3 Steps to Access Music Therapy for Your Special Needs Student
If you believe your child would benefit from music therapy, you as a parent or teacher have the power to make it happen in their special education setting! Here’s how.
Parents and teachers often run into difficulties when trying to get music therapy services on their student’s IEP because administrators are unfamiliar with music therapy. Most often, they are unaware that music therapy is considered a related service in special education and is reimbursable as such.
While this may be a bit confusing and perhaps even frustrating, the fact of the matter is that it is simply an opportunity to educate.
In a 2010 Questions and Answers document on Individualized Education Programs, Evaluations, and Reevaluations from the U.S. Department of Education (p. 26), it states:
The Department’s long-standing interpretation is that the list of related services in the IDEA and the Part B regulations is not exhaustive and may include other developmental, corrective, or supportive services (such as artistic and cultural programs, art, music, and dance therapy), if they are required to assist a child with a disability to benefit from special education in order for the child to receive FAPE. As is true regarding consideration of any related service for a child with a disability under Part B of the IDEA, the members of the child’s IEP Team (which include the parents, school officials, and whenever appropriate, the child with a disability) must make individual determinations in light of each child’s unique abilities and needs about whether an artistic or cultural service such as music therapy is required to assist the child to benefit from special education.
So what to do?
If you are a parent or teacher who feels that your student would make needed progress with the help of a music therapist, you can make it happen! As an integral member of the IEP team, you can make suggestions and requests regarding your student’s Individualized Education Plan, and that includes requesting a service like music therapy.
Here’s what the process looks like:
#1 Make a formal request for a Music Therapy Evaluation through the IEP team.
Parents or teachers who want to see the impact of music therapy can make this request at the student’s annual IEP meeting or at any other time during the school year. When you do so, please keep detailed records of all contact and exchanges with the school system.
It is important to be aware that the request for a music therapy evaluation cannot be legally denied due to budget constraints, or because the student already receives “music” in the classroom. Music education or weekly singing time is completely different from music therapy!
#2 A Board Certified Music Therapist completes the Music Therapy Evaluation
After the district approves the request, they will contract with a Board Certified Music Therapist (MT-BC) to complete the evaluation.
The Music Therapist will:
- Review child’s IEP goals and objectives
- Interview members of the IEP team
- Observe the child working toward IEP goals in a non-musical setting and measure response
- Use music therapy to work toward those same goals and measure results
- Compile a report comparing responses on the same goal in music vs. non-music settings
- Meet with the IEP team to present a comprehensive report of the findings of the assessment. The team will then determine whether or not music therapy services are educationally necessary for the child to receive a Free and Appropriate Public Education (FAPE), and will either add music therapy to the IEP or reject it.
The tricky part here is that although parents have the right to an evaluation, the school system does not have to accept the results. It is important that you as a parent review the report, make sure it was conducted by an actual MT-BC so the results are valid.
#3 Follow up with the District and remain involved in the process!
Many school systems, typically for financial reasons, will attempt to deny access to services. However, a valid denial must be very specific.
If you feel that the district’s denial for services is not valid, you still have power as a parent or teacher to make positive change. Often, all it takes is a written notice and reminder of their duty to provide FAPE to encourage a school system to comply. You also have the power to enlist legal help, as the district is required by law to provide related services that are educationally necessary for your child.
Fortunately, it is almost never necessary to actually go to court as most school systems do not want the expense and bad press of litigation.
If your district is reluctant to grant you access to your rights, there are many organizations for parents of children with special needs such as the Utah Parent Center who can help you through the process.
If you are a parent or teacher and want to see what music therapy can do for your student, we highly encourage you to start the process!
We are available and willing to provide resources to help with the process and offer any other support needed along the way. We’re here for you! Just contact us to get started.