Music therapy can provide countless benefits for students with special needs. Learning through play is a crucial building block in any student's education, and music education and therapy can provide an outlet for energy that is both fun and creative.
In addition to the playful nature of music therapy, this can also help children with confidence, social skills, and focus. Students that may not be able to participate in school outings or trips can partake in music therapy from their classroom, with a variety of instruments to choose from. Music can be used to create a structured learning environment which teaches cooperation, memory, and motor skills masked behind play. Music can enhance cognitive development, and students are challenged with learning more difficult pieces and arrangements as their skill level increases.
Schools can offer a variety of instruments to children, if they do not bring in an outside program to conduct the therapy. Rhythm sticks, thumb cymbals, triangles, tambourines, and chimes are just a few examples of the kinds of instruments children can play when engaged in music therapy. Learning rhythm and timing can help students with motor skills, as well as social interaction. Students must be aware of one another, and their place within a musical arrangement in order for the piece to sound correct.
Singing can also help children who are able to verbalize, and can help with their reading comprehension if used in conjunction with musical therapy. Reading a familiar story in a singing voice, or improvising lines of a story with singing can help a child to retain the words and commit them to memory. Having a child sing the lines while guiding themselves can help a child improve their sight reading. Tapping the beat with each sung syllable can also help a child to master verbal cues and speech patterns.
Offering rewards that are based in music can also help. A pair of thumb cymbals, a xylophone, or other musical play item can be used as a motivator to achieve particular learning goals. Piano can be a great resource for students with motor skills, offering an opportunity to help students with hand-eye coordination and fine motor skills. Color coding keys to particular notes can ensure that even beginners can play a simple song, and helps children to feel accomplished no matter their overall skill level. Musical therapy can also help students with social anxiety and Autism Spectrum disorder. Using music can help calm a child who is feeling anxious, and can allow for students that are struggling to learn a subject a new way to absorb information. By putting facts to a familiar musical tune, this can help children with recall and memory, and can help them to retain information for longer periods of time.
School systems can help students get musical therapy as a part of their IEP, if a child is determined able to benefit from the services that music therapy provides. Students may have individual qualifiers to meet, and what one student qualifies for may not be the same for all students. Music therapy under an IEP can vary from private musical therapy, and should always be discussed with a child’s family before any new treatment is decided on. Music therapy is beneficial to many students, and can be brought into nearly any special needs classroom with success.