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Adaptive Lessons

What are adaptive lessons?


Due to the flexible nature of music therapy, musical interventions such as (instrumental improvisation, movement to music, auditory processing through singing, percussion, and songwriting), can be adapted to elicit positive results in overall functioning.


Some examples of these adaptations include:

  • color-coding for children who are not able to read traditional music notation.

  • use of schedules, scripts, and visual aids to structure the session and reduce frustration and anxiety

  • focus on the child's preferred songs and musical genres

  • use of musical exploration and improvisation to increase creativity

  • sensory-based approaches that assist in auditory stimulation tolerance


Put simply an adaptive lesson is a lesson where an adaptation is necessary for the student to thrive in their lesson environment. Typically, we think of adaptive lessons as being directed to students with disabilities and diagnoses. Yes, we have students of all ages and abilities, and when we say all we mean all!

People of all abilities can benefit from music lessons. Playing a musical instrument fosters creativity while developing fine-motor skills, discipline, leisure skills, and self-esteem. Individuals with special needs deserve to learn and share their music with the world – and this can be made possible with instructional or physical adaptations (Kuester, 2011).


Instructional adaptations might include:

  • Behavior management techniques implemented by a music therapist

  • Visual schedule or checklist for those who benefit from structure

  • Use of sign-language or non-verbal communication

  • Diverse routines (10 minutes of piano followed by 5 minutes of dancing to rhythm drills, etc) to maintain attention

  • Use of preferred music so that student is motivated to learn!

Physical adaptations might include:

  • Color-coded or large-print music

  • Enlarged guitar picks

  • EZ Chord (pictured)

  • Alternate tunings that allow barred fingers or one & two finger chords

  • Augmentative communication devices

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