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Patina Joy Jackson, MT-BC

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Music Therapy in Special Education

How Does Music Therapy Function in Special Education | In special education, music therapy is provided as a related service that uses music to assist students with disabilities to attain specified IEP goals.  While it is useful for many students with disabilities, it is important to note that in a school district, services are provided according to demonstrated educational need.  IDEA 2004 states in Sec. 300.34, related services are those as are required to assist a child with a disability to benefit from special education. As a result, if the student already benefits from special education, the related service is not required. If the student receives a significant motivation and/or assist from music therapy interventions, it can be said that there is an educational need for music therapy.  There must be a clear difference in the way the student performs IEP goals and objectives in the music therapy setting versus the classroom setting for service to be determined as “educationally necessary.” Services are not provided just because the student enjoys music, or simply because he or she has a disability.  Music therapy is also not provided as a substitute for attending a music education class or to fulfill the fine arts requirements of a student’s IEP (Adapted from Marcia Behr, MT-BC ©1999 and Prelude Music Therapy ©1999). In a program based model, services may also be provided as educational enrichment for self contained or inclusion classrooms, in which case the need would be determined by administration, educational staff and the music therapy team. 

Goals addressed | Music therapists address a variety of goals related to special education and Individualized Education Plans.

Goals may include:

  • Academic/Cognitive skills

  • Language and communication skills

  • Fine and gross motor skills

  • Social/Behavioral skills

  • Functional Living skills

Populations ServedMusic therapists serve students from early intervention through high school with a wide range of abilities and needs such as:

  • Early Intervention

  • Developmental or Intellectual Disabilities

  • Autism Spectrum Disorders

  • Down Syndrome

  • Visual, Auditory or Speech Impairments

  • Emotional or Behavioral Disorders

Additional Resources

SPED Music Therapy 101 : a beginners guide to music therapy in schools