MT in Schools

Transitional academies are community-based educational programs, usually provided in school systems, for young adults and teens with cognitive disabilities. These programs help students who have completed their academic courses make a smooth transition into the community. The academies provide training for a wide variety of student needs from activities of daily living and basic social skills to specialized vocational training and job placement. Music therapy services can offer holistic support of transitional academies through evidence-based intervention programs.


Gooding (2011) reports utilizing programs that teach using evidenced-based programs and programs that provide “instruction, rehearsal and reinforcement” , such as music therapy, have a higher success rate (p. 441). Music provides a non-threatening, yet structured program to teach social skills for daily living because music is fundamentally social. Music promotes “interpersonal skills, teamwork, and co-operation” because it is created to be shared with others (Gooding, 2011, p. 442). Evidenced-based music therapy interventions, such as social story songs, allow for social skills rehearsal. Interventions focusing on interpreting or analyzing social situations (i.e. emotions, conversation cues) build social competence and give students not only the appropriate skills, but the motivation to use them in a given situation (Gooding, 2011, p. 441).

Music Therapy services target many fundamental areas of social competence. However, an important fundamental to note is focus of attention as many persons with cognitive disabilities have difficulty with attention control (Gooding, 2011, p.442 & Pasiali, LaGasse, and Penn, 2014, p. 335).  Results from a study by Pasiali, LaGasse, and Penn (2014) showed that music stimuli provided motivation for children to focus (p. 336). The “structure and predictability” provided by chants, rhymes, and songs “facilitates motivation to build attention skills” in addition to social skills, both components needed for joint attention (Pasiali, LaGasse, and Penn, 2014, p. 338). This study indicated that music interventions supported the development of higher level cognitive and auditory processing, useful skills in finding and using cues in the environment (Pasiali, LaGasse, and Penn, 2014, p. 338). The most important aspect of music therapy in conjunction with transitional academies is the adaptability of evidenced-based interventions. A board certified music therapist is trained to “create developmentally appropriate music-based experiences” to promote successful social and vocational training experiences for students at any level of ability (Pasiali, LaGasse, and Penn, 2014, p. 338).

-Holly Huggins, Music Therapy Intern


Gooding, L.F., (2011). The effect of a music therapy social skills training program on improving social competence in children and adolescents with social skills deficits. Journal of Music Therapy, 48(4), 440-462.

Pasiali, V., LaGasse, A. B., and Penn, S., (2014) The effect of musical attention control training (MACT) on attention skills of adolescents with neurodevelopmental delays: a pilot study. Journal of Music Therapy, 51(4) 333-354.


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Meet Ms. Alyssa



 Hello, my name is Alyssa Taylor and I attend William Carey University in Hattiesburg Mississippi. During my time at William Carey I worked with a variety of populations, but the populations that I connected with the most were adults and adolescents. Working with these populations in a college setting helped me figure out which direction to go in when choosing an internship site. 

For this reason, Therabeat stood out to me the most because of the wide variety of populations they serve.  Having the opportunity to be an intern at Therabeat inc is a dream come true. I can remember my sophomore year of college stumbling across Therabeat’s Instagram page and just falling in love with the sweet kiddos and the passion the therapists have for music therapy. I wish I had words to describe how special In Harmony is as a whole. All of the therapists have been so welcoming to me these last two weeks and I have loved getting to observe all of the different therapies in action. I have also enjoyed the opportunity to meet so many sweet kiddos and their families. I am so thankful that I get to be a part of their lives during my music therapy journey. I am so excited to be on this journey at Therabeat and I will be forever grateful for the opportunity they have given me to grow and learn.

During these first two weeks I have gotten to observe therapy sessions, co-treats, and even piano lessons. I have enjoyed every second of getting to watch our clients learn and accomplish goals in a session. Something I am excited to explore during my internship is the importance of self-expression within a music therapy session. As humans, we all have the desire to be heard and understood, so music is a healthy outlet for that desire. Patients in sessions often come in right after a long day at school, which means the child could be tired, angry, happy, or sad. Also, patients with special needs have other things that might frustrate them that could also add on stress. Allowing a child to write a song, or have an improv session about his/her day is a great way for patients to release tension and express feelings appropriately. The elements of music--rhythm, dynamics, timbre--are what make it such a great tool for self-expression. Music can be played loud, soft, fast, and slow which makes it a gold mine for self-expression with children with speech related challenges, as well as children who are verbal. I look forward to doing more research on the benefits of self-expression and the different ways it can be used in a music therapy setting. 

Alyssa Taylor, Music Therapy Intern 

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Meet Ms. Anna


My name is Anna Carter and I am excited to say I am one of the new music therapy interns! I am coming from the University of Georgia, and I like to say I am completing “phase 2” of this whole college thing here at Therabeat. During my time at UGA, I had many opportunities to work with a wide variety of populations. However, while working at Extra Special People, I found I have a very special place in my heart for children and adolescents.

During these past few weeks at Therabeat, I have already begun to feel at home. I have been soaking it all in through observing many music therapy sessions as well as occupational, physical, and speech therapy. Using this time to form new relationships with the kids, I have already learned so much about them and how I can meet their needs through music. For example, I am learning the importance of knowing and using sign language for children who don’t necessarily have a hearing impairment. Sign language can be a great outlet for non-vocal and non-verbal children to express themselves. By learning sign language, we can be better equipped to create an environment for any child to express themselves.

One thing I can speak strongly about in my experience so far is versatility. Having seven music therapists to observe as well as all the gracious occupational, physical, and speech therapists, I get to see many different styles and methods everyday. There is also versatility in music therapy settings. Not only do I get to work in our amazing new clinic, but I also have had the opportunity to go out into the community at some of the off site places. Every day is a new day at Therabeat, and I can already tell that no two days are ever going to be the same!

Anna Carter, Music Therapy Intern

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Meet Ms. Holly


Hi everyone! My name is Holly Huggins. I hail from the University of Georgia--Go Dawgs! My hometown is a quiet little town called Fitzgerald, GA. During my time in school I worked with a number of populations, but I have most enjoyed the energy and joy that comes with working with children! My time at Therabeat, Inc. is the final stretch to my board certification and official graduation!

The past couple of weeks have been an amazing whirlwind to say the least. I have been observing and introducing myself to all the talented staff at In Harmony Pediatric Therapy. I have had the privilege of meeting the patients and their families and caretakers. I am beyond blessed to be a part of their lives for even this short amount of time. I am so excited to see all of the growth and milestones that each unique patient will reach.


During the winter recital, I had the pleasure of watching so many of these patients showcase songs and dances that they have been working on since September. In some of these performances I had the best seat in the house, the stage beside them. Seeing the joy radiate from them and transferring to the audience is something I will never forget. Hearing one of my kiddos exclaim “that was so great!” after his dancing and singing act, watching the two members of Rock Bottom clap for themselves after another successful gig, and many more little moments wrapped up to the fact that I got to be a part of that moment with them. It’s a privilege that I do not take lightly. All of that being said, the experiences I have had during my time here have proven to be once-in-a-lifetime learning opportunities. I understand in greater depth the importance of addressing the sensory needs of a child, I find myself surprised by the talent and ability of the patients I see, and continue to learn to never underestimate any of them.

I look forward to cherishing every moment that I have in this clinic. In this time of reflecting on what we are thankful for, Therabeat Inc. and In Harmony Pediatrics are both at the very top of my list.

Thank you,

Holly Huggins, Music Therapy intern.



Music Therapy In Transitional Academies


Transitional academies are placed in some school systems for young adults ages 18-21 in order to give these individuals a launching pad before going into the real world. In these programs, they acquire skills necessary for living and working in the community. Additionally, they learn effective social skills as they are placed in a group classroom setting. Transitional programs and music therapy can go hand-in-hand, because one overarching goal we have for our clients at Therabeat is using musical interventions in order to help our clients in their daily lives. Two primary ways music therapy can help these clients is facilitating growth in social and attentional skills.

Social skills are crucial in development, and especially for clients getting prepared to start a career. There is a connection between behavioral and social difficulties as children mature into young adults. Lower social competence can lead to an increase in depression, conduct issues, and anxiety (Gooding, 2011, p. 441). Luckily, there are multiple social aspects that play into the music making process! Cooperation, verbal and non-verbal communication, peer collaboration, impulse control, delayed gratification, and recognizing and supporting the rights of others are all areas that can be addressed through music therapy (Gooding, 2011, p. 442). For example, an intervention requiring each client to play a separate instrument can be used in addressing these social skills. Clients can exercise these skills by waiting their turn before they are allowed to play their instrument, actively listen to their peers as they are playing their instruments, and cooperate by playing in-sync with the group to the best of their ability. Due to the non-threatening nature of music, it can allow for successful participation regardless of ability level, and teach social and leisure skills simultaneously (Gooding, 2011, p. 442).

Along with social skills, attentional skills are also important in social development. Music Attention Control Training (MACT) is a technique that is used to target specific attentional skills. Attentional skills addressed include sustained attention, selective attention, and switching attention.  One particular study used MACT and measured how attentional skills improved in a group music therapy setting. The participants in the study showed positive outcomes in both selective and switching attention. In general, individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder have typical sustained attention skills, and this is shown in their ability to attend to preferred objects or activities for an extended amount of time (Pasiali, 2014, p. 335). Because of this, MACT can specifically help these individuals with selective and switching attention. With selective attention, music can be used in groups through interventions requiring them to focus on single musical cues while opposing auditory stimuli is present (Pasiali, 2014, p. 334). As previously mentioned, group instrument play can improve social skills, but it can also target selective attention skills! The therapist can give a variety of instruments to the clients (drums, xylophone, maracas, etc) and instruct the clients to play a similar or different part on their selected instrument. Through this, clients are required to concentrate on their specific part, rather than becoming distracted by the other instruments being played. Additionally, interventions aiding clients in switching attention include chanting while doing body percussion, playing an instrument and singing simultaneously, and playing assigned parts in a musical arrangement (Pasiali, 2014, p. 334).

The primary goal of transition academies is to prepare students for their next phase of life, no matter what it is. And regardless of age and ability level, social and attentional skills are vital and can always be improved upon, as well as addressed through music therapy! At Therabeat, we are always seeking out new opportunities for our clients to grow in these areas. In doing so, they can be equipped for the exciting opportunities ahead of them!

Until next time,

Mia Cellino, Music Therapy Intern

Gooding, L.F. (2011). The effect of a music therapy social skills training program on improving social competence in children and adolescents with social skills deficits. Journal of Music Therapy, 48, 440-462.

Pasiali, V., LaGasse, A. B., & Penn, S. L. (2014). The effect of musical attention control training (MACT) on attention skills of adolescents with neurodevelopmental delays: a pilot study. Journal of Music Therapy, 51, 333-354.