Music therapists have been working in special education settings for decades. In fact, music therapy is now well known to be effective in addressing a variety of goals for children with disabilities – including social, communication, behavioral and physical domains. As music therapy is observed to be effective with this population, some exploration has been made into helping teachers utilize music more effectively in their classrooms with the help of a music therapist.
A 2016 study examined the effects of increased collaboration between special education teachers and a music therapist at a specific school for children with Autism Spectrum Disorder. The music therapist spent time planning with participating teachers and observing classroom interaction and music involvement with students. The music therapist continued to meet with teachers throughout the study and gradually took on less responsibility for leading interventions while staff and students contributed more direction to the groups. The music therapist continued to provide consultative support to music activities planned and executed by staff in participating classrooms.
The study found that music interventions utilized by staff in classrooms became more spontaneous and integrated more naturally into the curriculum after support from the music therapist. Staff members felt more confident in their ability to use music effectively and were more willing to try new music activities. Students became more enthusiastic about participating in music activities and were able to collaborate with staff in developing these activities. The study also found that use of music in consultation with a music therapist helped students build relationships with one another, whereas use of music before consultation had not met this goal.
By Amber Bruns, MM, MT-BC
McFerran, K. S., Thompson, G., & Bolger, L. (2016). The impact of fostering relationships through music within a special school classroom for students with autism spectrum disorder: An action research study. Educational Action Research, 24(2), 241-259. https://doi.org/10.1080/09650792.2015.1058171