Music Educators Lack In-service Training for Working with Students with Disabilities

If you have been following my blogs on the Central Ohio Music Therapy, LLC website or our Facebook page, you are familiar with my dual role as a music therapist and music educator.  I know I have written about music educators working with students with disabilities in the past, but this study fascinated me in many ways as having worked as an elementary music educator in the past.  I was fortunate to have my music therapy background to reference when working with students in my school who had an Individual Education Plan (IEP) or some other accommodation to booster the student’s success.  

Grimsby took it upon herself to interview three current elementary music educators to determine their level of comfort in working with students with disabilities but to more importantly find out what training they received in their education that would assist them with the daily task of having a child with a disability in their classroom.  Through her interview process, planned research questions and analysis, she discovered several themes, which emerged from her findings.  She determined that “general music teachers need more preservice preparation and ongoing professional development focused on students with disabilities, more time to collaborate with special education professionals, more consistent communications and recommendations about how to work with students who have disabilities, and access to assistive technologies” (p. 77).  

As a music therapist, I was even more fascinated with her mention on page 78 that “undergraduate music education curricula at 171 universities throughout the country (including schools that offer music therapy degrees), …found that 127 institutions (74%) offered special education courses to music education majors, with at least once course being required at 86% of those schools.”  She also quoted a study that found some institutions allowed music education students could take a music therapy course if they desired.  Before completing my graduate studies back in 2014, I assisted an adjunct professor for several semesters in my tenure as music therapy graduate assistant who taught recreation instruments course to music education and music therapy students together.

Grimsby’s focus with this study was to get the opinion of three elementary music educators and investigate their preparedness and in-service training.  Her goal was not to educate these teachers as to the resources available to music educators in the form of music therapists who work in their community and/or possibly their school district.  That is another task for another day.  It is my hope that as music educators come in contact with music therapists that they will seek assistance and guidance from specialists who are specifically trained to work with individuals with disabilities using music to give them guidance and direction in how they can improve their ability to provide top quality music education to a student living and learning with a disability.

For more information on music therapy, visit our website at or the American Music Therapy Association’s website at

Stephanie H. Morris, MM, MT-BC

Neurologic Music Therapy Fellow

Central Ohio Music Therapy, LLC

Grimsby, R. (2020).  “Anything is better than nothing!” Inservice teacher preparation for teaching students with disabilities.  Journal of Music Teacher Education 29(3), 77-90.  DOI: 10.1177/1057083719893116