Music. It inspires us. It calms us. In classrooms all over the world, children respond to teachers singing, often better than they do to ordinary speech. But for children with disabilities, music can do much more. With the aid of music, children with limited spoken language or physical disabilities initiate communication and participate in group activities. Music Therapy in Preschool Classrooms, Arlington Education Foundation’s (AEF) first grant to the Menotomy Preschool, funds music therapy classes for special and regular education students enrolled in the school’s full day program.
As Arlington’s only public preschool, Menotomy serves the needs of preschool children requiring Special Education services. Approximately half of the school’s students are enrolled under a Special Education placement. But Menotomy’s model is that of integration, so children with special needs learn alongside their typically developing peers. Experience shows that children generally want to emulate their peers; in an integrated model, children with special needs and typically developing children are inspired by and learn from each other.
As a proven way to reach and teach children at all developmental levels, music therapy provides a valuable avenue to assist children in reaching their goals – which for Special Education students are defined in their Individualized Education Programs (IEPs). Every other Friday afternoon, Menotomy Preschool’s classrooms come alive with music and laughter. Tim the Music Man has a very calming nature and personalizes the music experience for each child. Props, such as scarves, bells and bubbles engage students in the making of music. Passing around the microphone, students get excited to chime into a rousing round of the ABC’s. The most exciting part of Tim’s session one particular Friday was touching and strumming his shiny, new guitar. This tactile experience was especially engaging for the non-verbal students.
“Music therapy fills a void in our curriculum. It helps to teach patience, eye-contact, taking turns, and a way to express feelings. Most of our students demonstrate differences in behavior, memory, speech and communication or motor movements when music is used,” says Kerrianne Simoneau, the preschool’s Director. During Tim the Music Man’s sessions, non-verbal children come alive, humming and smiling. Children with physical limitations dance and participate. Painfully shy children sing and shake bells. Every child benefits in his or her unique way.
Menotomy Preschool’s integrated education program was established in 2008. Funded primarily by the Town of Arlington and state funds, students enrolled under a special education placement receive free tuition; regular education students pay a relatively low tuition.
Simoneau adds, “Menotomy Preschool is different than other preschools in Arlington. Our student population has very diverse learning needs and we are subsidized by the Town of Arlington and thus do not have the same budgets as private preschools. We are very grateful to AEF for giving us a unique opportunity to offer music therapy.”
AEF works to support and advance public education in Arlington, Massachusetts. AEF funds system wide initiatives and creative new projects to enhance the educational experiences of Arlington’s teachers and students. In fiscal year 2012, community donations enabled AEF to award nearly $100,000 in grants to the Arlington Public Schools. For more information on AEF’s current and past grants, or to donate, visit www.arlingtoneducationfoundationma.org.
Read the Arlington Advocate article ‘Musical Learning at Arlington’s Menotomy Preschool’ on March 7, 2013