This Is AuburnElectronic Theses and Dissertations

Inclusion Practices for Students with Autism in the Music Classroom: A Survey of K-6 Music Educators' Perceptions, Training, and Strategies




Powell, Lisa

Type of Degree

PhD Dissertation


Curriculum and Teaching


In 1990, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), was amended to include students with autism into the music classroom with their typically developing peers (U.S. Department of Education, Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Service, 2020). Music educators may be excluded from IEP planning and may not have access to essential information about special needs students. Additionally, it often takes additional planning time and effort for music educators to make curriculum adaptations and modifications for students with autism (Turnbull & Schulz, 1979). Therefore, some music educators have negative attitudes regarding the inclusion of students with autism in the music classroom (Darrow, 1999; Sideridis & Chandler, 1995). It is important to examine music educators' attitudes and strategies since the implementation of IDEA (Sideridis & Chandler, 1995). The purpose of this descriptive, quantitative study was to survey K-6 music educators regarding their strategies, training, and perceptions when teaching students with autism in the music classroom. Specific research questions were: 1. What evidence-based strategies do K-6 music educators use to teach students with autism in the music classroom? 2. What extent of educational preparation exists among K-6 music educators when teaching students with autism? 3. What are K-6 music educators’ familiarity with the Individualized Education Program (IEP)? 4. What are K-6 music educators’ perceptions of students with autism in the music classroom? 5. Are there differences among K-6 music educators’ perceptions based on years of teaching experience, degree, school classification, and school size? Participants (N = 148) who identified as K-6 music educators affiliated with the National Association for Music Education (NAfME) were recruited for this survey. The survey items were related to (a) strategies, (b) music educator training, (c) Individualized Education Program (IEP), and (d) music educator perceptions regarding students with autism in the music classroom. I used crosstabulations to determine the relationship between music educators’ perceptions and students with autism. Also, I used a non-parametric version of a MANOVA in R Studio to determine the differences of music educators’ perceptions regarding students with autism. Results indicated music educators use preferential seating, consistent routines, echoing, modeling procedures, and peer helpers as strategies to assist students with autism. Music educators indicated they do not use PECS, picture schedules, or visual task analysis on a regular basis to teach students with autism. Music educators also indicated they lack the appropriate resources, training, and skills to teach students with autism. Participants indicated they did not receive sufficient training during their undergraduate and graduate courses nor in their current school systems. Finally, there were no significant differences in music educators’ perceptions based on the number of years teaching, educational degree level, school classification, or school size regarding students with autism. Recommendations for future research include surveying college professors to determine why autism strategies and resources are not being provided to future music educators. Research needs to be conducted in public school systems to determine the frequency and effectiveness of professional development current music teachers receive regarding students with autism. Research needs to be conducted to determine if all teachers need to be involved in the IEP process or if special educators are providing appropriate sections on the IEP to all teachers. The last recommendation is encouragement for music educators to seek additional professional development, locate resources, materials, and training to learn how to teach students with autism.