autism therapy

What is Music Therapy?

Music Therapists use music interventions to help clients gain skills to use outside of the musical experience. Music therapy treatment is based on individual assessment, treatment planning and ongoing program evaluation.

Music Therapy begins with a comprehensive assessment to target areas of need. These needs most commonly fall under the following domains:

  • Communication
  • Social
  • Emotional
  • Motor
  • Cognition
  • Sensory

There is no “typical” music therapy session as the needs of ever client are different. However some of the common interventions involve instrumental improvisation, song writing, lyric analysis, movement, re-creating music, and/or active music making. Each intervention is geared toward non-musical goal such as improved articulation, steadier gait, increased attention span, or improved social behavior.

What is the Music Therapy Process?

  • Assessment
    • We begin with an assessment to evaluate areas of need, strengths and weaknesses. These assessments, along with intake information and evaluations by doctors and other health professionals, are critical in determining if music therapy is an appropriate method of treatment for the patient. The assessment includes potential goal areas and objectives, along with recommendations for session frequency and length of treatment.
  • Goal-setting
    • Based on the results from the initial assessment, music therapists set measurable and attainable goals and objectives to guide treatment. These goals are the focus of music therapy sessions and are re-evaluated as necessary with input from the patient, parent, and/or other health professionals as the patient progresses.
  • Treatment
    • Patients may be referred to individual, group, or consultative treatment based on the results from the initial assessment. Placement in these treatment categories is based on the needs of the client, and the types of goals determined to be of the most immediate need. Sessions usually last anywhere from 30-60 minutes depending on the needs of the patient.
  • Documentation/Evaluation
    • All progress is documented following sessions and is used to evaluate the effectiveness of interventions and make decisions for future sessions.


special education




special education

What Areas Does Music Therapy Address?

Confidence and Self Esteem

Your child will feel a sense of accomplishment as he or she experiences successes in the music therapy setting. Learning to play a drum, creating his or her own unique sounds, singing without restraint, or feeling a connection with a parent or therapist can all help your child feel confident and successful.

Emotional Regulation

Music accesses all of the emotion centers in the brain, and can therefore help to develop skills in managing those emotions. This may manifest itself in using songs for relaxation/cool down, expressing feelings of frustration on a drum, or even writing songs (with or without words) to express emotions. The music therapist can also help develop your child develop positive coping skills such as counting to 10 or taking a break by putting the skill into a song.

Fine & Gross Motor Skills

Holding a mallet to play a drum, stomping feet or jumping along to music, or extending a finger to stroke the guitar strings are just a few examples of how music therapy can help develop motor skills. Because music is inherently motivating, addressing physical needs often becomes like a game and the child doesn’t even realize how hard he or she is working!

Social Skills

Social skills are often lacking or under developed for those with special needs, and music is a fantastic setting in which to develop them. Playing together as a group, waiting turns to play, engaging in group games, increasing awareness of others (including parents and the therapist), and simple give and take are all skills that are naturally embedded in music experiences. The music therapist can address basic social skills in the 1:1 setting, then recommend groups for practical application.

Attention Span

Most children attend to music and musical toys more than other sources (such as books, toys, etc.). In music therapy we use this to the child’s advantage by designing interventions to help them lengthen their attention span during the session. As their brain becomes accustomed to longer focus, they will be able to attend better in other areas.


Music Therapy targets communication goals in a fun and motivating way. Through playing voice/wind instruments (such as the kazoo or recorder), singing, and communicating during sessions, your child may improve articulation, breath control/support, vocabulary, and overall language development. He or she may also learn to use adapted communication systems such as picture schedules, PECS, or increase verbal communication with music as a natural motivator.