Integrated Parent-Child Music Classes for Preschoolers with and without ASD: Parent Expectations and Experiences

Integrated recreational programs designed to support neurodiverse children and their families are important vehicles for community participation. In this mixed-methods study, we investigated the mechanisms by which parent-child music classes for autistic and neurotypical children can support community participation. Parents of autistic (n=33) and typically developing (TD; n=28) preschoolers were interviewed about their expectations for and experiences of participating in a 12-week psychoeducational parent-child music program. Parents completed ratings of momentary affect and social connection and researchers coded children’s behavioral engagement during classes at multiple time points throughout the program. Primary motivations for enrolling in an integrated music class included children’s interest in music and opportunities for child socialization. Parent-focused reasons were less frequently endorsed as primary motivations for participation. Yet, momentary ratings indicated that music classes supported parents’ affect regulation and social connection with other parents at the level of individual classes and across the program. These in-class experiences were echoed by interviews following program completion, which additionally highlighted use of new parenting strategies through the musical activities. As parental emotional experiences of activities, supportive community relationships, and parenting confidence are all linked with increased community participation, integrated music classes may support participation and satisfaction with community experiences.