Mental Health Benefits of a Service-Learning Group Drumming Between College Students and Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder



Growing numbers of universities are developing service-learning community music-making interventions. However, there has been little research into their efficacy and effect on overall mental health for students. This study explored whether 4-weeks of dyadic group drumming could improve depression, anxiety, stress, social resilience, and enjoyment among 19 college students partnered with children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). A paired sample t-test revealed significant findings on two subscales of the Perceived Stress Scale: 1) handling unexpected events, t(18) = 2.535, p=.021 and 2) controlling important life experiences, t(18) = 2.364,  p=.030. Documented expressions by the students in the summative reflection noted: expressed joyfulness in the experience with their child and musicality of program; personal growth; stress reduction; and professional impact on their future careers. Overall, these findings indicate that a service-learning group drumming experience between college students and children with ASD leads to enhanced psychological states. Perhaps adding service-learning projects of this nature to college courses can alleviate the growing number of mental health issues faced by today’s college students. It may also provide universities with unique opportunities to offer complementary service-learning as an additional form of non-stigmatizing therapy, lessening the demand on counseling services.

Keywords: service-learning, mental health, stress, college students, drumming, reflection

Author Biographies

Lyn Gorbett Litchke, Texas State University

Department of Health and Human Performance

Associate Professor


Ricardo Dorman, Texas State University

Masters of Science in Recreation and Leisure Services: Therapeutic Recreation

Trason Aaron Willemin, Texas State University

Masters of Science in Recreation and Leisure Services: Therapeutic Recreation

Ting Liu, Texas State University

Associate Professor in Department of Health and Human Performance