Initially, I was extremely excited for the opportunity to be able to explore a topic I was genuinely passionate in. I knew I wanted to do something with Neuroscience and psychology, but I wasn’t quite sure what. Using my passion for music, I narrowed down on examining the effects that music has on the brain, but I hadn’t decided on a specific group to research yet. I conducted general research to look at the groups of people that music was seen to have an effect, and I decided to focus on individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder. This was because I didn’t know much about the disorder and was curious to learn more about what causes it and why music can help. Through researching on sites like autismsociety, and national health society, I saw that music therapy was a certified method of treatment for those with ASD, and therefore, I decided to pursue this as a communications project, to raise awareness about it.
My final research question that I decided on was “What are the benefits of music therapy on those with ASD?”. For context, Those diagnosed with ASD may find communicating effectively, picking up tonality or changes in emotions, or empathy, challenging. There isn’t any “treatment” for ASD, as it’s a lifelong disorder, and affects individuals differently. However, playing Music and listening to music, interestingly, according to studies done under cochrane reviews, has multiple neurological benefits which help with these social difficulties that people with ASD have.
I wanted to present my project as an accessible and engaging animated video to help parents who are worried and confused when their children are diagnosed with ASD. it would simply outline one of the proven methods of therapy that is most effective when started from a young age, and would provide support and comfort for the parents. I also intend to send this out to local organisations like autism associations or hospitals, to see if they would like to share it with parents who have children who have been newly diagnosed with ASD. This would make both the parents and the child’s life easier, and would be a way to make an impact in the real world.
After I had decided that my target audience would be parents and children who have little to no scientific background or knowledge, I started research. Although I knew my final product could not have too in-depth information, I still needed to delve into the science of both ASD, and music therapy, to ensure I had a full grasp of the topic and could then later simplify it. I broke up my research into 4 different parts:
- What is autism and what causes it?
- How does it affect the daily lives of these individuals?
- How does music affect the brain?
- What is music therapy and why is it effective with those who have autism?
Dividing the research into 4 parts made it manageable and gave me tangible goals to focus on in the limited time that we had. It allowed me to set goals for every weekend and every lesson, ensuring that I was progressing forward in my research. I mainly looked for and used scientific studies either from PubMed, PMC or Cochrane Reviews, which ensured that my research was coming from a reliable source. However, finding studies that actually provided relevant information that were conducted under fair trials was a lot harder than anticipated, and therefore I barely managed to actually stick to my time goals.
Once I had completed my research, I started creating my video. My goal was to make it engaging and easy to follow, which meant I had to not only simplify the information I had obtained from scientific studies, but I also needed to add animation, effects, music, and a voiceover.
This proved to be a challenge in the time-frame that I had since it was a new video making software and therefore required 3-4 days before I fully understood how it functioned. This therefore limited the amount of information I could put in, such as the different degrees of ASD, how music therapy is conducted, and whether music therapy is more effective in those with stronger symptoms of ASD or weaker symptoms, which would’ve proved useful for the parents since each child with ASD is different, would’ve been information I would’ve added if I had more time.
If I were to do this again, I would’ve narrowed down my research to just children rather than individuals. This would have made my research more targeted towards parents and the studies I would use to back up my conclusions would be conducted on children, providing more accurate and reliable conclusions that just researching on individuals with ASD.
Although I believe that the video was the right outcome for my purpose, I also plan to create a brochure with more detailed scientific information for those who are curious about the real neuroscience behind both, ASD and music therapy.
Overall, the CREST project taught me many essential skills, such as time management, in which I learned to break up my work and not be too detail oriented, rather getting the bigger picture done first. Moreover, I learned the importance of evaluating scientific studies, ensuring they’ve been reviewed and were conducted fairly without bias. This skill will assist me in all subjects in IB to ensure that all my sources are reliable.