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NYSED Clarifies Music Therapy as a Related Service

September 25, 2013 09:42 AM

NYSED Letter of Clarification for Music Therapy as a Related Service

Important News for New York Music Therapists!

Thanks to advocacy by AMTA member Elizabeth Schwartz, New York music therapists now have an official "clarification letter" from the New York State Education Department regarding the recognition of music therapy as a related service under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), the federal special education law.

This letter will be instrumental in supporting the provision of quality music therapy services in school districts throughout the state for any child found to be in need of music therapy.

Download the letter


The original purpose of IDEA was to establish a statutory right of all children to a free, appropriate public education specifying special education and related services as the vehicles to provide support for the inclusion of students with disabilities in regular education classrooms. Related services are defined in the bill under Part B as those services deemed necessary to help the child benefit from special education. Appropriate related services are to be specified in the Individualized Education Program (IEP). Published regulations provide that the law’s list of related services is not exhaustive and may include other developmental, corrective, or supportive services if they are required to assist a child with a disability to benefit from his/her special education. A school district is required to supply those services that will enable a child to receive a free and appropriate special education (FAPE).

Even though qualified music therapists have been providing music therapy as a related service to literally thousands of children with disabilities in every state of the nation over the course of the thirty-seven plus years since the passage of Public Law 94-142, the New York State Education Department had never provided specific clarification regarding the use of music therapy in special education.

Earlier this year, a Long Island pre-school program discontinued music therapy services, indicating the cuts were in part due to the fact that music therapy was not a state-approved related service. In an effort to address this problem, Elizabeth Schwartz prepared support materials about the profession, including a reference to information AMTA had obtained from the U.S. Department of Education ( and presented these documents to state officials. Although Elizabeth had previously received an email indicating that New York recognized music therapy as a related service, she requested written clarification of this recognition from the Department to assist in educating local district administrators and program staff.

On August 8, 2013, the Office of P-12 Education: Office of Special Education, Coordinator of Special Education Policy and Professional Development provided the attached letter in response to Elizabeth’s request. This document provides guidance representing the interpretation of the New York State Education Department and clarifies the recognition of music therapy as a related service under IDEA. It is  recommended that all New York music therapists maintain a copy of this important document within their professional files to utilize in educating administrators and consumers about the state’s recognition of music therapy within special education. Further, music therapists outside of New York are encouraged to use this letter as a template for advocacy efforts in their own states.

Elizabeth will be facilitating a round-table discussion regarding this process at the April 2014 MAR conference in Buffalo, NY.



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