Ep. 108: How is music boosting skills and learning in students in special education? With Natalie Hawkins, MT-BC

Music can boost learning in special ed settings

Photo by Cliff Booth from Pexels

Music therapy and technology collide to increase therapeutic results, increase student engagement, and streamline data reporting in the special education setting! An innovative, completely accessible program incorporates music with motion capture software to address IEP (Individualized Education Program) objectives, including academic, social-emotional, and physical skills.

Natalie Hawkins
Natalie Hawkins


My guest today is Natalie Hawkins, a board-certified music therapist who specializes in special education and works as both a consultant and provider. Natalie has partnered with the innovative motion capture software company, Point Motion, to create Notes by Natalie, a program specially designed for special education. The program incorporates music to address IEP (Individualized Education Program) objectives, including academic, social-emotional, and physical skills. Natalie is also a piano teacher (yay)!


We discuss:

  • How Natalie chose to go into music therapy, and what led her to specialize in the special education field.
  • The spectrum of goals that students in special education are working on and that Natalie’s program (Notes by Natalie) addresses is wide: academic skills (like math); physical therapeutic goals (like mobility and speech); social-emotional skills (like communication, decreasing aggression); cognitive function/psychology.
  • How Notes by Natalie works, and how it uses music to address this wide range of skill sets.
    • camera tracks body motion through music based experiences/games
    • therapist or educator accesses data or their motor and cognitive functions
    • gives the right tools to care providers to access performance over time, while making the experience fun.
    • Completely accessible, Can be used in person OR remotely; no need to have a therapist present; can be done at home and reports sent in; only equipment needed is a laptop/tablet, which many school districts provide. The built-in camera/microphone are used.
  • The program is most often done individually (with reports for that student); but can also be done in a group.
  • A theoretical example of a common skill goal in a special ed IEP, and how the skill is developed using the program.
  • What is it about music that makes it so effective in these special ed settings? Music creates a safe place; Notes by Natalie gamifies skill development; music is intuitive and applicable across cultures, age groups, and physical & mental abilities.
  • Notes by Natalie significantly streamlines the data and reporting process. Partners are saying, “We need a better way to report our data and handle it more efficiently. Your program brings this process into the 21st century.” Natalie explains how reporting and data is typically handled, and how her program streamlines the process.
  • Notes by Natalie is cloud-based and HIPPA-compliant.
  • Feedback/results from partners in terms of lowered costs (reduced administrative burden) and improved IEP outcomes. The program taps into students’ sense of self-efficacy; boosts moral in teachers/therapists who can use their time for more targeted service provision vs. paperwork.
  • Notes by Natalie is highly customizable while also user-friendly and easy to use right out of the box.

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In-Episode Promo

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Natalie shares a recording of a song she wrote called, “We Are All Different.” She says, “This song encompasses the essence of Notes by Natalie, which focuses on social emotional learning and values empathy, diversity, equity, and accessibility for all. Our differences are what make the world so beautiful and this song provides that message to children.”

Closing Words

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