Speech and Language




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Do I need to use standardized melodies in M.B.C.T.?

Posted on September 28, 2017 at 10:50 PM

Do I need to use standardized melodies in Melodic Based Communication Therapy ( M.B.C.T.)?

Yes.  Children with autism have been found to have superior memories for pitch and time (see evidence on M.B.C.T.).  For this reason, while teaching a new word it is important to keep the melody the same for that word over time.  It is also important to vary the melody by word.  We are using strengths in pitch recognition and memory to help the child become verbal.  Once the child is able to answer the question "What is this?" with the target word and you have faded the use of the melodic model, the word may be said in any way you wish.

What is some of the evidence to support M.B.C.T.? PART II

Posted on September 28, 2017 at 10:25 PM

What is some of the evidence to support M.B.C.T. for use in nonverbal autism?

Many researchers have found success by combining melody and words with nonverbal children with autism in the past. Here are just a few of them:

History of Success of Melodic Interventions in Autism

  1. Miller & Toca, 1979 used "Adapted Melodic Intonation Therapy," described as "signing plus an intoned rather than spoken stimulus" to train imitative and, finally, spontaneous intoned verbalizations in a nonverbal 3-year-old child with autism which generalized to a variety of situations.  The child had previously shown little to no progress after a year of signed and verbal language therapy.
  2. Hoelzley, 1993 used a trombone and sung words with a 6-year-old nonverbal female with autism with success. The child began with grunting and finally began speaking the sung utterances after a year of intervention.
  3. Wan et al., 2011 used tuned drums and singing of melodies with six nonverbal/ minimally verbal children ages 5-9-years old. Findings showed significant improvements in ability to articulate words and phrases, with generalization to items that were not practiced during therapy sessions
  4. Chenausky et al., 2016 compared 25 sessions of an intoned based treatment approach (AMMT) to speech repetition therapy (SRT) in 23 minimally verbal children with autism. The group using intoned based treatment showed significantly greater progress. Researchers concluded that "Intonation-based therapy may offer a promising new interventional approach for teaching spoken language to minimally verbal children with ASD."


Publications on M.B.C.T. for Autism

  1. Sandiford et al., 2013 compared M.B.C.T. to more traditional speech repetition tasks in a blocked randomized controlled trial. Twelve nonverbal children with autism ages 5-7 were randomly assigned to either the M.B.C.T. group or the more traditional therapy group. The M.B.C.T. group progressed significantly in number of verbal attempts after weeks 1 through 4 and number of correct words after weeks 1 and 3, while the traditional group progressed much later. A significant number of new words were heard in the home environment for the M.B.C.T. group and more imitative attempts were found in the M.B.C.T. group when compared to the more traditional group.
  2. Sandiford et al., 2013b compared M.B.C.T. to more traditional speech repetition tasks in 12 nonverbal children with autism ages 5-7. Following treatment, the M.B.C.T. group showed significant improvement in pragmatic language score while the control group did not.
  3. Sandiford 2012 found participants in M.B.C.T. ages 5-7 made progress regardless of age. Receptive language score at onset of therapy and ability to imitate were found to be the greatest predictors of success. More research with a larger sample size is recommended (note an additional study is scheduled for the summer of 2018.).

Leran more on the evidence at our full day conference at

What is some of the evidence to support M.B.C.T.? PART I

Posted on September 28, 2017 at 8:45 PM

What is some of the evidence to support Melodic Based Communication Therapy (M.B.C.T.)?

Here is some of the evidence to support M.B.C.T.  For more information, attend our M.B.C.T. seminar.  We welcome new studies and evidence to add to our collection.  Please email us at [email protected] if you have something interesting to share.

Absolute or Perfect Pitch in Autism

  1. Stanutz et al., 2014 found superior short- and long-term pitch memory in children with autism spectrum disorders. Atypical language development was found to correlate with these findings. 
  2. Kupferstein & Walsh, 2015 found 97% of children with autism demonstrated exceptional and instantaneous pitch matching abilities on piano when using the non-verbal paradigm for assessing perfect pitch. 
  3. Stewart et al., 2015 found a correlation between scores on the autism-spectrum quotient and pitch and time discrimination. 

Sung Words vs. Spoken Words in Autism

  1. Lai et al., 2012 found the brain was more actively engaged for song than for speech in autism.
  2. Sharda et al., 2015 found that sung words resulted in bilateral hemisphere activation in the brain of those with autism when compared to spoken words which were right-lateralized in those with autism.  They concluded that their "results thus demonstrate the ability of song to overcome the structural deficit for speech across the autism spectrum and provide a mechanistic basis for efficacy of song-based interventions in ASD."

Why clapping?
  1. Kim et al., 2011 compared the effects of clapping on the brain to other hand motions such as grasp and release motions and found clapping to be the greatest cortical activator.
  2. Brodsky & Sulkin 2011 found improvements in cognitive and academic development occurred after regularly clapping and singing songs.