Abstract Kaja Korošec

Music for adults on the autism spectrum

Today, children on the autism spectrum can be supported by a wide array of interventions, but once they grow up this support shrinks immensely. There has been little research done on activities which could support the well-being of adults on the spectrum, and they often find that free-time activities, where they could socialise, learn new skills, or find space for self-expression, can be stressful because they are created for neurotypical people.

At the Royal College of Music in Stockholm and Karolinska Institute (as a part of a new collaborative educational programme in Music and Health) we are developing music-based activities for- and with adults on the spectrum. Our goal is to investigate whether such activities could be used to raise their quality of life.

In the past year we have interviewed adults on the spectrum, to learn more about how they engage with music in their everyday lives; how they perceive it, what meaning it has for them, and in which situations it can be a source of stress for them. We found that music can be a valuable coping aid in stressful situations, a tool to manage and explore one’s own emotions, a way to structure environment and time, a source of connection to others and much more.

Upon these findings, we are building music-based activities for adults on the spectrum. The activities will happen once a week for eight weeks at the Royal College of Music in Stockholm in a group of people on the autism spectrum, a music pedagogue, and a psychologist. There, we will try out new instruments and genres, learn music pieces, improvise, record, listen to music and discuss it, and try out new ways of self-expression. Alongside our studies we would like to develop a pedagogical model where different researchers could add knowledge to music-based activities within this field.