Music Lessons or Music Therapy?

Should you enroll your child in music lessons or music therapy? What’s the difference?

Music lessons teach your child how to play and understand music. For example, some of my clients have Autism or Down’s Syndrome and are taking piano or guitar lessons. They are learning music theory (what quarter notes are), musicianship (how to play a steady beat), and how to play songs on the instrument. I adapt the material so that they can learn the instrument successfully. As a bonus, they might also improve their ability to speak more clearly or ability to pay attention, but that is not the focus or goal of the lessons. I usually offer 30 minutes lessons and charge about 60% of what I charge for therapy.

Music Therapy helps your child develop skills by using how music affects the brain to develop or rehabilitate speech and language, cognition, or motor skills. I have other clients who have Autism or Cerebral Palsy that  play the piano, but the focus is not on learning piano technique or musicianship skills, but rather to work on being able to use each finger independently so that they can improve their writing or typing skills, which will then enhance their communication. I generally see clients for music therapy for one hour and charge 40% more than my rate for music lessons.

Which one should you choose? If you want to offer your child the same enrichment that other children get from music lessons, consider music lessons. If your child responds to music or seems to enjoy music, and you’d like to capitalize on that to help him develop language, motor, or cognitive skills, then explore music therapy. Regardless of which you choose, if your child has a neurological or developmental disability, contact a music therapist. She will not only have the musical expertise, but will also have specialized knowledge about working with and adapting material for children with special needs.

If you need help finding a music therapist in your area, contact me. I’d be happy to help you find the right person for your needs.