Music Therapy in Schools

You might be wondering what are the benefits of of applying Music Therapy in our schools?  How would it benefit my child who is struggling with a disability or special need? Music Therapy has proven to be an effective tool in special education for students with various types of disabilities and special needs.  This type of therapy can be used in different ways, depending on each individual child.


Music intervention programs in schools focuses on using music as a way to address the physical, cognitive, emotional, and social needs of a child.  If you are a parent reading this and/or know of a child/student suffering from autism, celebral palsy, asthma, depression, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), anxiety and those who lack self-confidence, music has been proven to be helpful.  Music therapy can provide your child with the ability to learn in ways they never have before. For this reason and many others, this type of therapy is extremely effective.  


Music therapy sessions in schools can vary in structure from individual sessions, small group sessions, and services provided in an inclusive classroom.  Music therapy services are provided by Board-Certified Music Therapists (MT-BC) like myself. The goal of Music Therapists is to help the student make progress on educational goals as well as support the parents or caregiver in this process.  


The US Department of Education recognizes Music therapy as a related service under The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) – that means that if your child requires it, music therapy must be put into the The Individualized Education Program (IEP), with costs covered by the school. The IEP process involves planning and decision making by the IEP team which includes parents/caregivers, students, and therapists.  As a parent you have the right to request an assessment from the school with the support of a Music Therapist.


According to Mary Adamek, Ph.D., Director of the Undergraduate Music Therapy Program at The University of Iowa and the American Music Therapy Association,   Music Therapy interventions designed by credentialed professionals can provide the following benefits: 

  • Promote Wellness
  • Manage Stress
  • Alleviate Pain
  • Express Feelings
  • Enhance Memory
  • Improve Communication
  • Promote Physical Rehabilitation

Studies have shown that Music therapists who work with children with special needs support developmental goals such as:

  • Speech – Sing songs, to help develop speech sounds and get lots of repetition and avoiding boredom.
  • Fine and gross motor – Instruments like maracas among many are utilized to improve these skills.
  • Academic –  Improve recall by placing academic information into a song format.
  • Social skill development – Engage children in Music therapy groups where they practice greetings, turn taking, eye contact, requesting, etc., through various musical activities.
  • Behavioral  – Create songs as well as musical stories about appropriate behavior.
  • Social-Emotional – Teach a child how to sing songs so they learn how to identify feelings and cope with “big” emotions.


As an overwhelmed parent or caregiver, know you don’t have to travel this path alone.  There is support waiting for you! Music therapy builds up a child’s self-esteem and feeds their soul.  Children with special needs and disabilities face so many struggles, so it is important to support them in a nurturing way. 

As a board certified music therapist and nurse and with years of extensive, I have created success-based activities that address your child’s developmental skills.  I am honored to be a part of the Music Therapy profession where we are always striving to make sessions so fun and musical, that clients don’t even realize how hard they are working.  Music Therapy treatment plans can be applied in a school setting, private sessions or in a combination of both. Now that’s a recipe for success!

If you are still reading this and are considering starting out with a private session, I currently have some openings for children and students with Disabilities and Special Needs.  Please feel free to connect with me, if you or someone you know needs this kind of therapy and support with the assessment process at your child’s/student’s school in achieving their educational goals.



Kim McMillin

RN, MA, MT-BC, LMHC, LMFT (CO) Licensed Mental Health Counselor, Board Certified Music Therapist

I am passionate about helping others to find the goodness within them and to heal the barriers that prevent them from embracing the light of goodness inside. Each of us comes into this world as a magnificent sun. What often trips us up is that we learn to identify with the clouds — ugly things…