Timing in music therapy for children with autism spectrum disorder

In her doctoral thesis entitled Geteilte Zeit – gemeinsame Zeit: Entwicklung eines Messinstruments zum Timing in der Musiktherapie mit autistischen Kindern‘ (Shared time – time together: Development of a measuring instrument for timing in music therapy with autistic children), Kathinka Poismans describes the measuring instruments she calls ‘InTiME,’ an acronym which stands for ‘Instrument for Timing in Music Therapy Evaluation’. The instrument measures the timing in the musical interaction between the music therapists and the autistic child. People with autism demonstrate divergent timing within social interactions. For instance, they may struggle to clap along with other people during a concert.

Negative consequences for interaction
The ability to time actions and reactions is already present in childhood, and ensures the development and maintenance of parent-child interactions. Healthy babies are born with this ability; they are able to recognize pulse, rhythm, and duration. However, the ability of autistic children to recognize these elements is weaker, which has a negative impact on the interaction between the autistic child and his/her parents. As this places a burden on the parent-child interaction, it also has a negative impact on the child’s overall social, emotional, and cognitive development.

A reliable and valid measuring instrument
Activities in the field and earlier research have demonstrated that music therapy can help autistic children to develop better timing. However, no large-scale research has been carried out in this area. Thanks to the reliable and validated measuring instrument known as InTiME, it is possible to carry out research amongst larger groups.


Poismans, K. (2014). Geteilte Zeit – gemeinsame Zeit. Entwicklung eines Messinstruments zum Timing in der Musiktherapie mit autistischen Kindern (doctoral dissertation). Enschede: Ipskamp drukkers.

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Poismans Kathinka Foto behorende bij onderzoek Timing in muziektherapie bij kinderen met autisme - promotie en post doc
Photo: Rob Kleingoldewijk

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