Music Therapy Assessment with the IMCAP-ND: A Pilot Study




music therapy; neurodevelopmental disorders; autism spectrum disorders; pilot study


Background: Music therapy (MT) appears to be a valuable complementary intervention for children diagnosed with neurodevelopmental conditions, namely, autism spectrum disorders (ASD), who often present cognitive, academic, communicative, and social difficulties. Music therapy has been increasingly recommended as a standard support service for communication and social interaction in this specific neuropediatric setting. Objective: The aim of this pilot study was to determine the recruitment and protocol feasibility of music therapy for autistic children and explore trends towards the clinical utility of the IMCAP-ND[i] quantitative measure on assessing the focus on sound receptions, joint attention, turn-taking, auditory perception, sensory integration, social interaction, entrainment, and empathy, as a preparation for a future study wherein we will pursue with an MT intervention assessment. Furthermore, here we use the European Portuguese translated version of the IMCAP-NDPT scales to contribute to its validation and adaptation. Methods: Five autistic children received a weekly music therapy session of approximately 45 minutes for six months, totaling a minimum of 20 and maximum of 24 completed sessions per child. The IMCAP-NDPT and the Griffiths Mental Development Scales (GMDS) scales were applied pre- and post-test. Results: We tested the research design and the session’s protocol. All participants completed MT intervention and showed increase in social-emotional capacities, cognitive and perception skills, and overall responsiveness. However, our results indicate a need to review the inclusion criteria concerning participants with a single diagnosis (ASD), previous contacts with musical instruments, and the application of standardized music therapy settings. Conclusions: The design and protocol were perceived as acceptable and feasible, though some improvements were suggested for subsequent original research, and the IMCAP-NDPT version was considered usable. Our initial findings suggest the potential of music therapy for autistic children. Further intervention with efficacy assessment through a larger-scale randomized trial is needed, considering the content based on pilot findings.


[i] The Individual Music-Centered Assessment Profile for Neurodevelopmental Disorders (IMCAP-ND) is a criterion-referenced assessment of musical interaction, communication, cognition and perception, and responsiveness in musical-play for individuals with neurodevelopmental disorders at various developmental levels and chronological ages from children to adults. It is comprised by a set of three scales: Musical Emotional Assessment Rating Scale (MEARS), Musical Cognitive/Perception Scale (MCPS) and Musical Responsiveness Scale (MRS) (Carpente, 2013).

Author Biographies

Marisa M. Raposo, MusicoterapiAçores, Portugal

Marisa M. Raposo is a Neurologic Music Therapist (NMT), founder of MusicoterapiAçores, post-graduate in Neuropsychology. She holds a PhD in Cognition and Language Sciences from the Institute of Health Sciences at the Universidade Católica Portuguesa, an MA in Music Education for children with special educational needs and disabilities, a master’s degree in Music Therapy and a bachelor’s degree in choral conducting and music education. MMR was the 2017 Portuguese representative at the Scientific Committee of the III Congreso Iberoamericano de Investigación en Musicoterapia (Valencia, Spain) and the Portuguese representative at the Scientific Committee of the 11th European Music Therapy Conference in 2019 (Aalborg, Denmark).

Ana Maria Abreu, Institute of Health Sciences, Universidade Catolica Portuguesa, Portugal

Ana Maria Abreu holds a PhD in Brain, Behavior and Cognition, an MSc in Neuropsychology and a BSc in Applied Psychology. AMA’s main concerns fall in the intersection of mind, brain and behavior, namely using methods of Experimental Psychology. AMA is an ad-hoc reviewer for more than twenty peer reviewed journals. She is a member of editorial and scientific committees, and lecturer of diverse Psychology and Neuroscience related themes, having supervised many undergraduate and graduate students. AMA has published in several national and international research venues, in fields ranging from Sports Psychology to Educational Psychology, Social Psychology and Marketing.

Leticia L. Dionizio, MusicoterapiAçores, Portugal

Leticia L. Dionizio, brazilian Music Therapist. Since 2018 she has been a collaborator at MusicoterapiAçores. She is currently a master’s student at the Music, Art and Process Institute-IMAP (Spain), bachelor’s in music therapy from the Federal University of Minas Gerais – UFMG. In 2016, she participated in the Latin American Music Therapy Congress as a scholarship student. She published articles in the Brazilian Journal of Music Therapy with special focus on Music Therapy and Spirituality and in periodicals and annals of national and international events.

Teresa Leite, Lusíada University, Portugal

Teresa Leite, Clinical Psychologist, Music Therapist, University Associate Professor. She holds a bachelor’s degree in Psychology (ISPA), a master’s degree in Music Therapy (NYU) and a PhD in Clinical Psychology and Group Psychotherapies (Adelphi University). Associate Professor at the Universidade Lusíada de Lisboa, scientific coordinator of the Masters in Music Therapy and Professor in undergraduate and masters’ courses in Psychology. Visiting Professor in the Master of Music Therapy at the Pontifical University of Salamanca. President of the board at the Portuguese Association of Music Therapy (APMT)’s General Meeting. Effective member of the Portuguese Order of Psychologists, specialized in clinical psychology. She practices psychotherapy, music therapy and family and couple therapy in private practice in Lisbon. Supervisor and trainer in foster homes for children and young people at risk. Supervisor of music therapists and clinical psychologists.

Alexandre Castro-Caldas, Universidade Catolica Portuguesa, Portugal

Alexandre Castro-Caldas is the current coordinator of the National Council for Health Sciences at the Universidade Catolica Portuguesa, Head of the Institute of Health Sciences from 2014 to 2022. ACC was, up to 2004, Full Professor of Neurology at the Lisbon Faculty of Medicine and Director of the Neurology Service of Lisbon’s Santa Maria Hospital. ACC was also president of the Portuguese Society of Neurology (1989-1992) and presided over the International Neuropsychological Society (2001-2002). He has authored more than 200 scientific articles/chapters and some books on the Brain. ACC was graced with many awards, among which the Great BIAL Medicine Award (2000), and the Distinguished Career Award from the International Neuropsychological Society (2009).

Photo of the five authors Marisa M. Raposo, Ana Maria Abreu, Leticia L. Dionizio, Teresa Leite and Alexandre Castro-Caldas




How to Cite

Raposo, M. M., Abreu, A. M., Dionizio, L. L., Leite, T., & Castro-Caldas, A. (2023). Music Therapy Assessment with the IMCAP-ND: A Pilot Study. Voices: A World Forum for Music Therapy, 23(1).