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Special School District of St. Louis County

Music Education and Therapy
Help Students Learn and Grow

Music in schools helps students learn, leads to better brain development, increases human connections and can even relieve stress.

“Through music, students practice social skills, self-expression and risk taking,” said Skyler Brussee, music teacher at SSD’s Litzsinger School. “We have such a variety of learners, so it is my job to present the lessons in as many ways as it takes to adapt to their strengths and needs.”

“We have several students who have spoken words or phrases for the first time in music class,” Brussee added.“It’s unbelievable what they can accomplish with the motivation of musical instruments and activities.”

Not only can music education allow children to develop their musical skills, it can also give them the opportunity to work on their math skills, reading and writing skills, science skills, and history knowledge. 

“World music is one of our students’ favorite units because they not only get to learn about the music of these countries, but I also let them taste the food and create a unique craft with each country we study,” said Brussee.

Music therapy is another resource that can help students meet their individualized education program (IEP) goals. The IEP team determines if music therapy will benefit the student by doing assessments and gathering data.

Music therapist Meredith Saeger recently wrote and recorded a song about a student and her phone number. She gave a copy to the student’s teacher and parent.

“She listened to the song at home, and after about a week she had her phone number memorized,” said Saeger. “Her mom and teacher were really happy to see her quick progress on that goal with the support of music therapy.”

Saeger has worked for SSD for 18 years and travels to 11 buildings across three partner districts and one SSD school to help around 30 students meet their IEP goals. In addition, she does music therapy assessments.

“If a student isn’t making adequate progress and we think that music therapy would be a good fit, then I use the Special Education Music Therapy Assessment Process (SEMTAP) to test the student,” said Janece Albers, SSD music therapist for SSD’s Ackerman School, and Ferguson-Florissant and Riverview Gardens school districts.

“We then take what we observed and create a music therapy session,” said Albers. “Next, we compare the data. It is generally very clear whether or not music therapy will help a student.”

Music therapists design individualized music therapy strategies that relate directly to a student’s IEP goals.

Saeger said that music therapy is a great tool for certain students who enjoy music due to the full sensory experience. She gets great satisfaction when her students engage with the process.

“It is a joy to see my students responding to music in positive ways and making progress on their IEP goals,” said Saeger. “I love that I can be creative every day and help showcase a student’s potential through their responses in the music therapy setting.”

Brussee said she loves seeing active learning take place and the smiles on the students’ faces.

“When I can start a drum circle and then stand up and exit the circle to observe as the students take risks with independent improvisation, it brings me such joy,” said Brussee. “I want to set these students up with skills that they can easily transfer and generalize into their daily lives. I find myself telling people, ‘I truly have the best job’ when I see the pride and accomplishment on my students’ faces.”

Published March 2019

music teacher with guitar working with student at their desk

music teacher with student using assistive technology device

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12110 Clayton Rd, Town & Country, MO 63131  /  314.989.8100  /  314.989.8552 – 711 (Missouri Relay)

Special School District of St. Louis County (SSD) is a leader in providing special education services to students with disabilities and also provides a wide range of career and technical education programs.
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