Gathering community perspectives to inform the design of autism-friendly music-making workshops for wellbeing



Many autistic people report experiencing social isolation, a recognized risk factor for poor psychological wellbeing. Promoting social inclusion is therefore a vital yet complex task. Community-based creative activities such as music groups can improve individuals’ sense of social connection and reduce the experience of social isolation. However, limited literature is available that describes autistic people’s perspectives about how to foster successful engagement in these creative and inclusive group opportunities. This project aims to gather perspectives from autistic individuals aged between 18 to 25 years to inform the design of autism-friendly music-making workshops for wellbeing. This co-design project involved a research team comprizing autistic and non-autistic academics, and an advisory group that included autistic young adults and autism advocates. Together, we designed an online survey and structured interview questions to gauge autistic people’s preferences for engagement in group-based music activities. There were 30 responses to the online survey questions which collected demographic information, opinions about group music-based activities, and views about ways to best support access and participation in the local community. In addition, five structured interviews were conducted with survey participants who volunteered to provide in-depth follow-up responses. Survey data are presented descriptively, and interview data underwent inductive thematic analysis. Participants described being motivated to join music-making workshops offered in the community and proposed various ways to improve accessibility. The qualitative themes from the survey free text and interviews suggest that both environmental and social factors work together to create a sense of safety and inclusion. In particular, a welcoming atmosphere and acceptance of diversity were expected from the workshop facilitator and group members. These findings have important implications for the co-production of future music-making workshops for the wellbeing of autistic people.


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Author Biography

Grace Anne Thompson, The University of Melbourne, Melbourne Conservatorium of Music

Grace Thompson is a researcher and lecturer in the Master of Music Therapy degree at the University of Melbourne.  Her research focuses on music therapy with disabled and autistic children, and delivered within ecologically oriented strategies. She is the co-editor of “Music Therapy with Families: Therapeutic Approaches and Theoretical Perspectives”.




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