Date of Award

Spring 5-19-2018

Document Type


Degree Name

MA - Master of Arts


Expressive Therapies


Denise Malis


Music therapy has long been used within school settings, particularly within special needs populations. Until the late 1970s students with special needs were usually institutionalized with the belief that they were incapable of continued learning. Since then, music therapy has become a useful clinical medium to assess and aid in treating speech deficits, various cognitive impairments, and physical rehabilitation. This capstone thesis centered on how individuals with significant cognitive and physical impairment interact, communicate, and participate in everyday situations, specifically within a music therapy group setting. Overall, the observations show the usefulness of assessment as a music therapy tool as well as the importance to step back and observe each person’s individual communication clues and style. It reflects on how we, as music therapists, go beyond the assessment checklist, observe and deepen our practice and consider the impact that we can have on severe/profound individuals with physical disabilities. It is proposed that a way we bridge that gap would be to connect with eye movements, head nods, and body language cues in much the same way one would track rhythmic engagement in assessments. This would allow the practice of the music therapist to grow in their understanding and awareness of this population.

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.




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