Music Therapy & Down Syndrome

October was first designated as Down Syndrome Awareness Month in the 1980s and has been recognized every October since.
Trisomy-21 or “Down Syndrome” is a congenital disorder causing intellectual impairment and physical abnormalities. It’s also the most common genetic cause of intellectual disability in North America with a rate of about 1 in every 800 to 1000 live-births. Many with Down’s have impaired cognitive development often affecting hearing, vision and/or motor abilities. Others struggle with speech development, communication and other developmental delays.
Individuals with Down’s often work with a team of doctors ranging from occupational therapists to speech therapists and physical therapists. They also work with a variety of physicians and social workers, and increasingly, more and more Music Therapists!

There are many benefits of Music Therapy for Down’s Syndrome including:

  • The ability of Music Therapists to use music to motivate individuals when doing challenging or repetitive tasks.
  • Using rhythmic patterns as cues assists in motor skill development.
  • Music Therapists use singing and rhythm to help individuals with the pacing and articulation of their speech so it’s easier to understand.
  • Music is strategically used to help with memorization tasks.

Additionally, Music Therapy can help with things like:

  • Sensory awareness
  • Perception
  • Auditory attention
  • Discrimination

Music Therapists also help individuals develop social skills such as learning to take turns, and how to effectively process and express their thoughts and emotions.

The important thing to understand about Down’s is that every individual is affected differently, and because of this, there is no single, standard treatment, including in Music Therapy. It is my goal to be really present with each individual and work with what they CAN do instead of focusing on what they can’t do. These sessions of singing, chanting, instrument play, and music and movement brings such joy to both myself and my clients.

If you know someone with Down’s Syndrome who would benefit from what I’ve described above, please give me a call at (509) 979-4357. I would love to meet them!


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…