Music for Special Education Goal Areas


Tuned in to Learning- Music for Special Education Goals

Tuned in to Learning® Goal Areas

The inspiration behind each one of our songs comes directly from a student we have worked with.  Through our San Diego-based agency Coast Music Therapy, our team of Board Certified Music Therapists has provided music therapy as a related service to over 800 students with autism and other special needs through the Individual Education Program (IEP). Because we serve students in preschool through high school we have used music for special education IEP goals in every domain ranging from communication to daily living skills.  Our songwriting process involves taking a common IEP goal and translating this goal into a music-based intervention that utilizes techniques from the fields of Neurologic Music Therapy and Applied Behavior Analysis.

Goal Writing


Can Tuned in to Learning® Be Written into IEP Goals?

Because a student’s Individualized Education Program (IEP) goals should be able to be implemented by a variety of IEP team members, it is not typically recommended to include the names of specific curriculum within an IEP goal.  However, a more broad reference such as “music”, “songs”, or “melody” could be utilized within an IEP goal as a type of ‘condition’ or ‘prompt’.  This will allow staff to more easily vary the types of music strategies they are utilizing to support the student’s educational development without relying strictly on a specific program or curriculum. Often times, music may be the ‘condition’ or ‘prompt’ within a short-term IEP objective, with the ultimate annual goal being fading of these musical cues and generalization to the non-music setting. As described by the National Dissemination Center for Children with Disabilities“Conditions specify the circumstances that prompt the child’s performance of an observable behavior. Conditions are dependent on the behavior being measured and involve the application of skills or knowledge.” Here are some examples of how music may be written as a condition of a goal:
  • Given rhythmic cuing
  • Given sung presentation
  • Provided with a rhythmically chanted model
  • When a preferred musical instrument is placed near the student’s left hand
  • Given calming music played in the background

Sample Goal

Music for Special Education- IEP Goal- Handwashing | Tuned in to Learning

Example of Music for Special Education IEP Goal

The sample educational goal below illustrates a case in which a student has shown potential improving hand washing through the use of the Tuned in to Learning® Song “Germs on My Fingers”. By including a broad reference to music used as a cue, the IEP team can assure that anyone addressing this goal is aware that music is a successful approach for this particular skills.  Generalization is also targeted within the goal by fading of musical cues. Four-Month Goal  Given music mnemonic strategies (sung presentation of the handwashing steps), Ben will sing or verbally repeat and physically complete each step “put water on” “put soap on” “rub hands” “dry hands” with minimal adult assistance with 80% accuracy in four of five trials. Eight-Month Goal  Given music mnemonic strategies (melodic presentation of the handwashing steps without words), Ben will sing or verbalize from memory, and physically complete each step “put water on” “put soap on” “rub hands” “dry hands” with minimal adult assistance with 80% accuracy in four of five trials. Twelve-Month Goal  Without music cues, Ben will verbalize from memory, and physically complete each step “put water on” “put soap on” “rub hands” “dry hands” independently with 80% accuracy in four of five trials. Within this sample goal, the student first hears the original version of the Germs on My Fingers song in which each step is sung.  At the eight-month mark, the “Adapt-a-Song” version of the Germs on My Fingers song is used which contains the song melody but leaves out each of the four steps, allowing the student to fill them in independently upon hearing the melody.  Lastly, at the one-year mark, the song is no longer used and the student is expected to complete the task without music.

Common Skills Supported

Music for Special Education- Academic and Cognitive Goals | Tuned in to Learning
Tuned in to Learning® uses music for special education in these common IEP goal areas:

Academic and Cognitive

  • Calendar concepts
  • Letter identification and letter sounds
  • Math facts
  • Money concepts
  • Number identification and counting
  • Phonics and sight words
  • Pre-academic concepts (colors, shapes, size)
  • Time telling

Music for Special Education- Behavior and Emotional Goals | Tuned in to Learning

Behavior and Emotional Well-Being

  • Attention and focus
Anger management
  • Classroom rules
  • Self-expression
  • Self-regulation
 and relaxation
  • Understanding of emotions

Music for Special Education- Communication and Social Skills Goals | Tuned in to Learning

Communication and Social Skills

Answering wh- questions (who, what, when, where, why)
  • Articulation, pace, and volume of speech
  • Conversation skills
  • Increasing phrase length
  • Peer interaction
  • Play skills
  • Requesting, labeling, and describing
  • Speech initiation
  • Vocabulary development

Music for Special Education- Daily Living and Safety Goals | Tuned in to Learning

Daily Living and Safety

Hand washing and toothbrushing
  • Manners
  • Phone number and address memorization
  • Safety and traffic sign identification
  • Toileting steps

Music for Special Education- Motor Skills Goals | Tuned in to Learning

Motor Development

Bilateral body movement
  • Fine motor skills
  • Directional and spatial concepts  (left, right)
  • Motor planning and sequencing
  • Stretching and range of motion