photo 1This year has seen the beginning of something incredibly exciting here in Columbia, South Carolina. Thanks to the efforts of one incredible and tenacious parent, music therapy is being offered in a public school for the first time in years (according to colleague Jennie Band, somewhere around 15 years!).

Music therapy is listed as a related service under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). As a result of this designation, if a child is found to require music therapy in order to benefit from special education, they can receive music therapy services as a part of their Individualized Education Program.

Just like private music therapy treatment, this process begins with an assessment. In the world of special education, requesting the assessment is step one.

Step 1. Request an assessment. Parents can make a formal request for a music therapy assessment from their IEP team. It is recommended that all of these types of requests occur in writing. Our single personal experience thus far demonstrated that having justifications for the child’s responsiveness to music can help in the request process. As with all things involving treatment and education, document everything and keep copies!

Step 2. Follow through. Find out where your IEP team stands? Are they finding a music therapist to perform the assessment? Do you need to make the request again? Will it be discussed in an upcoming IEP meeting? Keep tabs on it and demonstrate that you are invested in this!

Step 3. Wait for the results. Your IEP team will likely either call a meeting to go over the results, incorporate it into an already scheduled meeting, or call you to update you on the process. They will let you know if the results of the assessment determined necessity for the services or if they were not recommended.

Step 4. Enjoy! You child will receive their music therapy services at school. The therapist will document progress just as other therapists at the school do. You will find out how your child is progressing with IEP reports and the therapist may be able to also update you as needed.

This is, of course, not a comprehensive list. For each family and each IEP team, the response can be different. I highly recommend you work with a family advocate to help guide you through the process.

What are your experiences getting music therapy services in the public schools? Do you have any recommendations or tips that I may have missed? Share in the comments!