Rhythm and Music of Social Engagement in Individual with Developmental Disabilities

Miriam Lense, Ph.D.
Vanderbilt Kennedy Center Investigator; Assistant Professor of Otolaryngology—Head and Neck Surgery; Co-Director, Vanderbilt Music Cognition Lab

Online Survey Study on Family Well-Being and Music Engagement: https://is.gd/MusicChildrenFamilies

Parent-Child Home Music Toolkit: https://serenademusicclass.org/home-toolkit

Research Supported by:
• NIH/NIMH R61-MH123029;
• NIH/NIDCD R21-CD016710;
• NEA Research Lab 1844332-38-C-18.

The information presented does not necessarily represent the views of the NIH or NEA.

– My name is Miriam Lense and I’m an Assistant Professor in the Department of Otolaryngology, Head and Neck Surgery at Vanderbilt University Medical Center. I’m a clinical psychologist and I co-direct the Vanderbilt Music Cognition Lab. My research focuses on social engagement and social communication in young children with and without developmental disabilities, such as autism, Williams syndrome, and Down syndrome. In particular, I study the rhythm and timing of social interaction, such as the very rhythmic way that parents talk to and speak with their young children, sometimes termed infant directed speech and infant directed singing. Studying the rhythm and timing of social interactions will help us identify mechanisms underlying challenges in social communication in children with developmental disabilities, such as autism. Previous research shows that singing and musical play capture and maintain children’s attention and also regulates arousal levels in both children and parents. So by identifying the components and processes of these natural social experiences, our research will advance the development and design of new evidence-based musical interventions for social communication. We’ve used our research to design musical activities and supports for parent-child interactions, and we encourage you to check out our website for ideas of activities to do, video models, and supports. We’re also currently conducting an online survey study to learn more about family well-being and musical experiences during this time of COVID-19. If you’re a parent or caregiver of a young child from six months to five years of age, with or without a developmental disability, please complete the survey, and we’ve provided a link in the description. We’ll use these survey findings to inform the creation of new musical programming activities for families.

For more information on VKC-affiliated research studies, visit https://vkc.vumc.org/studyfinder/
Vanderbilt Kennedy Center (VKC) Research Briefs are a series of 2- to 3-minute videos during which VKC members and investigators share exciting details and promise of new research opportunities in accessible “plain language.”

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