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Music, Health, and Wellbeing$
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Raymond MacDonald, Gunter Kreutz, and Laura Mitchell

Print publication date: 2012

Print ISBN-13: 9780199586974

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2012

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199586974.001.0001

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Songs Without Words: Exploring How Music Can Serve as a Proxy Language in Social Interaction with Autistic Children

Songs Without Words: Exploring How Music Can Serve as a Proxy Language in Social Interaction with Autistic Children

Chapter:
(p.289) Chapter 21 Songs Without Words: Exploring How Music Can Serve as a Proxy Language in Social Interaction with Autistic Children
Source:
Music, Health, and Wellbeing
Author(s):

Adam Ockelford

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199586974.003.0021

This chapter examines different musical interactions involving children with autism in the early stages of language development, and informally considers their potential impact on wellbeing. Some children and young people on the autism spectrum who use few or no words have the capacity to co-opt music as a proxy language — as a fully-fledged medium of social interaction — and will do so given an empathetic and musically competent partner with whom to engage. According to zygonic theory, imitation lies at the heart of musical structure, and it is through repeating, transforming, or even consciously avoiding the material that is offered in dialogues that patterns of influence, control, and autonomy between participants can be established, maintained, or changed. Such interactions may be relatively simple or highly sophisticated, and analysis using a zygonic approach permits teachers and therapists to gauge with some precision the impact that one participant has on another.

Keywords:   musical interactions, autism, language development, wellbeing, zygonic theory, imitation

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