Music & Special Education

Those of you who follow my insertions and occasional essays on this website may have noticed that music is a favorite topic. The good reason for that is that, as a person directly experienced in music education, I believe that a child’s direct engagement in music making will improve his or her ability to learn language, math, and self-control. And now, we have an easy doorway to discover the reasons why many of us believe music to be so important for child development, regardless of a child’s “talent” or ability to otherwise communicate and behave.

This week, the New York Institute of Technology at Arkansas State Univ., College of Osteopathic Medicine, presented the annual Vollman & Wilson Distinguished Medical Lecture, on the topic, “Rhythmic Healing: Music and Medicine”. Alexander Pantelyat, MD of Johns Hopkins University, and Nina Kraus, PhD of Northwestern University combined to show their latest research on the healing and educational effects of music participation on the brains of human beings of all ages.

If you want to get a fun sample of what we learned from Dr. Kraus at the lecture, please visit and view the slide shows and research articles freely posted there. You can also find a sample of Dr. Pantelyat’s work at

In summary, the best reason to build music making into every child’s education, including the individualized plans for special needs children, is that music organizes the brain for learning, for self-regulation, and for calming effect. There is NO drug that even comes close to all those effects, simultaneously. And music can be freely delivered, once the leader or teacher or therapist is professionally prepared or trained. The earlier in life the musical activity begins, the more comprehensive and long-lasting the benefit.

Please consider getting professional music therapy advice and building music activity into your child’s IEP or accommodation plan. When you find good resources for music activity in the school–or certified therapy outside the school–please share them here.