Early Childhood Education Journal

, Volume 35, Issue 6, pp 585–591 | Cite as

Using Typical Infant Development to Inform Music Therapy with Children with Disabilities

  • Barbara L. Wheeler
  • Sylvia Stultz


This article illustrates some ways in which observations of typically-developing infants can inform music therapy and other work with children with disabilities. The research project that is described examines typical infant development with special attention to musical relatedness and communication. Videotapes of sessions centering on musical play with typically-developing infants and of music therapy sessions of children with multiple severe disabilities are examined in light of developmental issues, conceptual frameworks, and relationships between typical development and developmental issues of children with disabilities. Greenspan’s model of psychosocial development is used as a basis for analyzing observations.


Development Music Musical development Developmental stages Children with disabilities Greenspan Music therapy 


  1. Bates, E., Camaioni, L., & Volterra, V. (1975). The acquisition of performatives prior to speech. Merrill Palmer Quarterly, 21, 205–226.Google Scholar
  2. Coupe, J., & Joliffe, J. (1988). An early communication curriculum: Implications for practice. In J. Coupe & J. Goldbart (Eds.), Communication before speech (pp. 92–120). London: Croom Helm.Google Scholar
  3. DeGangi, G. (2000) Pediatric disorders of regulation in affect and behavior: A therapist’s guide to assessment and treatment. San Diego: Academic Press, Inc.Google Scholar
  4. Greenspan, S. (1992). Infancy and early childhood: The practice of clinical assessment and intervention with emotional and developmental challenges. Madison, WI: International Universities Press, Inc.Google Scholar
  5. Greenspan, S. I., & Wieder, S. (1998). The child with special needs. Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley.Google Scholar
  6. Greenspan, S. I., & Wieder, S. (2000). The infancy and early childhood training course. Material presented in training course (April). Arlington, VA.Google Scholar
  7. Prizant, B. M., & Meyer, E. C. (1993). Socioemotional aspects of language and social-communication disorders in young children and their families. American Journal of Speech-Language Pathology, 2(3), 56–71.Google Scholar
  8. Robarts, J. Z. (1996). Music therapy for children with autism. In C. Trevarthen, K. Aitken, D. Papoudi & J. Robarts (Eds.), Children with autism: Diagnosis and interventions to meet their needs (2nd ed., pp. 172–202). London: Jessica Kingsley.Google Scholar
  9. Robarts, J. Z. (1999). Clinical and theoretical perspective on poietic processes in music therapy, with reference to Nordoff and Robbins’ case study of Edward. Nordic Journal of Music Therapy, 8(2), 192–199.Google Scholar
  10. Robbins, C., & Robbins, C. (1991). Self-communications in Creative Music Therapy. In K. E. Bruscia (Ed.), Case studies in music therapy (pp. 55–72). Gilsum, Spain: Barcelona Publishers.Google Scholar
  11. Schore, A. (1994). Affect regulation and the origin of the self: The neurobiology of emotional development. Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.Google Scholar
  12. Sroufe, L. A. (1996). Emotional development: The organization of emotional life in the early years. Cambridge, MA: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  13. Stern, D. N. (1985). The interpersonal world of the infant. New York: Basic Books.Google Scholar
  14. Trevarthen, C., & Malloch, S. N. (2000). The dance of wellbeing: Defining the musical therapeutic effect. Nordic Journal of Music Therapy, 9(2), 3–17.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Wheeler, B. L., & Stultz, S. (2001). The development of communication: Developmental levels of children with and without disabilities. European Music Therapy Congress, Naples, Italy. Available on Info-CD Rom IV, University of Witten-Herdecke (2002) and at
  16. Wheeler, B. L., & Stultz, S. (2002). Musical relatedness in infancy as a resource in understanding children with disabilities. 10th World Congress of Music Therapy. Oxford, UK. Available on Info-CD ROM V, University of Witten-Herdecke (2004) and at
  17. Zero to Three (1994). Diagnostic classification of mental health and developmental disorders of infancy and early childhood. Arlington, VA: National Center for Clinical Infant Programs.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of MusicUniversity of LouisvilleLouisvilleUSA
  2. 2.WashingtonUSA

Personalised recommendations