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The Benefits of Music for Children with Special Needs

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Research has shown that children of all ability levels benefit from the magic of making music. Weather it’s a music enrichment class or learning to play a specific instrument, music classes can be a joyful and transformational experience for children with disabilities.

Many people think that you have to have a special talent to play an instrument, but this is a myth. Almost all children respond to music and every child can be helped to learn to enjoy music. Anyone can become involved in music to some degree. If used carefully and appropriately, it can reach into that child’s potential for development.

Children can be introduced to music in many ways. When it comes to instruments, there are so many options from piano to maracas, it’s just about finding the right instrument for each child.

Some Benefits of Music for Children with Special Needs

  • Group musical activities motivate interaction, facilitate socialization and improve social skills. Music making involves many of the fundamental elements of social interaction like turn taking and listening and responding to another person.
  • Playing in an ensemble improves coordination and cooperation with others. Making music and singing songs together in a group can build a harmonious cooperative spirit of support and encouragement for everyone.
  • Playing a musical instrument or dancing can provide motivation and a sense of accomplishment.
  • Research has shown that music lessons have a positive effect on reading and mathematic achievement in early childhood and adolescence.
  • Playing instruments and dancing to the beat of the music can improve fine and gross motor skills.
  • Music has a soothing effect and research has shown that it relieves stress, which can make music an instantly gratifying experience.
  • For children who have difficulty communicating verbally, music provides a way to express themselves and communicate in a non-verbal, non-threatening manner.
  • Music is a tool that is used in pain management and healing for children undergoing medical procedures. Music can act as a powerful distraction, turning the patient’s attention away from pain and promoting relaxation as well as helping to promote movement and ease muscle tension.

Musical Therapy

While music in itself provides many benefits, musical therapy uses music within a therapeutic relationship to address physical, emotional, cognitive, and social needs of individuals. In musical therapy, music is used as a tool to reach specific goals which can include:  cognitive stimulation, self-expression, self-awareness, social interaction, communication or increased motor development, among others.

Research in music therapy supports its effectiveness in many areas such as: overall physical rehabilitation and facilitating movement, increasing motivation to become engaged in treatment or in educational activities, providing emotional support for children with special needs and their families, and providing an outlet for expression of feelings.

What You Can Do At Home

There are many things you can do at home to bring music into your child’s life. Here are a few ideas:

  • Encourage your child to experience music in a way that is easy for him.
  • Have fun together through the use of different music techniques and activities.
  • Play music often.
  • Sing songs to your child and with your child.
  • Have different instruments and musical toys that your child can use, explore and play with. Some of these can include: maracas, tambourines, drums, flutes, whistles, xylophone, piano, etc.
  • Set up a sensory or music garden in your back yard, where musical instruments like wind chimes can be installed outdoors.
  • Sometimes instruments and other musical items need to be adapted so they can be used easily by a student with a physical disability, you can consult with an occupational therapist
    to find ways to make instruments and music accessible to your child.


Creative commons-licensed photos provided by  stevendepolo.




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About the author

Paula Bendfeldt-Diaz

Paula Bendfeldt-Diaz was born and raised in Guatemala and studied in a bilingual school, which is why she wanted the same for her children. She is a very passionate advocate for disability and Latino rights, loves cooking and loves going to the beach with her children. Paula is the founder and editor of the blog She lives in Florida with her husband and two kids.