Here at Key Changes speech and music therapy are not the only services we offer. Our music therapists are also very talented musicians that specialize in teaching adaptive lessons for individuals both with and without special needs. For more information check out this blog post outlining the difference between music education and music therapy.

So what are adaptive lessons and how are they different from general music lessons? Adaptive lessons are lessons in which our therapists use a nontraditional approach and unique strategies to teach music to our students. Whether it’s playing Staff Twister to learn the lines and spaces on the treble and bass clefs or Red Light, Green Light to learn basic music theory, music therapists are creative and adept in teaching our students to successfully play an instrument.  

The focus of adaptive lessons is learning music concepts and how to play an instrument. Below is a list of therapeutic benefits that may be indirectly addressed:

  •   Improving fine motor skills. Instruments such as the piano, guitar, or ukulele require fine motor skills. When learning one of these instruments the student is required to isolate single and multiple digits with both their left and right hands at the same time. This is not an easy task, especially if you have physical limitations. However, this is where the expertise of a music therapist comes into play as we are trained in adaptive technology and strategies that allow our students both with and without disabilities to successfully play any instrument of their choice.
  •   Improving cognition. Reading music requires focus as well as the ability to comprehend abstract concepts. When you see black and white notes on a page, you are required to not only recognize what the note name is but you also have to be able to translate it to a finger position while simultaneously reading notes and rhythms. This is a complex process that truly gives your brain a workout. According to a study published in the journal Psychology of Music, “Children exposed to a multi-year program of music tuition involving training in increasingly complex rhythmic, tonal, and practical skills display superior cognitive performance in reading skills compared with their non-musically trained peers.” In summary, learning to read music and play an instrument is a really cool brain game that improves it’s functioning process.  
  •   Improving social skills. Playing an instrument often requires you to work with others to make music. Whether you are playing in a large ensemble like band or a small group like a quartet, you have to listen to other performers and learn to work together as a group to create music. If you prefer to perform as a soloist, you are still encouraged to perform for others in a social setting, even if it’s for family and friends at home. At Key Changes we have a recital every year that allows our students to get up and show everyone just how much of a rock star they are. Whether it is shaking a maraca or dub stepping, it is all about the experience of connecting with others in this social setting.
  •   Improving receptive listening skills and auditory discrimination. Playing music by yourself requires you to concentrate on music concepts such as pitch, rhythm, tempo, and sound quality.  Playing an instrument requires you to listen very carefully, specifically when you are learning to identify when you play a wrong note in a piece of music. When playing in an ensemble, you have to become more self aware of how your sound fits into the ensemble and are in balance with their dynamic, tempo, and musicality. One of the skills I focus on when teaching guitar is discriminating between a “good” sound and a “bad” sound as the quality of sound the instrument produces depends greatly on a number of things. Not only do my students learn to differentiate good and bad sound quality but they learn to problem solve during this process.


As you can see, there are many benefits of learning to play an instrument and the benefits listed above are just the tip of the iceberg.  Interested in learning about other benefits playing a music instrument has? Stay tuned for Adaptive Lessons Part Two!

For more information about adaptive lessons, contact us here.