Federation for Children with Special Needs Convention

A resource for children with special needs and their families

The Federation for Children with Special Needs (FCSN), located in Boston with a satellite office Federation for Children with Special Needsin Western Massachusetts, is recognized state and nationwide as a leader in child advocacy, especially for those children with special needs. Committed to listening to and learning from families, FCSN provides information, support and assistance to parents, their professional partners, and their communities.

Working in the areas of children’s health, parental involvement, early intervention, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), and Elementary and Secondary Education, the Federation oversees over 15 programs statewide related to supporting families whose children have either special education or healthcare needs. These supports can include training, workshops on Individual Education Plan (IEP) development, assisting a child as he/she phases out of the school system, finding support groups, promoting family involvement in school, advocating for a child’s inclusion in a school setting and so much more. An invaluable source for families, the Federation also works to reach out to financially and culturally diverse families who are also in need of support and services.

Visions of Community

On March 4th, Roman Music Therapy Services will again be participating in the Federation’s annual conference, entitled Visions of Community for 2017. An excellent resource for families of children with special needs and the professionals who serve them, people come from all over the state to convene at the Seaport World Trade Center in Boston for a day of information gathering, sharing and work-shopping. Topics of discussion are to include Demystifying Dyslexia: Essential Information about Assessment, Intervention and Support at Home, Physical & Communication Access: Isn’t that the Law?, and Finding and Establishing an Independent Living Facility for your Child, to name only a few.

Keynotes will be delivered by Dr Paula Kluth, author, advocate and scholar working with teachers and families to provide inclusive opportunities for students with disabilities, as well as creating a more responsive and engaging school experience for all learners; and Brennan Srisirikul, singer and actor diagnosed with Cerebral Palsy at birth.

As music therapists who have worked with children of all abilities, including those with special needs, our staff will be on hand at the conference to speak to parents, professionals and government agencies about the application of music therapy in conjunction with other services.

Stop by our table for more
information, or if you cannot make the conference but have questions about the whether music therapy is right for your child, contact our office!

Music Therapy in Special Education

See music therapy in the schools in action!

We are often asked about how music therapy in the schools works. Under IDEA, music therapy can be included in special education through various types of delivery including programmatic services, individual or group direct services, and consultation.

In this video blog, our Board Certified Music Therapist, Kristina Rio sat down with special education teacher, Bonnie Albanese, to discuss how music therapy has impacted her students and paraprofessionals. Her students have had music therapy in the classroom since September of 2013 as a programmatic service, with sessions focusing on shared goals. They are currently working with another music therapist on our team, Mary Kerrigan, and you will get to see her making music with the students.

A very special thank you to the Lynnfield Public School administrators, teachers, students and parents for their help in creating this video!

Learn more about group music therapy for organizations, including schools, or send us an email to find out how we can serve your program.

A special thank to Alisa Carbone who produced this video.

5 Reasons Music Therapy is Great With Autism

1. Music therapy is an individualized form of therapy that uses the strengths and abilities of a person to accomplish personal goals and meet personal needs.

2. Music therapy is flexible and able to work across multiple goal areas at once! Music therapy is able to address, communication, social, cognitive, emotional, motor/physical, and independent goals. Some parents have referred to music therapy as “one stop shopping!”

3. Music therapy can be both motivating and a positive reinforcer.

4. Music therapy is able to provide a personal experience for individuals and group members alike, incorporating preferred music into sessions, creating a deeper connection to the experiences.

5. Music therapy is Fun! Music therapy is individual in its approach, in that it allows a person to work in a way that is both self-expressive and goal oriented., making it seem like no work at all!

Music Connects

Channing Shippen MT-BC


Reschke-Hernandez, A. E. (2011). History of music therapy treatment interventions for children with autism. Journal of Music Therapy48(2), 169-207.

Allgood, N. (2005). Parents’ perceptions of family-based group music therapy for children with autism spectrum disorders. Music Therapy Perspectives, 23(2), 92-99.

One on One: A Music Therapy Duet

Is Individual Music Therapy right for you?

By: Meredith Roman Pizzi, MT-BC
Here’s a fireside chat with Meredith about individual music therapy sessions.

1.   What does individual music therapy look like?

Individual therapyMeredith: In a typical individual music therapy session, the music therapist and client will engage in a variety of musical experiences including:

    • singing
    • playing instruments
    • songwriting
    • song recording
    • lyric analysis
    • active music listening
    • movement to music

Individual music therapy is truly individualized! The client’s needs and goals are addressed directly in the musical interactions and active  participation in music.

2.   Do participants reach their goals faster in private sessions?

Meredith: Because individual music therapy sessions are designed to focus directly on the client’s needs and goals, participants do reach individual goals faster in private sessions.  In group music therapy settings in school or afterschool programs, the primary goals are always related to the group. Individual participants do make definite progress towards their individual goals, however, they are not the focus of the entire group session.

On the other hand, in an individual session, the individual’s needs always come first. The music therapist is able to respond to whatever the client needs in the moment and although music therapy is still a process and takes time, consistency and engagement, individual progress is often seen more quickly in private music therapy sessions.

3.   What can be accomplished in a 1:1 session?

Individual therapyMeredith: One on One music therapy sessions are a great way to target and increase skills in the following areas:

    • expressive and receptive communication/language
    • motor development
    • self-awareness and awareness of others
    • academic and cognitive areas
    • sensory regulation
    • behavior

4.  When is 1:1 music therapy NOT the right choice?

Meredith: If the goals you are looking to address in music therapy are based on social skills and functioning within a larger environment, then individual music therapy is not the best choice.  Skills like waiting and turn taking, asking and answering questions, increasing joint attention to group activities, and understanding socially appropriate behaviors are best addressed in a music therapy group format.

What are your questions about music therapy? If you have any other questions you would like to see answered about music therapy, please email me and I will answer them in a future newsletter.

Announcing New Birthday Party Packages!

You’re Invited!


Saturdays and Sundays
Weekdays at Schools and Daycares also available!


Our place or yours!

What happens at Roman Music Therapy Services?

1 hour of fun and interactive music making!
Pizza and cake downstairs at Papa Gino’s

Papa Gino'sRoman Music Therapy Services is announcing that we have teamed up with Papa Gino’s to offer a brand new option for Birthday Parties for children. Here’s a fun way to celebrate your child’s birthday in developmentally and age appropriate ways in which the kids and grown ups all have a blast!

Forget those crazy places that spin you around for an hour and a half and you come out feeling dizzy! Come on in to our comfortable music therapy center for a Music and Movement Birthday Party for children 1-5 or a Let’s Rock! Birthday Party for children 6-12. We’ll make music, play instruments, sing songs, and have a great time for your child’s birthday.

Then downstairs to Papa Gino’s for Pizza and Cake! Everything is included!!

I’m so excited about this! If you’re interested in having a birthday party with us, give us a call!

For More Information, check out:
Music Therapy Birthday Party Flyer
Music Therapy Birthday Party Agreement

Contact Meredith R. Pizzi, MT-BC at 781-665-0700 or mpizzi@romanmusictherapy.com

What Happens in a Music Therapy Session?

It’s time to feature another Frequently Asked Music Therapy Question. What does a music therapy session actually look like? What happens in a session and if my classroom is able to get the funding for music therapy, what would my students actually be doing?

Music Therapy SessionAll great questions. I actually had a special education teacher ask me at the beginning on this school year if I had this written down somewhere and I was surprised when I realized I didn’t. So now it is officially in writing.

Music Therapy sessions are always goal driven and so what actually happens in the session will vary greatly depending on the needs and level of participation of the students. However, the structure and format of a music therapy session are almost always the same.

Gathering Song

To begin each session, we need a song to say hello and gather us together. Sometimes, we will sings hello to all of the group members and other times doesn’t address each member, but the purpose of the song is the same. It is used to bring everyone together and gather the group to begin music. Sometimes the Gathering Song includes instruments for the students to take turns or share and support peer social interactions. Other times, a Gathering Song would include Body Percussion like clapping hands, patting knees, or stamping feet.

Goal Driven Music Experiences

Depending on the group goals, the music experiences in the session may include a variety of music therapy strategies and interventions.

Here are some goal areas and examples of music therapy strategies our music therapists may use:

  • Increasing joint attention (group members all focused on the same thing at the same time) – we may do more body percussion and imitating body movements.
  • Increasing verbal expressions – we may do some improvisational singing on syllables and other sounds.
  • Developing appropriate social skills – we may do a song with questions and answers, asking each other how your day was.
  • Increasing Receptive Language Skills – we may use instruments to work on following simple instructions.
  • Developing Skills to Participate in Groups – we may use songwriting as a way to work collaboratively as a group towards a goal such as completing a song or recording a CD.

music therapy sessionCool Down

I often include a Cool Down in the music therapy sessions to bring us all back to a quiet place after a lot of intense effort on our goal areas. In some sessions, this is active listening to quiet guitar music and in other sessions, it may be a movement activity with scarves. Either way, the purpose is to bring us back to a quiet place, relax our bodies and our minds, and prepare us for the transition to say goodbye.

Closing Song

A closing song tells everyone in the group that our music time is finished and we are transitioning to the next activity. We say goodbye to each other in the song structure and then if it’s appropriate we will stand up and move on to the next thing in the music making it a seamless musical transition. This is often very helpful and successful in classrooms that have a difficult time transitioning.

So there you have it, an outline for a 30-45 minute music therapy session. If you have questions or comments, please feel free to post them below. If you have questions about specific music therapy strategies and ideas that would work for your classroom, please call Meredith Pizzi, MT-BC at 781-665-0700.

Prerequisites for Music Therapy?

By: Meredith Roman Pizzi, MT-BC

This month, I have been asked a number of times by parents, “What does my child need to know or be able to do to participate in music therapy?”  Since the question has come up a few times, I thought it might be helpful to answer the question here.

What Does My Child Need to Know?

kids groupNothing!  There is no prerequisite for successful participation in music therapy.  The Board Certified Music Therapists at Roman Music Therapy Services work from a client centered music therapy approach.  In this model of therapeutic treatment, a client participates as they are and the music therapist uses the tools of music to meet the client and their needs.  The client does not need to do anything!  Where the client is is where they are, and the music therapist’s job is to meet the client in that place and help them to move towards their educational and therapeutic goals in the music.

Does My Child Need to Have Previous Music Experience to Benefit from Music Therapy?

Your child does not need to have any specific music experience on an instrument.  If there is a particular affinity towards an instrument, than that can certainly be incorporated. Sometimes children that have had lessons on a particular instrument can use that skill in their music therapy session, however knowledge or skill level on an instrument is not necessary for successful participation in music therapy.

The services we currently offer include music therapy sessions for individuals and groups which address the client’s most pressing therapeutic needs.  At times it may be appropriate to address musical skills in order to increase confidence or to participate in a social context. For other clients, it is more appropriate to play a variety of instruments within the music therapy session.  These approaches to learning an instrument are goal oriented and focus on non-musical goal areas, which is different from learning how to play an instrument to increase musical skill.

Some music therapists do offer adapted music lessons.  At this time, Roman Music Therapy Services is not able to offer adapted music lessons due to scheduling concerns.  Hopefully, we will be able to offer both group and individual adapted music lessons in the future.

girl with guitarParents often call me looking for music therapy services because they know that their child “loves” music.  They recognize that music is something, or sometimes the one thing, that their child responds to consistently.  Maybe the child is singing songs but not using a lot of language, or maybe the child plays instruments with an apparent awareness of musicality.

If your child is drawn to music, music therapy may be the next step to helping your child reach new levels of achievement.

If your child does not tolerate music well and gets upset when music is playing, music therapy can help to integrate and process musical stimulus so that the child can function better in all environments.

Music is a form of communication which encourages meaningful interpersonal relationships and interaction that goes beyond verbal skills.  It allows for opportunities to process experiences musically and verbally through listening to songs and songwriting.  Music therapy is an expressive and creative process which allows many opportunities for growth.

Not every child needs music therapy, but most children will benefit from music therapy services.

Can I try out a music therapy session?

Absolutely! The best way to find out if music therapy would benefit your child is to come to a session.  With the new year just around the corner, call us at 781-224-3300 to schedule a visit to a Sprouting Melodies group or our Afterschool Music Therapy Groups.

Check out Sprouting Melodies, our early childhood music program, or read about our Afterschool Groups.

“No Momma. No Dadda. No Sing.”

By: Meredith Pizzi, MT-BC

Does this sound familiar?

“Don’t sing, Momma, me sing.” Or maybe it’s not quite so verbal. Maybe your child stares you down until you stop singing. Or maybe they walk over and hold their hand over your mouth. Or maybe they scream and cover their ears until you stop singing.

So what is this behavior about, anyway?

First of all, it’s not you having a terrible singing voice. And, it has nothing to do with your child disliking your voice. There are many other important developmental issues at play here. As a child goes through the stages of development, they are grappling with many different skills and concepts.

In Music, Therapy, and Early Childhood: A Developmental Approach, author Beth Schwartz (Board Certified Music Therapist in NY) writes about the musical development of young children and how that can be applied to help young children and older children who are moving through the developmental levels of Awareness, Trust, Independence, Control, and Responsibility. This book has led me reflect further on a lot of the behaviors that I observe in children of all ages and the developmental reasons behind the behaviors.

As a child develops new skills, they like to practice them and demonstrate independence. For instance, a young child learning to dress him or herself wants only to dress independently. Any efforts to help will quickly be refused. A child’s musical skills are also developing. As a child begins to recall music and songs, they understand the lyrics, melody, and rhythm and then they begin to reproduce them.

When they don’t want to hear you singing, it may be a sign that they want and need to practice the music themselves to better understand and master this new skill.

But don’t quit singing yet!

After this stage of development will come a new area for growth in which the child will learn how to engage in music making with others and will be ready to participate in group music making.

Here are some ideas for engaging your child in music making at this developmental stage. Many of these ideas come from Music, Therapy, and Early Childhood: A Developmental Approach.

    • Encourage developing motor skills through music by doing a lot of songs with repeating patterns of body movements. Clapping hands, patting knees, and stamping feet are engaging and fun, and give the child a chance to demonstrate her skills.
    • Use instruments that the child can play independently including maracas, eggs, drums, and tambourines. Also include two handed instruments, like a triangle, finger cymbals, or a wood block.
    • Give children many opportunities to make choices in the music. Choices can include what instrument to play, singing loud or soft, fast or slow, or what movement to do to the music.
    • Allow for developing language skills in songs by leaving out the last word of a phrase and waiting for the child to fill it in.
    • Sing or make up songs with very simple language that is repeated. Children learn the words to songs before they remember the rhythm and melody. As Beth Schwartz says in her book, “Less talk is more.”

I hope this provides for some fun music making opportunities for you and your child. And next time your child covers his or her ears when you start to sing, remind yourself, “It’s developmental, not the quality of your voice.”

Keep making music!

If you have questions or would like to find out more about how music therapy can help address your child’s developmental needs, please explore our Sprouting Melodies® program or contact us.

Why I Love Making Music with Children

How could you not love making music with children? I love providing music therapy programs for little ones at public libraries and in our Sprouting Melodies® classes. And I love making music with older children in afterschool groups. But honestly, the best part is knowing that Moms, Dads and other caregivers can bring those songs home and develop the music making at home.

So on that note, here are 4 reasons why I love making music with children:

1. Music is Music – Simple Enough

EMARC-Hands-300x190There is nothing like sharing in the simplicity of music making with a child. As a newborn, music is a profound experience that causes the baby to stop and look around, waiting and watching. As children age, they become more and more aware of the environment and still attend to music as if it is a huge presence in the room. I learn a lot from their experience of music.

2. Progress is obvious – and so much fun to observe!

When you see children, young and old, master a musical task in a song, the progress is crystal clear! I enjoy working in groups of 6-7 weeks because at the end of a session, the progress from beginning to end is absolutely magnificent! We can all sit around and say, “Do you remember when we first started this group?”

The same is true with a child at home. With repetition, you see great growth! Every time a song is shared, children soak it in. With even more repetition, they are able to make the music their own. And it is really is fun to see.

3. Music making with children is joyful!

When you can see the anticipation of a musical phrase in a baby’s eyes, smile, and body movements, it is shear joy! And as the baby grows (which happens much too quickly), the joyful responses become joyfully contagious! It’s hard to not laugh with a 3 year old when playing the drum, or a 7 year old delighted to be strumming to the blues on the guitar!

4. Bonding through music is natural

Early Childhood MusicThere is a closeness in making music with your child that goes beyond a song. It is our common understanding that songs and lullabies create intimate shared moments for babies and caregivers. With repetition, those shared musical moments create meaningful bonds.

The same can be said for music making with older children. Think about all of the stress and conflict in our parental relationships with our children. From putting on shoes in the morning, to clearing the dinner table, to brushing teeth. There are plenty of events that take us away from bonding with our kids. Making music on a regular basis with your children returns some of he playful bonding to our relationships that we all need.

Music for Early Childhood

Music for young children, like music in general, is a unique experience that is unlike anything else. For young children with no language there is still music. For the young child with limited movement, there is still music. For a child who cannot see or touch objects in the environment, there is still music. Even for children with hearing loss, there can still be music.

Elizabeth Schwartz, LCAT, MT-BC

Sprouting Melodies®

Sprouting Melodies® early childhood music program was designed to offer all children the unique experience of being part of the music. In our groups together, the children spend quality time with their caregivers, the music therapist and the other young children in the class exploring instruments, songs, and movement. It is a full experience of relationships, bonding, and nurturing as the babies and toddlers bounce with joy to the music on their parent’s lap, smile as they shake maracas, and laugh as they move to the music throughout the room.

Sprouting Melodies® provides a positive and supportive developmental experience for children of all abilities. For those children who are meeting all of their developmental milestones, they are able to jump into the music, to explore their world and their relationships with others and each week stretch and grow into their music.

Children who are receiving Early Intervention services benefit from participation and are able to address their developmental skills in a fun and natural environment. Children with delays who do not qualify for Early Intervention services are able to get the support they need in a therapeutic, but playful environment.

Learn more about our Sprouting Melodies® Program.