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The Power of Music: Teacher Testimonial

ETM Music Therapist Stefan Benkowski shares an example of the power of music for one 4th grader:

A student was referred for music therapy because of a severe deficit in
functional mathematics, specifically with coins. The Occupational
Therapist had worked with her for nearly a year and a half with limited
success on simply identifying and attributing values…  I found that
this student was incredibly musical and extremely bright in
verbal/communication skills… however, her identification of coins was
less than 50%. She was assigned to music therapy for 45 minutes/week.

Music Therapy is the direct use of music to reach non-musical goals,
including communication, socialization, motor functioning, emotional
awareness, cognitive skills and functional academics. As young children
develop, many basic functional academics are taught through song. For
example the “ABC’s” song helps a preschooler memorize the order of 26
separate bits of information.

This student’s favorite song was “Baby” by Justin Bieber. Because the
most ideal therapeutic outcome typically comes through preferred music,
she learned a new version of “Baby” with the words of the refrain
rewritten to be a mnemonic device. She used Garageband to choose
drumbeats/synthesizer parts and record her own voice. We made a CD for
her to listen to several times a day. After several weeks, she
identified all coins and attributed values with a 100% success rate.

As her music therapy continued, she began writing her own verses to
rehearse a variety of strategies for counting coins. Another couple of
months and several recordings later, she not only identified/attributed
values to the coins with 100% success rate, but was counting complex
combinations of coins up to a dollar with nearly 100% success.

This absolutely vital life skill, which had escaped this child for
nearly 10 years, was taught through music. Did her consistent classroom
support, occupational therapy and years of support assist in this
acquisition of knowledge? Undoubtedly. However, the motivating and
mnemonic power of music was the catalyst that allowed this student to
begin to thrive in a public environment.