Neptune Beach Elementary launches music therapy pilot program for kids with special needs

Sometimes children with special needs just need special tools.

A pilot program at Neptune Beach Elementary School is helping kids with special needs connect through music.

PHOTOS: Neptune Beach Elementary launches music therapy pilot program for kids with special needs

Parents, teachers and school administrators are trying to raise money to make the 10-week music therapy pilot program go year-round.

“Dante, my son, is 7-years-old and he was born with Down Syndrome and without an esophagus. He’s nonverbal and he has limited hearing and sight. He doesn’t speak, but he loves music,” said Karen Demuth.

Demuth said she’s already seen her son have breakthroughs, just six weeks into the pilot program.

Board certified music therapist Steven Amburn said it goes beyond joy; it’s about teaching skills the kids can use outside the classroom.

Amburn uses maracas to teach the children impulse control.

“I give them a shaker and I say, ‘We’re not going to shake it yet,’” said Amburn. “Impulse control: You could see a crosswalk and want to walk across the street, but you have to wait.”

Amburn said he’s gathering data on each child during the pilot program to measure their growth.

To get a year-round music therapy program, Neptune Beach Elementary needs to raise money -- about $35,000 for the first year alone.

“These children are going to have a more joyful life and they’re going to function at a higher level if we can give them the correct tools while they are in school,” said Demuth.

The school is holding a fundraiser on campus called “CONNECTING Thru MUSIC: May the 4th Be with You” on May 4 from 5:30-8 p.m.

The fundraiser will feature local bands, food, a silent auction, raffle, activities for kids and a Star Wars costume contest.

Tickets are $5 per person or $15 per family.

The school is looking for event sponsors, auction donations, and donations of gently-used musical instruments.

If you'd like to learn about other ways to support the music therapy program, click here.

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