Music What?

Music What???

Music Therapy in the public school setting is the use of music as a tool in order to provide learning experiences specifically designed to reinforce and strengthen skills identified on the student’s IEP.  (Individualized Educational Program) While a music educator or adaptive music educator focuses on helping children learn about music while addressing aesthetic and academic music literacy goals and objectives, a music therapist focuses on using music to help students learn.  Music learning experiences are designed by the music therapist after consultation with student’s teacher and other therapist working with the student.  In a consultative delivery model, specific strategies are demonstrated by the music therapist in the classroom, learned by the teachers and aides, and implemented on an ongoing basis.

The medium of music can be adapted in a variety of ways to improve or maintain skills of communication, to reinforce academic or self-help concepts, as a structure or motivation for motor development, and to facilitate social and emotional growth.  The use of music and music related strategies are provided under the supervision of professionally trained individuals to assist students in attaining targeted educational goals and objectives.  While initial uses of music therapy often were associated with psychiatric disorders, the profession has expanded, developing methodology to meet the physical and psycho social needs of the developmentally disabled,  multi-handicapped, and the Autistic client.

I have found in many instances music therapy often provides a “breakthrough” in learning for those individuals who have not responded to traditional educational techniques or who need those methodologies supplemented to make sufficient progress on academic skills.  Music therapy interventions provide an avenue for creating a trusting and non-threatening environment for learning through shared musical experiences.  Using music as a tool, a music therapist is able to design an academic program based on the educational goals and objectives for each individual students’ needs in the areas of cognitive, social, effective  behavioral, communicative, and sensorimotor skills.

Almost every person responds to some form of music.  Pitch and rhythm attract a persons’ attention and provide the person with a new and direct way of relating to the environmental   Music can act as a stimulus, provide an avenue for emotional release and expressions, and influence levels of tension, distractability, hypersensitivity, and muscle tone.  Music functions as a means of both verbal and nonverbal communication, providing opportunities for socialization and interaction with others that otherwise might not be possible.  Also, in the music therapy setting, students have the opportunity to participate in an enjoyable group experience, something that may not be available to them in many other areas of their lives.

Music Therapy proves to be unique for three reasons.  First and foremost, it allows students to develop skills through musical experiences.  Because the brain processes musical language differently than spoken language, music provides students with an additional medium to process and integrate learning experiences.  Secondly, music therapy encourages self – expression and interaction with others both verbally and non-verbally.  And finally music therapy enables students to develop creativity  which stimulates the flexible and abstract thinking necessary for success in daily life.


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