioning from education to adult life to access the curriculum and wider community inclusion outcomes (Hobson, 2010; Wehmeyer, 2015).
There is much meaningful learning for the practitioner, but also an opportunity for the setting and the wider profession to consider the potential of a paradigm shift in supporting young people with ASC from an increasingly person-centred perspective, in what may potentially be one of the most challenging transitions of their lives (Biggs and Carter, 2016), where constructs such as autonomy and empowerment could be central to both development and quality of life (Biggs and Carter, 2016; Pazey et al., 2016).
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationMusic Therapy and Autism Across the Lifespan
Subtitle of host publicationA Spectrum of Approaches
EditorsElizabeth Coombes, Henry Dunn, Emma Maclean, Helen Mottram, Josie Nugent
Place of PublicationLondon
PublisherJessica Kingsley Publishers
Publication statusPublished - 21 Jun 2019


  • music therapy
  • autism
  • lifespan
  • person-centred


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