Shaping Employment Skills

Music therapists can help teach and shape core skills necessary for successful employment as young adults with special needs enter the job market. The specific target skills must, of course, be individualized to the needs of each young adult, but here are a few basic categories.
(1) FOCUS. Most jobs require an employee to focus on their assigned job and on the directions given by a boss or supervisor. Music therapy sessions can be structured to give individuals opportunities to increase their ability to focus on verbal directions and on the task at hand.
(2) FOLLOW. Compliance is another critical skill in employment situations. An individual with special needs will be much more productive in any job if she can and will follow directions with minimal assistance. If an individual involved in music therapy has deficits in processing verbal instructions, she can be taught to use a system such as a visual schedule or other tool that communicates the information necessary for completing a task or sequence. If an individual is rather strong-willed or uncooperative, music therapists can develop long-term strategies that gradually shape a more cooperative outlook and a willingness to follow directions and job procedures.
(3) FINISH. Even when jobs are broken down into a series of smaller tasks, some individuals with special needs are unable to complete those tasks without prompting. A person’s employment will be much more successful if he is less prompt-dependent. Music therapists can develop systematic strategies to help individuals learn to finish tasks with less and less reminders.