What Can the Neurodiversity Movement Offer Music Therapy?

Grace Thompson, Cochavit Elefant, Efrat Roginsky, Maren Metell, Beth Pickard

Research output: Contribution to conferenceOtherpeer-review


Three decades ago the term Neurodiversity was coined by a young woman with Asperger syndrome seeking to define her own unique identity (Singer, 2017). Since then, the term is associated with political advocacy that supports a rights-based disability agenda (Silverman, 2015). The Neurodiversity paradigm proposes that people's neurologically-based differences are no different to other social classifications such as gender and race (Singer, 2017). The Neurodiversity movement challenges systems and interventions with “normalization” as the core agenda (Bascom, 2012). Instead, “maximization” of strengths and resources is encouraged, with advocates seeking to influence all levels of society, from policy to interpersonal, everyday practices. The deep humanistic inheritance of the music therapy profession (Abrams 2015), along with ecological and community paradigms that have become more prevalent in recent times are perhaps well aligned with the principles of neurodiversity. However, disability scholars have critiqued music therapy as supporting the medical model of disability and therefore risk contributing to oppression (Straus, 2011; Cameron, 2014). Perhaps the music therapy profession still has much to learn from disability advocates and critical theory about the potential ways that music can support the appreciation of diversity and performance of identity. This round table will present reflections and perspectives from five music therapists working with several different populations in an effort to integrate our clinical experiences and discuss a fuller view of neurodiversity. Our discussion will focus on two main issues: our perceptions of neurodiversity advocacy, and the implications for music therapy practice with individuals with diverse conditions. Abrams, B. (2015). Humanistic approaches. In B. L. Wheeler (Ed.) Music therapy handbook (p148-160). NY: The Guilford Press. Ansdell, G. (2002). Community Music Therapy & the Winds of Change. A Discussion Paper Voices 2(2), July 1. Retrieved from: http://www.voices.no/mainissues/Voices2(2)ansdell.html Bascom, J. (2012). Loud hands: Autistic people, speaking. Washington DC: Autism Self-Advocacy Network Press. Cameron, C. (2014). Does Disability Studies have Anything to Say to Music Therapy? And Would Music Therapy Listen if it Did?. Voices: A World Forum for Music Therapy, 14(3). https://doi.org/10.15845/voices.v14i3.794 Silberman, S. (2015). Neurotribes: The legacy of autism and how to think smarter about people who think differently. Atlantic Books. Singer, J. (2017). Neurodiversity: The Birth of an idea. (Kindle Edition). Retrieved from Amazon.com Straus, J. (2011). Extraordinary Measures: Disability in Music. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 29 Jun 2019
EventEuropean Music Therapy Conference - Aalborg University, Aalbog, Denmark
Duration: 26 Jun 201930 Jun 2019


ConferenceEuropean Music Therapy Conference
Internet address


  • neurodiversity movement
  • humanism
  • music therapy


Dive into the research topics of 'What Can the Neurodiversity Movement Offer Music Therapy?'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this