What is the Rationale for Providing Music Therapy Services in the School Setting?
According to Public Law 94-142 (Education for All Handicapped Children Act) subsequently
renamed the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), students with special education
needs are entitled to the same educational opportunities as their typically developing peers. The
concept of providing education in the “least restrictive environment” is defined to mean that ALL
students, regardless of disability, should have full access to the general education curriculum. As a result, students with more severe learning problems are now included in general education classrooms not only to meet academic needs but also to increase socialization opportunities.
Music therapists typically use music activities to foster the development of motor,
communication, cognitive, and social abilities in students with special education needs. Music therapy can be used to address many of the goals targeted in the Individualized Education Program (IEP) such as the learning of academic concepts, increasing cooperation and appropriate social behavior, providing avenues for communication, increasing self-esteem and self confidence, improving motoric responses and agility, and encouraging exploration and examination of issues that impact the life of the student. By creating, singing, moving, and listening to music, a wide range of cognitive, emotional
and physical abilities are brought into focus. Under the direction of a qualified music therapist, the new skills learned in the music therapy setting can be transferred to other areas of the student’s life.
What is the IEP and Why is it Important for the Music Educator to be Involved in this Process?
The Individualized Education Program (IEP) is the legal document that results from the initial
assessment and periodic reviews of students receiving special education services. Among other things, the IEP identifies the educational goals and suggested teaching strategies for each student along with what related services are required to meet those goals. Since placement in a music classroom may be a part of the student’s IEP, the music educator needs to understand how the process works and what services may be available to the student in order to ensure a successful participation. A music therapist can assist the music educator in defining and developing the pre-requisite musical, behavioral, andsocial skills necessary for the student to be successful in the music classroom.
Are Music Therapists Employed in Public/Private Schools?
Nationwide, hundreds of credentialed music therapists are currently employed by local school
districts and private educational centers. Music therapy is recognized as a related service that can be an integral component in helping the student receiving special education services reach his or her IEP goals. In many school districts, music therapists also offer support services for music educators in the form of direct service, consultation, or inservice training.
MUSIC THERAPY IN THE PUBLIC SCHOOLS may be provided in one of two ways
--By Decision of the IEP Committee (Assessment Based)
--By decision of the school district
The IEP committee, at the request of a parent or a school district representative, may request a music therapy assessment for a particular student. The assessment must be administered by a board-certified music therapist (MT-BC) and the process (records review, interviews, observation, MT assessment, report preparation) usually takes 4-6 hours. The purpose of the music therapy assessment is to determine whether music therapy is necessary for the student to benefit from his/her education. This is decided by looking at whether or not music provides the student with a significant motivation and/or a significant assist in participating in his or her educational program. A comprehensive music therapy assessment will include a music therapy evaluation that has been designed to address the specific goals and objectives of the student in question, and an observation in the classroom so that a comparison can be made. A student may "enjoy" music, but perform no better in a music therapy structure than he or she does in a regular classroom. A student may readily participate and successfully complete functional tasks in music therapy, but the goals achieved must be listed in the IEP. Again, a related service like music therapy is provided ONLY when it has been shown to be necessary for the student to benefit from his or her educational program.
Once the music therapy assessment has been completed, the IEP committee meets to review the report and recommendations. If the IEP committee, including the parent or guardian, agrees with the findings of the music therapy report (recommendation or denial), that decision is legally binding. If the service is recommended, it must be provided. Decision about the need for a particular related service is reviewed annually. A student may continue to receive the service if educational need is again established; service provision may be changed if the student's performance changes; or servce may be discontinued if it is no longer necessary.
MUSIC THERAPY ASSESSMENT CRITERIA
These questions may help members of a student's IEP committee determine the appropriateness of a music therapy assessment. Before contacting a music therapist to perform an assessment, the following questions should be discussed and answered by the parent(s)/guardian(s) of the student, the teacher of the student and at least one other district representative. A "no" response to one or more questions does not necessarily mean that a student is inappropriate for a music therapy assessment. If disagreements or questions arise, a music therapist should be contacted.
--Can the student be motivated to attempt tasks through the use of music?
--Can the student be motivated to complete tasks through the use of music?
--Could the student benefit from the use of additional communication modalities?
--Does the student initiate interaction with music or musical instruments in the classroom or in the home?
--Does the student retain information conveyed in songs more easily than information conveyed in spoken interchanges?
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