At this age, music as therapy is used mostly for children with disabilities. It may be offered in school districts, if the Music Therapy Assessment determines that it is educationally necessary as a related service. In this case, music therapy is provided directly to the child, who is pulled out of the classroom to work on Individualized Education Plan (IEP) goals. These goals may include using music to understand academic concepts or to develop appropriate social skills.
Some schools offer music therapy as a consult service, where music therapists consult with the teacher or the program to provide and teach music strategies for use in the classroom. In this model of service, music therapy does not have to be educationally necessary, and usually the entire classroom is served.
If music therapy techniques are not provided in the schools, parents can pay for private music therapy, either going to a clinic or having a music therapist provide services in the home. This way, music therapy does not have to be educationally necessary, but can work on functional goals, including speech/language, cognition, or sensorimotor skills. The child may also work on self-expression, leisure skills, or self-identity.
Music, however, is beneficial even if the child does not require therapy. At this age, children can begin learning to play an instrument, music theory and history, or singing. Participating in ensembles, such as choir, orchestra, or band, can help the child develop discipline and study habits, problem-solving skills, fine motor skills, and social skills. Participating in a group offers a sense of identity and belonging.
Even just listening to music and determining favorite songs, groups, or genres of music is important to the child’s development. At the early school age, the child is more likely to enjoy the kind of music he or she is most exposed to, which may include what the parents or older siblings are listening to. Be sure to offer age-appropriate choices with messages that enhance your child’s growth and development. Music sends messages not only in the lyrics, but also in the presentation and lifestyle of the musician or performer.
Singing with your child or making music with your child is still important at this stage. Provide opportunities for singing in the car or around a campfire, playing rhythms with pencils on the desk, or dancing to some lively tunes.
Need ideas for using music with your child? Contact me–I’d be glad to help!