About the Music in Everyday Life (MEL) Assessment

About the Music in Everyday Life (MEL) Assessment

Gottfried & Thompson, created in 2012

The MEL assessment is a psychometrically validated tool (Gottfried, Thompson, Elefant & Gold, 2018) to measure the extent of shared music activity within families of young children. Music therapists working with families of young children often aim to increase the family’s use of music in their everyday life. The MEL assessment, therefore, fills an important gap in the tools available for measuring the impact of music therapy for families of children with autism and other families as well. The MEL assessment can be used by music therapists for research purposes as well as for clinical purposes.

The MEL is a self-report assessment designed to be filled in by the child’s primary caregiver, since the objective is to capture the degree to which parents are able to engage their children in shared music activities in the home and community. The assessment items therefore focus on shared musical experiences between parents and their children, rather than asking about situations in which the children were engaged in a musical activity by themselves.

The MEL assessment asks parents to self-report on their estimated average use of music with their child over the past week. The 28 items are organized into 8 domains:

Domains 1-4 capture the frequency of different interactive uses of music during the previous week (singing together, playing musical instruments together, listening to music together,  playing musical apps together), with items measuring each activity on a five-point scale (not at all – one day of the week – a couple of days of the week – almost every day of the week – every day of the week). In addition, the parent’s perception of the parent-child interaction was captured through items measuring the quality of their interaction (on a 4 point scale: very positive – somewhat positive – neither positive nor negative – negative) and the parent perception of the interaction (positive or negative experience).

Domain 5 captures information about whether a member of the family plays a musical instrument, and then further items explore the frequency of the family member sharing their music making which the child with autism (on a 5-point scale from not at all to everyday of the week), and the quality of the interaction between them.

Domain 6 records the child and family’s preferred genres of music for listening. Eight broad categories are provided for parents to select, including: music from your cultural heritage, classical music, jazz music, children’s songs, pop music, relaxation music, dance music and other. Parents are asked to indicate the frequency of listening using a 5 point scale from not at all to everyday of the week. An “other” option, as well as free-text space, is provided for parents to expand on their description of music genres used in the home, or explain further.

Domain 7 captures the frequency of the use of music to help or support the child in each of eight child-focused daily routine activities (calm down, at meal time, at bed time, to understand daily routine, have fun and experience enjoyment, transition smoothly between activities, learn new things, and travel calmly in the car or bus), on a 5-point scale from not at all to everyday of the week.

Domain 8 consists of only one item, and is a free-text open question inviting the parents to comment on any other responses their child might have to music.


For clinical purposes: please use all the listed domains that construct the MEL assessment. This information will help you gain important information regarding the spontaneous use that parents do with music in daily situations with their child. This information can be discussed with the parents during consultation meetings, and help to build a treatment plan for the child and the whole family.

For research purposes: please use the following subscales:

Subscale 1 (Domains 1-4): Music in Everyday Life – Joint Activities using Music (MEL-JAM). The term “joint activities” refers to shared musical interaction in the home between the parent and the child, either led by the parent actively trying to engage the child in a musical activity, or a more spontaneous shared musical activity. Please follow the Scoring instructions document to learn more about how to score and calculate this subscale.

Subscale 2 (Domain 7): Music in Everyday Life – Routine Activities using Music (MEL-RAM).

Items 7a to 7g ask parents to report on how music was used to support the child within the daily routines of everyday life. Please follow the Scoring instructions document to learn more about how to score and calculate this subscale.

* Domains 5, 6 & 8 are not scored, but contribute to broaden the clinical perspective.

The focus of the MEL assessment on the mutual experience of shared music activities between parents and their children emphasizes the need for music therapists to give more attention to the parent’s confidence and comfort with using music in the home. Furthermore, finding ways to support the parent-child relationship through the mutual enjoyment of shared music making should be a high priority for music therapists working with families. The MEL assessment may also facilitate deeper reflexivity in music therapists to guide them in ways to provide more possibilities for accessible and mutually enjoyable music activities that can be confidently carried out by parents in the home environment without the need for the music therapist to always be present.

Publication: Gottfried, T., Thompson, G., Gold, C., & Elefant, C. (2018). Reliability of the Music in Everyday Life (MEL) scale: A parent-report assessment for children on the autism spectrum. Journal of Music Therapy, online first. doi:10.1093/jmt/thy002.

Link to abstract: https://academic.oup.com/jmt/advance-article-abstract/doi/10.1093/jmt/thy002/5004448
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