Music Therapy & the IEP

“The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) 20 U.S.C. §1400, provides that eligible children and youth with disabilities shall receive special education and related services. The law includes a definition of related services that the U.S. Department of Education notes is not exhaustive. In addition, in June 2010, the U.S. Department of Education issued a Questions and Answers document on Individualized Education Programs (IEPs), Evaluations, and Reevaluations. This document provides guidance representing the interpretation of the Department and clarifies the recognition of music therapy as a related service under IDEA (American Music Therapy Association, 2013).

Yes, music therapy is a related service, which means that this service can be included in a student’s IEP if it is determined to be a necessary intervention for his/her education. A music therapy assessment needs to be conducted by a board-certified music therapist. So, how does the process work?

1. Formal request for a music therapy assessment.

2. The board-certified music therapist conducts a music therapy assessment.  She/he also would review the student’s record, interview his/her teachers, and observe the student in non-musical settings.

3. She/he presents the results of the assessment and makes a recommendation (whether the student needs music therapy for his/her education or not.).

4. If music therapy is determined to be a necessary service, the student starts receiving music therapy through the school (Coleman & King, 2003).


American Music Therapy Association (2013). Special education: Music therapy research and evidence-based practice support, retrieved from

Coleman, K. & King, B. (1999-2003). SEMTAP special education music therapy assessment process handbook (2nd Ed.). Grapevine, TX: Prelude Music Therapy

Fact Sheets:

American Music Therapy Association: Special Education & Music Therapy (PDF)

American Music Therapy Association: Autism & Music Therapy (PDF)

American Music Therapy Association: Williams Syndrome & Music and Sound (PDF)


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