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Drumming Helps School Children with Autism

Summary: According to researchers, drumming for an hour a week helps improve learning at school for children on the autism spectrum. The study reports drumming not only improves dexterity, rhythm and timing for those with ASD, it also helps improve concentration and enhances communication with peers.

Source: University of Chichester.

Drumming for 60 minutes a week can benefit children diagnosed with autism and supports learning at school, according to a new scientific study.

The project, led by the University of Chichester and University Centre Hartpury, showed students’ ability to follow their teachers’ instructions improved significantly and enhanced their social interactions between peers and members of school staff.

Research involved pupils from Milestone School in Gloucester who took part in a ten-week drumming programme comprising two 30-minute sessions each week. Observations of the weekly lessons also highlighted significant improvements in dexterity, rhythm and timing.

The investigation is a continuation of research undertaken by the academics, known collectively as the Clem Burke Drumming Project that includes the iconic Blondie drummer, and is aimed at demonstrating the value of the musical instrument to school pupils requiring additional education support.

Lead researcher Dr Marcus Smith, a Reader in Sport and Exercise Physiology at University of Chichester, said: “This is a unique and remarkable research project that has demonstrated the positive impact on a pupil’s health and wellbeing following rock drumming practice. Rock drumming as a potent intervention for individuals experiencing brain disorders, such as autism, is fascinating and I am delighted that it builds upon the pioneering work undertaken by colleagues from the Clem Burke Drumming Project.”

Class teachers evaluated behavioural changes within the classroom across the ten-week drumming intervention, with preliminary evidence highlighting positive outcomes. Each lesson was delivered by drumming tutors using electronic drum kits provided by charities in Gloucestershire.

Preliminary results showed:

  • A vast improvement in movement control while playing the drums, including dexterity, rhythm, timing.
  • Movement control was also enhanced while performing daily tasks outside the school environment, including an improved ability to concentrate during homework.
  • A range of positive changes in behaviour within school environment, which were observed and reported by teachers, such as improved concentration and enhanced communication with peers and adults.
a child drumming

Drumming for an hour a week can help autistic children learn in school. NeuroscienceNews.com image is credited to University of Chichester.

The focus of the sessions, held at an agriculture classroom at Hartpury, was on learning and having fun while playing to popular songs. An in-depth explanation of key findings related to changes in social, behavioural, and motor control will be reported following the completion of on-going data analysis.

Dr Steve Draper, Dean Research and Knowledge Exchange, Hartpury, added: “Drumming has a unique blend of physical activity, coordination and musicality, all of which are known to be beneficial to well-being. It has been amazing to watch the children thrive and develop to this challenge. Drumming has the potential to positively impact a wide range of people.”

Also involved in the study is Dr Ruth Lowry, a Reader in the Psychology of Active Living at the University of Chichester. She said: “The opportunity to see this group of children progress and develop through developing skills in music is powerful. We hope that this project will provide further evidence that not only does rock drumming have positive benefits in terms of changes in dexterity and concentration but that wider social and behavioural conduct benefits can also be observed.”

About this neuroscience research article

For full details about the Clem Burke Drumming Project, which includes all studies across the ten-year investigation.

Sky Arts documentary about study

  • A Sky Arts documentary about the project will be broadcast at 9pm this weekend, Saturday 15 September.
  • Weblink: http://www.sky.com/watch/channel/sky-arts/my-view-clem-burke
  • An access all areas documentary with Clem Burke, a look back at 40 years on the road and performing with one of the world’s most iconic bands.
  • Part four of the documentary focuses on the joint research team’s recent investigation into drumming and how it can re-shape the brain.

Funding: The research was supported by the University of Chichester, University Centre Hartpury, Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience.

Source: James Haigh – University of Chichester
Publisher: Organized by NeuroscienceNews.com.
Image Source: NeuroscienceNews.com image is credited to University of Chichester.
Original Research: Open access research for “Rock drumming enhances motor and psychosocial skills of children with emotional and behavioral difficulties” by Lowry, R. G., Hale, B., Draper, S., & Smith, M in International Journal of Developmental Difficulties. Published February 6 2018.
doi:10.1080/20473869.2018.1429041

Cite This NeuroscienceNews.com Article
University of Chichester”Drumming Helps School Children with Autism.” NeuroscienceNews. NeuroscienceNews, 14 September 2018.
<http://neurosciencenews.com/drumming-autism-9866/>.
University of Chichester(2018, September 14). Drumming Helps School Children with Autism. NeuroscienceNews. Retrieved September 14, 2018 from http://neurosciencenews.com/drumming-autism-9866/
University of Chichester”Drumming Helps School Children with Autism.” http://neurosciencenews.com/drumming-autism-9866/ (accessed September 14, 2018).

Abstract

Rock drumming enhances motor and psychosocial skills of children with emotional and behavioral difficulties

Objectives: Drumming may have therapeutic and learning benefits but there exists little causal evidence regarding the benefits for children with emotional and behavioral difficulties (EBD) such as Autistic Spectrum Disorder.

Methods: Six EBD pupils (EBD Drum) and six peers (Peer Drum) were given 2, 30-min rock drumming lessons per week, over 5 weeks. Six matched individuals received no drumming instruction (3 = EBD Control; 3 = Peer Control). An exploratory, mixed-methods analysis was used to explore quantitative changes in skills and qualitative perspectives of the teaching staff. All pupils were tested two times (pretest and posttest) on drumming ability and Motor skills (Movement Assessment Battery for Children, version 2). Teacher’s rating of social behavior (Strength and Difficulties Questionnaire; SDQ) was tested two times (pretest and retention).

Results: Significant differences in total SDQ difficulties between the four groups (χ2(3) = 8.210, p = 0.042) and the hyperactivity subscale (χ2(3) = 10.641, p = 0.014) were observed. The EBD Drum group had greater reductions in total difficulties compared to the Peer Drum (p = 0.009) group and specifically greater reductions in hyperactivity compared to Peer Drum (p = 0.046) and the EBD Control (p = 0.006) group. In follow-up interviews, staff spoke positively about changes in pupil’s attitudes toward learning and social confidence.

Conclusions: The positive changes to social and behavioral skills reported in this pilot study are similar to those recorded for other music modalities.

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