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Music Motivates a Child with Special Needs to Communicate

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To find a Music Therapist in your area, go to

To learn more about the Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS) go to

This Music Therapy video with a child with Angelman syndrome illustrates the following:

  • Using pictures of favorite songs and instruments can motivate a child with special needs to communicate
  • PECS is a progressive system and can be very effective when done right
  • Using musical instruments such as the cabassa can motivate a child to develop gross motor skills such as crossing mid-line
  • Using dramatic pauses during musical activities is a great way to prompt a child to respond

To read a transcription of this video post, please click here.

Ryan Judd is a board certified music therapist. He has a master's degree in Music Therapy and a bachelor's degree in Psychology, with an emphasis on Child Development. He has been working as a music therapist with children with special needs for more than 16 years. In addition to working one on one with clients, Ryan also leads groups focused on the development of social skills.  His services are available in Southern New Hampshire, Northern Massachussets and Southern Maine.  He lives in the Seacoast region with his wife who is a 1st grade teacher.


  • Petra Jerling Thursday, 03 October 2013

    I am so inspired. I'm a music therapist in training and also working with a girl with Angelmans, 22 years of age, and I learnt today to hold on to the instrument while giving her a chance to play instead of just passing it to her and then it goes right to her mouth... Thank you for great ideas and inspirting work!

  • Ryan Tuesday, 08 October 2013

    Hey Petra, thanks so much for your comment! I am so glad that you found this post useful. Keep rockin!

  • Sydney Giovinazzo Thursday, 17 October 2013

    This is a fantastic representation of how music can motivate a student. I loved how you brought in the aspect of developing gross motor movements, as I have never seen this done before. In most cases, I have seen music as a way to spark interest or to express oneself; but never as a form of PT. I am currently studying to be an elementary school teacher with a minor in learning disabilities and music, and am very curious to explore more and see if this is something that I could implement in the classroom some day. Do you have any advice to teachers on how they could implement some of your strategies in the classroom? Or as an aside, have you ever seen music incorporated into the classroom as a way to motivate students and promote learning?

  • Ryan Friday, 18 October 2013

    Hi Sydney, thanks so much for your comment. I have tons of idea for implementing strategies in the classroom! Many of them I have included in the 40 + articles and videos I have published. You can check out more videos right here on my video blog page(s) and please go to my about page to read some of the articles I have written. I also have a newsletre where I give even more great ideas, tips and resources. In general using music for transitions, social skill development, sustained attention, calming strategies and retention of academic information is a great place to start. If you haven't checked out my DVD and Music Kit yet, please do at I just got a killer testimonial from a special ed teacher is who is using my kit. His name is Darren and that testimonial is up on my store page. If you have any questions, just let me know. Thanks again for the great comment!

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Guest Tuesday, 09 August 2022
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