Written by MTSSA author, Jeffrey Wolfe, MT-BC
ITA is extremely thrilled to announce the publication of the Music Therapy Social Skills Assessment Manual (MTSSA), a comprehensive handbook for assessing and documenting social skill development in group music therapy for school-aged children with neurodevelopmental disorders. This publication is available for print through Jessica Kingsley Publishers®, a highly recognized London based publisher. After nearly six years of implementing this assessment in classrooms and making many revisions along the way, the music therapists at ITA are excited and ready to share this tool with other music therapists and professionals.
So, why social skills? Roughly eight years ago, ITA sought to innovate its school-based music therapy services. At the time, the one skill-set that was not being directly addressed on a regular basis in classrooms was social skills. The Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act (IDEA 2004) mandates supports and services for children with a disability to access age-appropriate curriculum alongside their peers without disabilities in the least restrictive environment possible. Therefore, social competence is necessary to help these individuals be successful amongst their peers. At this time there was a push in the state of Illinois for Social-Emotional Learning Standards to be taught within the school systems. Many therapists observed students in self-contained special education classrooms did not have opportunities for learning the required social skills. Since gross/fine motor, speech and language, academic, and cognitive, and behavioral skills were being primarily addressed by other therapies, the music therapy team focused our approach on supporting social skill development in classrooms and the generalization of social behavior outside the music therapy session.
The music therapy assessment manual was developed to target six different levels of social development. ITA therapists developed methods for data collection during assessment and when tracking progress toward treatment goals. The therapists wanted to inform teachers and parents on how music therapy goals were developed, how progress was being measured and what approaches in music therapy seemed to work best with each client. The MTSSA also includes templates for letters addressed to teachers and parents and summaries of progress.
The MTSSA was created to be as user friendly as possible. The manual provides a step-by-step format walking the treating music therapist through the process of implementing each assessment session. Since music is often a huge motivator, a client will display behavior that may not be seen in other environments. The MTSSA is based on a strength-based approach where the highest level of independence is targeted and the social skill interactions are measured between peers. The manual provides a CD-ROM of assessment protocol songs (music chord sheets), professionally recorded song tracks, and data recording sheets with embedded formulas. In addition to the step-by-step process, there are examples of protocol implementation, including documentation of data, and suggested adaptations based what needs may be presented in a classroom receiving services.
A thorough literature review is included within the manual providing a comprehensive exploration of music therapy and social skill development, existing research on social development, social skill assessments, and a detailed review of prompting. The MTSSA includes three scales based on this literature: The Social Interaction Scale, The Affect Scale, and The Engagement scale, as well as a hierarchy of prompting from least intrusive to most intrusive. Scales may be of great value to any professional working with school-aged children with neurodevelopmental disorders.
The staff at ITA have been working hard to get the word out this resource. Since the development of the MTSSA, ITA has been presenting on a regional and national level to educate professionals about the benefits of the manual. We are very excited to continue spreading the word about this publication available for purchase on the Jessica Kingsley Publishers website.