Acceptability of a new music-based early intervention for autism.

Music-assisted programmes (MAP) are a novel way to increase language in young autistic children. Feasibility is currently being evaluated. MAP is delivered by parents trained in the intervention via telehealth. This project aims to capture the parent experience of MAP. This important aspect of feasibility will inform development of a future clinical trial.

Department: Clinical Language Sciences

Supervised by: Tom Loucas

The Placement Project

There is strong evidence that early intervention (EI) for autism improves social communication, but less so for improvements in language. Music-assisted programmes (MAP) are a novel EI aiming to increase language in preschool-aged autistic children. The approach is currently being evaluated through a feasibility randomised controlled trial (RCT) comparing MAP with usual speech and language therapy. MAP, along with many EI approaches, is parent-mediated and parents are trained to deliver the intervention via telehealth. UK MRC recommends qualitative methods as a valuable addition to feasibility studies. Qualitative data relating to the participants/end-users' perceived acceptability of a complex intervention can inform adaptations that need to be made in preparation for a full/definitive RCT. This project aims to capture the parent experience of the MAP trial including, acceptability of the MAP intervention design and delivery in practice; perception of MAP and its impact on their child's language and social communication; and suggestions to improve delivery of MAP. A topic guide will be developed based feasibility trial literature and qualitative studies of parent-mediated EI, and questions decided by the trial team. The guide will inform individual semi-structured interviews with parents from the MAP arm of the trial. Purposive sampling will maximise the representation of parents considering both demographic and MAP usage/engagement factors. Thematic framework analysis will be used to analyse verbatim transcriptions of the interviews. The results of this qualitative study will add to the evaluation of MAP feasibility and inform development of a future RCT, strengthening funding applications.


Recruiting parents; conducting interviews; transcribing interviews; preliminary thematic analysis; project write up.

Skills, knowledge and experience required

Necessary skills: Good administrative skills; ability to work independently; good interpersonal skills, including ability to communicate in a professional manner; knowledge and understanding of different research methods, including difference between quantitative and qualitative research; experience of carrying out research or of clinical practice. Desirable: Knowledge of autism and/or experience of autism; experience of carrying out qualitative research; knowledge or experience of early intervention; knowledge and experience in using qualitative analysis software, e.g. NVivo.

Skills which will be developed during the placement

Managing and administering the study; recruiting research participants; conducting semi-structured interviews; keeping field notes and a reflective journal; transcription; thematic analysis; writing up a report on qualitive research.

Place of Work

School of Psychology and Clinical Language Sciences.

Hours of Work

9:30am - 4:30pm, but with flexibility by agreement.

Approximate Start and End Dates (not fixed)

Monday 14 June 2021 - Monday 16 August 2021

How to Apply

The post will be advertised centrally on the UROP website until 9th April 2021. Students should submit their CV and Cover Letter directly to the Project Supervisor (click on supervisor name at the top of the page for email). Successful candidates will be invited for an interview.

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