Welcome to Julie Billiart Schools, a family of K-8 coeducational, independent day schools for children with learning differences.


Friday, March 26, 2021

Learn how music therapy gives Julie Billiart Schools’ students an opportunity for expression, reflection, and joy.

Not every child loves sharing, but most children love music. Not every child has an innate rhythm or knowledge of instruments, but many love clapping and singing along to a song. Music therapy - in addition to being a fun outlet for people of all ages - takes into account a deep understanding of what motivates children to try new things, taps into their vulnerability, and allows them to practice new skills.

Music therapy is the clinical and evidence-based use of music interventions to accomplish individualized goals for kids with learning differences. Music therapy, which is separate from music classes, is available to students at all JB campuses as part of JB tuition. Kate Sonnenberg, who shares her time between JB campuses, engages kids in intentional and developmentally appropriate musical activities to help them access and process emotions, practice fine motor skills, and develop confidence and joy.

Sonnenberg expertly incorporates this understanding into music classes, group therapy sessions, and one-on-one therapy sessions at JB Lyndhurst and JB Akron. She builds lessons to meet each child exactly where they are in terms of skills and attitude.

“Sometimes I’m prepared with a lesson plan or activity and I go into the classroom and realize it’s not going to work that day,” said Sonnenberg. “And that’s ok. At JB, we are flexible. My goal is always to give students an opportunity to process whatever they’re going through and learn how to be kind to themselves and each other.”

Mrs. Sarah Risher, who is the mother of a third grader at Julie Billiart School Lyndhurst, has seen wonderful social and emotional growth in her child due to music therapy at JB.

“The music therapy program at Julie Billiart Schools is so important because it gives kids a chance to move around throughout the day,” said Risher. “You can’t just go into a classroom and turn on music. Mrs. Sonnenberg really understands what each individual child needs and does an amazing job at creating plans that benefit the whole class.”

In any given grade or grade band, children can range from being extremely talented at a musical instrument to not being able to hold a tune. Sonnenberg must take this range into account and craft lessons and therapeutic activities that allow every child to shine.

“Music isn’t just about how to sing or play a xylophone. I don’t really care if they’re great at singing. I care that they’re coming to class and that they’re being their best self. We’re able to see everyone's strengths and lift those up, while acknowledging we’re all different. That’s how every teacher and therapist at JB is, which is what makes our schools so special.”

To make music therapy most effective, Sonnenberg collaborates with JB’s Intervention Specialists to understand and support what’s going on in the classroom. JB therapists also communicate directly with families to reinforce goals and activities in the home. As a team, therapists and intervention specialists work to ensure all kids are getting the most from their school and home environment.

“Our teachers understand that that music isn’t just a break in the school day,” said Sonnenberg. “If one of their students needs extra support, they identify that and ask me for help. They follow up on how therapy is going. They understand that this is a therapeutic service and want to be a part of the solution for their students.”

Risher has seen this collaboration first hand and has watched her child grow in confidence, skill, and desire to learn.

“Because of how JB teaches music, my son’s desire to learn new things in general has increased. Instead of giving up, the lesson is framed as teaching their brains to learn something new” said Risher. “It’s been a huge confidence booster for our child.”

" target="_blank">Learn more about music therapy at Julie Billiart Schools

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