Welcome to
Professional Child Development Associates

Programs and Services

Donate to PCDA

Adapted Music Lessons

Professional Child Development Associates (PCDA) offers Adapted Music Lessons for children of all ages and abilities. These lessons, provided by a board-certified music therapist, are structured in a manner that will enhance a child's natural ability and interest to learn an instrument, increase self-confidence and empowerment, appreciation and understanding of musical styles and learning musical skills and proficiency on an instrument.


Adapted Music LessonsMany children with special needs show interest in learning an instrument, but are not able to benefit from traditional music lessons. Our music therapists specialize in adapting instructional methods based on the child's individual strengths and learning styles in order to maximize success.

Entrance Criteria

A variety of instruments are taught, including:

  • Piano
  • Voice
  • Guitar
  • Percussion
  • Violin
  • and more!

We also take into consideration the child's interest in learning an instrument, ability to attend for marked periods of time, adaptations necessary for the success of lessons, willingness to practice, ability to learn new material, etc.

The First Lesson

Did You Know?

Young children with developed rhythm skills perform better academically in early school years. Findings of a recent study showed that there was a significant difference in the academic achievement levels of students classified according to rhythmic competency. Students who were achieving at academic expectation scored high on all rhythmic tasks, while many of those who scored lower on the rhythmic test achieved below academic expectation.

Source: "The Relationship between Rhythmic Competency and Academic Performance in First Grade Children," University of Central Florida, Debby Mitchell
At the startup of adapted lessons, the first lesson provides the Music Therapist with a lot of great information. During this lesson, the Music Therapist and parent will fill out a packet regarding the child's abilities and interests. After this packet is completed and questions are asked about specific learning styles, preferences and individual needs, the child will engage in the actual lesson involving the instrument. During this time, the music therapist will determine which instrument will be the most successful, as well as the structure and flow of subsequent lessons. The first lesson is used to help determine the child's readiness, and what adaptations will be added to make the lessons successful. Adaptations may include the following:
  • Color-coding for children who are not able to read traditional music notation
  • Use of schedules, scripts, and visual aids to structure the session and reduce frustration
  • Focus on the child's preferred songs and music genres
  • Use of musical exploration and improvisation to increase creativity
  • Use of sensory breaks and activities to incorporate whole body learning

Lesson Format and Musicianship

"My son Max started taking adapted piano lessons through Pasadena Child Development Associates in the summer of 2008. My goal for Max was to expose him to music and its creation. Since early childhood, he has shown a growing interest in a variety of music. I didn't know what to expect. Max is diagnosed with Autism and has delayed fine motor skills due to his pre-maturity. These are significant challenges he must manage in order to read music and translate it to the piano. The outcome has greatly exceeded my expectations. He is currently learning to read music from the grand staff and playing with both hands simultaneously. He enjoys learning about music and the piano. He is always excited about attending his lessons. I have also noticed an improvement in his handwriting skills which I believe can be attributed to his increased finger strength. This progress is due to the diligence that Max's therapist, has shown. Her enthusiasm, ability to adapt music theory to Max's learning style, and willingness to try new approaches is invaluable. Max would not have made as much, if any, progress in a typical piano lesson environment. As a parent, I am grateful for the exposure to music that PCDA's program has provided to my son."
- Grace Lecanu-Fayet

Lessons are structured to each individual child's needs and interests. If a child desires to learn an instrument other than piano, initially, the lessons may be split into half piano and half instrument of choice, since, by learning a general understanding of piano, students are able to learn basic musicianship such as tempo, dynamics, styles, theory, rhythm, notation, etc.


After the first lesson, the therapist will compile a one to two page summary, including the approach to lessons, adaptations that will be implemented, musical abilities and a recommendation for the duration of lessons, each lesson is  either a half hour of a full hour. This allows time for the therapist, student and parent to debrief on the week's occurrences, challenges while practicing, and any major changes or updates at the beginning of the lesson. This also allows for time at the end of the lesson for therapist to explain homework or assignment for the week and for parents to ask questions regarding lesson or homework. Periodically, based on completion of a level, book, or every 4-6 months, therapist will update parents on status of lessons through a one page summary, highlighting areas of achievements as well as areas of need. During the 4-6 month time period, goals will be established to measure the child's success and achievements through lessons. 

A few examples of some goals that may be addressed during lessons may include:

  • Attending to the instrument for a marked period of time
  • Learning new material (songs, theory, technique, etc.)
  • Time spent outside of the lesson practicing skills
  • Working through emotional states
  • Ability to stay calm and focused while attending to instrument

Students also have a chance to showcase their talents at our annual music recital.

Email or call our Music Therapy Department for more information.
Melissas@pasadenachilddevelopment.org or (626) 793-7350 x261

View exciting research supporting the value of music education and instrument instruction.

Download our Music Lessons flyer:
Adapted-Music-Lessons_Flyer-03-13 (PDF)

Adapted lessons are not vendored through Regional Centers.

small handLearn about Sponsorship Opportunities: SponsorshipLetter (Word Doc), SponsorshipLetter (PDF)