Date Presented 04/20/2023

This scoping review analyzed the available evidence for a therapeutic drumming intervention to improve mental health in autistic clients across the life span. Analysis revealed consistency in implementation, with variability of outcome instrumentation.

Primary Author and Speaker: Dina Prisco

Additional Authors and Speakers: Zahava Friedman

Contributing Authors: Jorge Ochoa

PURPOSE: Autism Spectrum Disorder is a neurologically-based developmental disorder characterized by challenges in social communication and repetitive/restrictive behaviors (Nazeer & Ghaziuddin, 2012). The prevalence of autism is rising across the globe (Knopf, 2020; Kulage et al., 2020). This research reviewed existing evidence relating to therapeutic drumming (TD), an intervention embedding percussive music, and its potential to improve mental health in autistic clients with motor, social emotional, and sensory challenges (Amonkar et al., 2021; Yoo & Kim, 2018).

DESIGN: Searches were completed on Proquest, Ebsco, Scopus, and OTseeker to identify peer-reviewed English language articles reporting on TD interventions for mental health benefits in autistic people. Searches included combinations of keywords: therapeutic drumming, percussion, rhythm, music, autism, mental health, and motor.

METHOD: 17 articles met inclusion criteria. A five-step scoping review methodology following Joanna Briggs Institute Model was utilized to analyze studies, organizing information by sample, treatment approach, instrumentation, and effectiveness (Jordan et al., 2019).

RESULTS: Analysis revealed consistency in the implementation of TD as an intervention. However, methodology of measuring outcomes was inconsistent. Limitations included a lack of isolated TD research, few high-level studies, and no publications in the OT domain.

CONCLUSIONS: TD shows potential to be well-matched to the mental health needs of autistic people. This research yielded valuable contributions on TD from outside OT literature, to inform future study of implementation of TD within OT practice.

IMPACT STATEMENT: TD is a well-supported and impactful intervention in the realm of mental health that may be implemented and studied further within OT practice with autistic clients. OTs in other practice areas may consider incorporating TD into their practices and studying its efficacy across populations.


Amonkar, N., Su, W. C., Bhat, A. N., & Srinivasan, S. M. (2021). Effects of creative movement therapies on social communication, behavioral-affective, sensorimotor, cognitive, and functional participation skills of individuals with autism spectrum disorder: A systematic review. Frontiers in psychiatry, 12.

Jordan, Z., Lockwood, C., Munn, Z., & Aromataris, E. (2019). The updated Joanna Briggs Institute model of evidence-based healthcare. JBI Evidence Implementation, 17(1), 58-71.

Litchke, L. G., & Bracken, M. T. (2018). A qualitative study on the social-emotional benefits of Drumtastic Ability Beats® for children with autism spectrum disorder. American Journal of Recreation Therapy, 17(3), 37-47.

Yoo, G. E., & Kim, S. J. (2018). Dyadic drum playing and social skills: Implications for rhythm-mediated intervention for children with autism spectrum disorder. Journal of Music Therapy, 55(3), 340-375.