Daycares, schools, church programs and musical toys use music to capture attention and teach. There is much more music can do. Through research and MRI scans we know music is processed throughout the whole brain. That is to say, multiple areas such as the language center, motor center, reasoning, and others become activated simultaneously during music engagement. The use of music as a treatment modality is powerful and unique.
Music therapy is an established health profession in which music is used within a therapeutic relationship to address physical, emotional, cognitive, and social needs of individuals of all abilities. Music therapy improves the quality of life for persons of all ages who are well and meets the needs of children and adults with disabilities or illness (American Music Therapy Association, 2004). Specifically for children diagnosed with a learning disorder or developmental delay, music-based strategies can captivate and be important and beneficial to learning.
Research supports connections between speech and singing, rhythm and motor behavior, memory for song and memory for academic material. Neurologic music therapy provides evidence-based protocols to enhance speech and language development, and to control the initiation and rate of speech through cuing and pacing. Motor development can be facilitated through specific interventions, which use the rhythmic, melodic, harmonic and dynamic elements of music to provide the cues for movement. Musical executive function training assists children with problem solving, higher thinking and aids in generalization and transfer of skills to other learning environments.
Board certified music therapists provide treatment as home-based services, in school settings
and clinics among others often working with multidisciplinary team members. They observe the child’s behavior and interactions and assess communication, cognitive/academic, motor, social/emotional, and musical skills. After developing realistic goals and target objectives, music therapists plan and implement systematic music therapy treatment programs with procedures and techniques designed specifically for the individual child.
It is never too early to begin music therapy. Some music therapists have advanced certification in Neo-Natal Music Therapy and are specially trained to work with premature or medically fragile infants. Others facilitate developmental toddler and preschool groups addressing important developmental skills. School-age through young adults can benefit from this powerful therapy as well. Music therapy can be delivered in peer groups, as 1-1 therapy or family groups. More information about the use of music therapeutically can be found through the American Music Therapy Association at musictherapy.org.