Resources for Advocating Music Therapy Services in Special Education
Having the right knowledge and tools is essential for parents to effectively advocate music therapy for their child in special education. Here is what you need:
In Utah we are just beginning to open doors for music therapy services in the public school system. For many years we have had 3 music therapists working in center-based schools with students with severe to profound disabilities. These schools are self-contained so the music therapist does not travel around the district. It’s wonderful that these schools have music therapists (I worked at one of them for the last 5 years!), however there is additional need outside of these self-contained settings as well.
Back in 2009 a family fought to music therapy services for their son in the Tooele School District. After years of advocacy they were approved for the eligibility assessment and as a result the son now receives weekly music therapy services. That was the first ever eligibility assessment conducted in the state of Utah.
Now three years later a parent contacted me from Davis School District asking about how she could get music therapy for her son in the special education system. I shared several resources with her, which she shared with her IEP team and decision makers in the district. Her son was eventually approved for an eligibility assessment. I conducted the assessment, found that music therapy was educationally necessary for the student, and he is now receiving weekly services by a board-certified music therapist! The whole process took about 4 months from the first request to receiving services but the parent’s advocacy and persistence (sometimes calling the district every day for a status update) definitely paid off.
In the past few months I have heard from 2 other parents who want to get music therapy for their children in the school system, which tells me that people are gaining interest in music therapy and feel like it could help their children progress. I’ve compiled several documents which I share with parents when they first contact me, and I’ve decided to share the same information here in one place. It is so helpful to have concrete information to share with the IEP team when it comes to navigating what may be foreign territory.
Music Therapy Referral Checklist
This is the very first document I give to a parent or teacher who is asking about MT for a particular student. The original version of the referral checklist is the brainchild of the one and only Lillieth Grand and is an excellent resource to kick start this process. It outlines the various domains and asks the individual to identify whether the student performs better on a given task when music is present. If the majority of the answers are “yes” that’s a good foundation from which to make a request. If the majority of the answers are “no” then I suggest that music therapy may not be educationally necessary for that student.
SEMTAP Process Description
After giving the referral checklist, I explain the eligibility assessment protocol. I use the research-based SEMTAP (Special Education Music Therapy Assessment Process) for my eligibility evaluations. This is not a checklist assessment, but rather an outlined process for evaluation. I highly recommend purchasing the SEMTAP manual if you are a music therapist. You can purchase it for $30 from Prelude Music Therapy here. The process description above is based on the SEMTAP and is a really nice document to have when you are explaining the eligibility assessment process. It outlines each step visually and gives a clear picture of the objectives and possible outcomes of the assessment.
This is a letter of policy clarification from OSEP (Office of Special Education Programs) through the United States Department of Education regarding the requirements of Part B of IDEA. It outlines (1) music therapy as a related service under Part B and (2) the standards for appropriate personnel to provide music therapy as a related service.
New Regulations Issued for IDEA 9-06
This document clarifies that the list of related services written into IDEA Part B is not exhaustive and may include other services not listed in the statute (including music therapy!)
General Letter 2-09
This is a letter written by music therapists–the Executive Director and Director of Government Relations from AMTA (the American Music Therapy Association) and is addressed to Special Education Administrators. It explains how music therapy fits into the IDEA legislation and can be included in the student’s IEP.
Music Therapy and Special Education fact sheet
This is a fact sheet created by AMTA and provides bullet points on areas of common concern related to music therapy in special education. I’ve found it to be helpful as it shows strong support from our national organization which adds to the credibility of the profession.
So there you have it! I use each of these documents as they seem necessary for their various purposes in the process. I recommend saving each of them into a special education folder and adding any other documents you feel are helpful. You can download additional fact sheets from www.musictherapy.org that talk about research with music therapy with various populations, which may be helpful depending on the student for whom you are advocating.
As always, please feel free to contact me with any questions you may have and I will help wherever I can. Best wishes!