Guest Author - Susan Hart
Studies have long shown that music stimulates children’s minds. Typically developing children who study music generally score higher on standardized tests. Although the same results cannot necessarily be proven among special needs children, music has shown to be of great benefit to them as well.
Music therapy can provide special needs children great satisfaction as well as physical and mental stimulation. In this environment, the children sing songs, play simple instruments, or clap rhythms. Often nursery rhymes are used. This is a good way to develop a child’s memory—through repetition of simple and fun words and lyrics. Music therapy also allows children to learn to concentrate. This further encourages their learning. Music therapy does not require that the children have any formal music training.
Those children who are able can sway, dance, or move to the music in rhythm. Those who are more physically challenged can have parents, teachers, or caregivers help to move them in rhythm. Many children find this type of experience to be very soothing. Thus, music therapy can provide a good form of physical and occupational therapy for special needs children. It allows the children to move in new ways, and because the music is fun, the children do not see it as the potentially stressful experience they often have in their normal physical and occupational therapy sessions. Even those with the greatest needs can find satisfaction through listening to and being involved in music therapy.
This type of therapy need not be complicated. Special needs children need to use rhythms and movements that are simple and not overwhelming. Simple instruments like drums, bells, tambourines, and maracas are ideal for children because they are easy to use. Teachers or parents could also play other instruments for the children to move and sing to including piano, guitar, etc.
Trained and certified music therapists are available to assist in group or individual music therapy. Music therapy can be added to an IEP along with other forms of therapy a child receives. Schools and teachers can opt to hire a music therapist to come into their classrooms for the benefit of the entire class. This group experience usually proves beneficial for all students in the class.
Some private insurance groups and Medicaid (in some states) cover at least a portion of the costs for private music therapy. Check with your insurance provider or your state Medicaid office to see what they cover.
Watch for part two of this article next week: Music Lessons for Special Needs Children.