For Jennifer Mosman, music is truly the universal language.
A music therapist for Ector County Independent School District for the past 29 years, Mosman uses melodies to help special needs students express themselves.
Music therapy is used to address physical emotional, cognitive and social needs of people, information from the American Music Therapy Association shows.
Mosman works with 133 children, age 3 to 22. Her method depends on what’s in their individualized education program, or IEP. With the district’s growth, she now travels to 23 campuses, whereas two years ago it was 15.
“I have to go wherever the kids are. It’s not per school, it’s per IEP (Individualized Education Plan),” Mosman said.
If a student moves to another campus, Mosman said she follows that child.
Mosman, who is from Columbia, Pa., earned a bachelor’s degree in music therapy from Shenandoah University in Winchester, Va. In Pennsylvania, she couldn’t work in the school system without a music education degree, but she can in Odessa.
The music therapist who had her position before Mosman went to the same college she did. That’s how she ended up in Odessa. “That’s what I always wanted to do was work in the school system, but I didn’t want to do music ed. I just wanted to do music therapy,” she said.
The students are what keep her coming back.
“I never know what they’re going to do or what they’re going to say,” Mosman said.
Her rewards are seeing the students participate, do something new or if they come in to class and are excited to see her when she walks in the door.
She has seen changes in the students she works with.
Last year, there was a boy with autism who wasn’t aware of anyone else in class and didn’t know there was anyone else around.
“I talked with the teacher and I came in one-on-one and worked with him, so now I have him at another campus and he can tell me ‘ball,’ he can look at me and he can count to 10. He now knows there are other people in the classroom, so those are the neat things — to see the spark for the kids,” Mosman said.
Music is useful in working with special needs children because it’s its own language.
“I work with a kid that’s bilingual and I don’t speak Spanish, but we’re able to still work on his goals and work on things, even though there’s a language barrier, using the music,” Mosman said.
Different students have different objectives and she said she can use songs to teach addition or reading comprehension, for example.
On a recent Wednesday at Lamar Early Education Center, Mosman was working with students in Nicole Rodriguez’s class having them select items from a large orange bag to determine their activities. Rodriguez said Mosman’s audience included 4- and 5-year-olds ranging in disability from autism, to intellectual to Down syndrome.
Rodriguez said music therapy has been quite effective for her youngsters, especially those who love music or who aren’t talking yet.
“… They seem to learn language easier with music with familiar songs. I have had a couple students that love music, so if you can incorporate that into learning new skills they’re way more engaged,” Rodriguez said.
Tunes also calm the students down, or they can hype them up, depending on the tempo.
“Music plays a role in their self regulation and all that,” Rodriguez said.