Music Therapy and Special Needs Children

Cheryl Jones MMT, NMT-F, MTA

Music has proven to be an effective learning and therapeutic tool for individuals with special needs. The inherent qualities of music: rhythm, melodic direction, timbre, pattern and form, are able to encourage and support improvement in a wide variety of goal areas.

Music therapy can be used to reach goals in a number of areas such as: cognition, motor, social, communication, and creativity.

The positive experience of music is both motivating and rewarding for the child in reaching their goals.

Cognition/ Learning

Music can be an effective tool for learning. Songs provide opportunity for repetition of lesson objectives in a fun and motivating way. Music also allows for multi-sensory learning.

The melodic line and rhythmic patterns in music encourage focused attention and can aid in developing attention span.


Music activities, with the use of a variety of instruments, can be designed to encourage and support the development of fine and gross motor skills.

Rhythm and melodic direction can be used to support and motivate a child to engage in target movements.


The playing of instruments and engaging in music- making provides opportunity for purposeful movement and to improve co-ordination.


Music therapy provides an opportunity for children to engage with the music therapist through music-making together.

Group sessions provide opportunities to develop group awareness, turn-taking, and sharing.


By responding to the child's musical expression, the music therapist can dialogue with him or her non-verbally, within the music. Music can be a wonderful form of non-verbal communication and self-expression.

Music can also be used to encourage and support verbal communication. Singing songs with target phonics or words can support speech therapy goals.


Through vocalizations, singing, instrument choice, and playing, music therapy provides an opportunity to be creative and to enjoy self-expression.

I Can!

Music therapy provides a motivating and rewarding experience for the child as they work towards their goals. Through their experiences in music therapy, the child can enjoy a sense of achievement and celebrate success.