Your Child Isn’t Special: Music Is The Thing

I am a music therapist. Music therapy is the use of music to attain non-musical goals. Yes, it is a real job and yes, I get paid to do it. So do several thousand other music therapists across the United States and even more across the globe. We are nationally board certified, licensed in some states, and many insurance companies even reimburse for our services. I may be partial, but I think I have the best job in the world.

Having said this, I do have a pet peeve when it comes to my profession. Many music therapists will tell you that they are annoyed when people assume that we are “just volunteer musicians” or that we play our “iPods for sick people”, or that we “provide therapy to musicians”. I was even once asked if I would play music for someone’s cat.

While those misconceptions about our profession are certainly less than savory, I want to tell you about my real pet peeve. It’s when a parent or family member of a potential client calls and says “I think music therapy would be good for my child or loved one because they really LOVE music”. Now you might be asking yourself, “what’s wrong with that?!” Let me tell you….

Who doesn’t love music? Seriously, I want you to think about this. Do you know any one that says, “Man, I really hate music! It’s so melodic, motivating, relaxing, inspiring, and joyous. It’s so annoying.”

So, when a parent or caregiver calls and says “Here is a child who can’t see. Music must be THE THING!” I say “Ugh.” It’s the same thing I hear everyday. Here is a child who can’t walk. Music must be the thing! Here is a child who can’t speak. Music must be the thing! Here is a child with emotion/behavior disorder. Music must be the thing! I’ll let you in on a little secret. Music IS the thing!

Every culture since the beginning of time has used music in healing, as a way to communicate, and as a way of bringing people together. Humans use music to celebrate life and death. We use music in politics, war, religion, sports and recreation, love and heartache (you know you have your go to break up song or your feel good summer jam). We sing lullabies to our newborn babies and we celebrate the lives of those passed on by playing music at their memorials. We memorize lyrics and post them to our Facebook pages because no words we could ever write ourselves could possibly encompass our feelings so completely. The songwriter must have known my story!

The fact is research has shown that music has a profound effect on the human body and psyche. Music is one of the ONLY activities that activates, stimulates, and uses the ENTIRE brain. Biomedical researchers have found that music is a highly structured auditory language involving complex perception, cognition, and motor control in the brain and therefore it can effectively be used to retrain and reeducate the injured brain. Brain imaging techniques have revealed brain plasticity (its ability to change) and research clearly shows that music learning causes the auditory and motor areas in the brain grow larger and interact more efficiently.

Stroke patients are able to walk faster and with better control over their bodies by following rhythmic cues. Adults with from Alzheimer’s are able to recall memories and feelings through the use of familiar and preferred music. Children with Apraxia of speech are able to recall and complete phrases when given a melodic cue. Premature infants increase their sucking rates 2.5 times when exposed to music, helping to improve nutritive sucking and increase their weight. Studies show that music-making improves test scores in standardized tests, as well as in reading proficiency exams.High school music students score higher on the math and verbal portion of SAT, compared to their peers. Yet we wonder why our students math and science grades continue to decline after we have removed music programs from our schools. An education in the arts promotes abstract and creative thinking, but we don’t really need to be able to extrapolate information to form new and innovative ideas, do we? Let’s cut it.

So, I apologize if I sound like a smarta**. But no, your child is not special. We ALL love music. Music therapy is not good for them because they love music, it is good for them because music is the thing. And while there are those who are much more gifted at music than others, we as humans can always share our love of music with the world. You know why? Say it with me now… “Because music is the thing.”

See just what music can do! Sign up for a free consultation to learn more about music therapy!



Image credit: Flickr user basykes

Welcome, Sarah!


Sarah Edwards is excited to be completing her music therapy internship at the George Center for Music Therapy. She graduated from Converse College in May of 2017 with her Bachelor of Arts in Psychology. Upon completing her clinical work at the George Center she will receive her Bachelor of Music in Music Therapy, also from Converse.  During her time at Converse, Sarah worked with individuals with Alzheimer’s and dementia, children with developmental disabilities, patients and families in hospice care, as well as patient of general and pediatric units in the hospital. In addition to her coursework, Sarah has enjoyed being a part of her church choir, Converse dance ensemble, performing as a vocalist locally in Spartanburg, leading contemporary worship services, and being president of Musicians Helping Others- a music therapy advocacy organization on her campus. Sarah is passionate about music therapy and can’t wait to learn through all that the George Center has to offer!

"This therapy is truly a gift that will benefit our son throughout his life.”


“We have been with The George Center for four years. Music therapy has made such a difference in our son’s life. It has helped his overall language development as well as his fine motor skills…He has also further developed his love of music and singing ability. This therapy is truly a gift that will benefit our son throughout his life.”

- Cindy Smith, parent

"Once you observe a session, you would have no doubt of its effectiveness..."


“Music Therapy has been a dynamic and integral part of our methodology. Once you observe a session, you would have no doubt of its effectiveness. It is an intervention which provides an opening in multiple ways – the children’s hearts and minds are open to input, interaction, and learning as the joy, laughter and music begins. Music therapy as a language intervention is well researched and documented for kids with Developmental Delays and Autism – we see this evidence daily.”

- Amy O’Dell

Founding Director, Jacob’s Ladder Neurodevelopmental School and Therapy Center

"...I watch children benefit each day from the therapeutic value of music and rhythm."


“Music therapy is a part of my student’s weekly programs here at Jacobs Ladder and I watch children benefit each day from the therapeutic value of music and rhythm. By incorporating music through out my students’ day I see many improvements such as: desire to interact with peers, higher comprehension and retention, release of muscle tension, decrease in anxiety, induced self stimulatory and aggressive/noncompliant behavior, improved eye contact and focus along with improvements in gross motor and academic skills. It’s beautiful seeing The George Center’s music therapists interact and connect with my students through the joy of music. A little girl once told me that she sings to make people happy; The George Center does just that by bringing smiles to faces along with warmth to the heart, all to the beat of music.”

- Katina Dunkerly

Instructor - Jacob’s Ladder Neurodevelopmental School and Therapy Center

"The skills he has developed... have made him much better equipped to succeed and reach his potential."


“How did you handle your last mistake? Extreme frustration or violent outburst? Probably not, as you have developed coping skills, over the years and your life experiences. For many kids on the Spectrum, these skills are developing at a slower rate.During the four years our son (12 years old) has been with the George Center, we have seen remarkable improvement in these areas. Starting with piano, he was able to develop a rhythm in the music, which carried over to his everyday challenges. As to mistakes, he is much more tolerant and is accelerating his coping skills. This is helping in everyday life, as well as on his new instrument, the trombone! The annual recitals give a wonderful opportunity for the kids to shine and it’s a treat for the parents to see how proud the kids are of their hard earned success.Now with middle school, he’s faced with many new obstacles. The skills he has developed, with the help of the loving, caring people at The George Center, have made him much better equipped to succeed and reach his potential.”

- Roger Lawton, Parent

"It is a highly preferred activity... through which he is exploring music skills I did not know he had."


“Therapy. Being a Dad of a special needs kid, i hear the word therapy a lot. To me, therapy typically means taking my son to a treatment that is not preferred, with hopes that I will see some type of measurable improvement with the assistance of a trained staff that may or may not ‘connect’ to my son. Music therapy at the George Center is not typical therapy. It is a highly preferred activity, with professional staff that connect with my special needs son, through which he is improving in social skills with adults and peers, appropriate group behavior, as well as exploring music skills I did not know he had. I highly recommend the George Center for Music Therapy for parents that want to see positive improvement in their child’s social, behavior, and music related skills with an exceptional staff.”

- David Seback, parent

"It is a therapy often overlooked, but now we know, is invaluable."

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My daughter, Abbie, is a TBI survivor. Over the past 3 years we have been through many many therapies but I think the most impressive was a true licensed and board certified music therapy program. This is not just learning to beat a drum or tap a piano key, this therapy activates both sides of the brain and works on so many aspects of recovery, including:

  • Improved communication
  • Behavior modification
  • Sensory skills
  • Motor skills
  • Social and emotional functioning
  • Cognitive skills
  •  Stress management
  • Promotion on wellness
  • Pain management
  • Memory enhancement
  • Fostering interaction and
  • Communication

We feel so much to have worked with The George Center for Music Therapy. Our music therapist was awesome and the entire staff was sp positive and caring. They have a beautiful office space and offer in home sessions. They will work with you insurance company and they direct you to scholarships and grants. 

It is a therapy often overlooked, but now we know, is invaluable. 

Thank you, 

Mary Beth Williamson