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How music therapy is helping Philly kids with multiple disorders connect with others

Avi Wolfman-Arent (WHYY/NewsWorks)

This article was originally published in The Notebook. In August 2020, The Notebook became Chalkbeat Philadelphia.

Deep in the bowels of North Philadelphia’s Edison High School — down a maze of hallways that twist and turn every which way–sits a small classroom of just four students.

Twice a week, on Tuesdays and Thursdays, this unassuming, dimly lit room transforms into an oasis of music and movement.

"It’s incredible," said Jeff Gross, a special education teacher at Edison. "I think awesome’s an overused word. But it really is awesome."

This transformation comes courtesy of three Temple students from the school’s music therapy program who spend an hour strumming and singing pop tunes. Their audience? A quartet of students who require what the School District of Philadelphia calls "multiple disabilities support" — meaning they have an IQ below 60 and a physical disability.

Across the city’s public school system only about 350 students are classified "multiple disability." It is a rare label, reserved for those with some of the highest hurdles to learning. Among the students in Gross’s class, many struggle to speak or even move.

In rooms like these, progress isn’t measured in test scores or graduation rates, but instead in the subtlest sparks of communication: a glance, a nod, an uttered syllable.

"We’re talking about inches, not yards here," said Gross.

Read the rest of this story at NewsWorks

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