The aims of this study were to explore parents’ and teachers’ perceptions of what music therapy entails and what value it has for children with autism. In so doing, limitations in providing information about music therapy were identified. The context for this study involved Unica School for Autism in Menlo Park, Pretoria. Unica is a Public Benefit Organisation (PBO) that provides specialised education for learners with autism between the ages of 3 and 18 years. Music therapy has been offered at Unica by both qualified music therapists and supervised music therapy students since 1995. This study was conducted within the qualitative research paradigm and, as such, sought to understand perceptions of, rather than ‘prove’, the value music therapy has for children with autism. Data collection took the form of 6 semi-structured interviews. The interviews were transcribed and data were coded, categorised and organised into themes. These themes then formed the basis for addressing the research questions. The findings of this study show, firstly, that direct contact with the music therapist, music therapy public presentations, and witnessing musical end products such as performances are the primary influences on parents’ and teachers’ perceptions of music therapy. Parents and teachers have some understanding of the objectives of music therapy. The findings show, secondly, that the parents and teachers have limited understanding of how music therapy works. This includes a lack of knowledge about clinical musical intention, intervention and the music therapy process. Finally, the findings show that parents and teachers at Unica hold music therapy in exceptionally high esteem. They are able to identify its value for children with autism in a number of areas, particularly in terms of social development and development of self, which relate directly and peripherally to the diagnosis of autism. The participants also recognise the lack of awareness about music therapy outside of the Unica environment, and express a wish for all children with autism to receive music therapy. Copyright
Dissertation (MMus)--University of Pretoria, 2012.