Structure for Special Needs Children in Music Therapy
Structure and predictability can make all the difference when working with special needs children. Here are some tips for structuring a music therapy session.
Working with children with special needs children can present a wide range of challenges. Some students have a limited attention span, some have sensory issues, some may not understand verbal directives, and so on. Adding structure to a session adds an element of predictability that can help students decrease potential anxiety and feel more comfortable when they come to group.
In Music Therapy, the hello and goodbye songs are the most basic way to structure the session, and are really the simplest place to start. It’s what goes between the hello and goodbye that can be difficult to determine, and which often comes down to individual therapist preference based on the needs of the group. I experimented with several ways of organizing my sessions, and after a while I started to notice an overall flow that seemed to work fairly consistently across many groups of special needs children (Either with all or some of these elements in this basic order):
- Hello song
- Singing/Action Songs (optional)
- Game (optional)
- Instrument Play
- Goodbye Song
The vast majority of sessions I run consist of this basic flow of intervention. Of course, as every therapist knows, one must be flexible and perceptive enough to change in the moment if necessary. However, coming into a session with a plan is essential when working with special needs children who need that structure and element of predictability.
I am currently working on a reference book for music therapy interventions that follow this basic pattern, and my hope is that it will be of value to music therapists as you work on session planning and finding the most appropriate flow of interventions for your group. I am super excited to share what I have found to be effective and to help other Music Therapists expand their practice and skills!