Kaelan Richards: 202-973-7175, krichards@ucp.org


8th annual Case for Inclusion report ranks, compares states on Medicaid outcomes

Washington, D.C. (April 17, 2014) – United Cerebral Palsy (UCP) released the 2014 Case for Inclusion today, an annual report that tracks the progress of community living standards for Americans living with intellectual and developmental disabilities (ID/DD).  

The Case for Inclusion is a valuable tool for understanding how Americans with intellectual and developmental disabilities (ID/DD) are faring across the country. The report examines data and outcomes for all 50 states and the District of Columbia (DC), ranking each on a set of key indicators, including how people with disabilities live and participate in their communities, if they are satisfied with their lives, and how easily the services and supports they need are accessed. By taking these factors into account, UCP is able to develop a comprehensive analysis of each state’s progress or failures in providing critical services to individuals living with disabilities.

Since 2006, these rankings have helped enable families, advocates, the media and policymakers to fully understand each state’s progress or lack of improvement, learn about how the highest-ranking states are achieving their success, and ultimately, to promote inclusion and enhance the quality of life for all Americans. This year’s Case for Inclusion report includes several major enhancements to the rankings system, made as a direct result of the feedback received from policymakers and advocates, including more person-centered metrics. These changes will help to better understand and highlight how individuals and their families are faring as active parts of their communities. These changes lets us look at not just which states have closed institutions and are enabling people to live independently in their own home or apartment, but gets at what full opportunity and inclusion really mean.

“The Case for Inclusion report examines the supports and services that enable people with disabilities to lead a fulfilling, productive life—and make up the backbone of United Cerebral Palsy’s work. By providing insight into state’s progress in serving individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities as well as a national context, this report is a valuable tool for comparison and improvement,” said Stephen Bennett, President and CEO of United Cerebral Palsy. “We are proud to provide this resource to states, advocates and policymakers and hope that it will continue to be utilized to help advance the independence, productivity and full citizenship of people with disabilities.”

Significant Takeaways from the 2014 Ranking

Promoting Independence

All states still have room for improvement, but some states have consistently remained at the bottom since 2007, including Arkansas (#47), Illinois (#46), Mississippi (#51) and Texas (#50).

38 states now meet the 80/80 Community standard, which means that at least 80 percent of all individuals with ID/DD are served in the community and 80 percent of all resources spent on those with ID/DD are for community support. Those that do NOT meet the 80/80 standard are Arkansas, Illinois, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Nebraska, New Jersey, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Texas, Utah and Virginia, although Nebraska, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Utah and Virginia are very close.

As of 2011, 14 states have no state institutions to seclude those with ID/DD, including Alabama, Alaska, Hawaii, Indiana (new this year), Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, West Virginia and Washington, D.C.  Another 11 states have only one institution each. Since 1960, 219 (10 more in the past year alone) of 354 state institutions have been closed, according to the University of Minnesota’s Research and Training Center on Community Living. Another 16 more are projected to close through 2015.

18 states now meet the 80 percent Home-like Setting standard, which means that at least 80 percent of all individuals with ID/DD are served in settings such as their own home, a family home, family foster care or small group settings like shared apartments with fewer than three residents. The U.S. average for this standard is 77 percent. Just eight states meet a top-performing 90 percent Home-like Setting Standard: Alaska, Arizona, California, Kentucky, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico and Vermont.

Six states report at least 10 percent of individuals using self-directed services, according to the National Core Indicators survey in 19 states.  These states include Connecticut, Georgia, Hawaii, Illinois, Kentucky, Michigan and Ohio. 

Tracking Health, Safety and Quality of Life

39 states participate in the National Core Indicators (NCI) model, a comprehensive quality-assurance program that includes standard measures to assess outcomes of services but only 19 states reported data outcomes in 2012. In January 2012, the Obama Administration made available grant funding so that even more states could participate and ensure their quality assurance efforts were benchmarked and comprehensive.  

Keeping Families Together

Only 15 states were supporting a large share of families through family support (at least 200 families per 100,000 of population). This is important, because those support services provide assistance to families that are caring for children with disabilities at home, which helps keep families together and people with disabilities living in a community setting. These family-focused state programs were in Alabama, Arizona, California, Delaware, Louisiana, Minnesota, Montana, New Hampshire, New Mexico, New York, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Vermont and Wisconsin.

Promoting Productivity

Just 10 states have at least one-third (33 percent) of individuals with ID/DD working in competitive employment. These states include Connecticut, Louisiana, Maryland, Nebraska, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Oregon, Vermont, Virginia and Washington State.  Washington, D.C. and Pennsylvania were very close.

13 states report successfully placing at least 60 percent of individuals in vocational rehabilitation in jobs. With six states reporting the average number of hours worked for those individuals placed being at least 25 hours and five states reporting at least half of those placed remaining in their job for at least one year.  Only Nebraska and South Dakota meet the standard on all three success measures.

Serving Those in Need

Waiting lists for residential and community services are high and show the unmet need. Almost 317,000 people are on a waiting list for Home and Community Based Services. This would require a daunting 46 percent increase in states’ HCBS programs! However, 22 states report no waiting list or a small waiting list (requiring less than 10 percent program growth). 

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About United Cerebral Palsy

United Cerebral Palsy (UCP) educates, advocates and provides support services through an affiliate network to ensure a life without limits for people with a spectrum of disabilities. Together with nearly 100 affiliates, UCP has a mission to advance the independence, productivity and full citizenship of people with disabilities by supporting more than 176,000 children and adults every day—one person at a time, one family at a time. UCP works to enact real change—to revolutionize care, raise standards of living and create opportunities—impacting the lives of millions living with disabilities. For more than 60 years, UCP has worked to ensure the inclusion of individuals with disabilities in every facet of society. Together, with parents and caregivers, UCP will continue to push for the social, legal and technological changes that increase accessibility and independence, allowing people with disabilities to dream their own dreams, for the next 60 years, and beyond. For more information, please visit www.ucp.org.





Kaelan Richards: 202-973-7175, krichards@ucp.org


Annual awards honor exceptional people, programs and partnerships across the UCP affiliate network

Washington, D.C. (April 14, 2014) – United Cerebral Palsy (UCP) is honored to announce the awardees for the 2014 Awards for Excellence, which recognize UCP affiliates, individuals and companies whose exceptional service, achievements and dedication succeed in enabling a life without limits for people with a range of disabilities and their families.

This year’s Awards for Excellence were presented at UCP’s 2014 Annual Conference, “Hitting the Right Note: Mission, Movement, and Music,” which took place in Nashville, Tennessee, and brought the UCP affiliate family together to discuss how to adapt to an ever-changing policy environment, identify new ways to talk about disability in a way that resonates with a variety of key audiences, and develop a roadmap for the organization’s future. Attendees participated in conversations about how the UCP network can explore new opportunities and strategies to continue and enhance our mission to ensure a life without limits for people with disabilities, and helped to develop a specific, strategic plan to grow and enhance the UCP network for the next generation and beyond.

More than 150 affiliates staff, volunteers, partners and allies participated in this year’s conference, including Board of Trustees member and UCP Celebrity Ambassador, actress Cheryl Hines. Known for her Emmy-nominated role on the HBO series Curb Your Enthusiasm, Hines has a long history of supporting UCP, and hosted this year’s Awards for Excellence presentation.

“The Awards for Excellence are a way for UCP to recognize the incredible work that our affiliates, friends and partners do to support our mission, and we are thrilled to honor such an extraordinary group this year,” said Stephen Bennett, President and CEO of United Cerebral Palsy. “Their dedication and efforts to make a difference every day in the lives of people with disabilities across the country are incredible and we are proud of each one of our awardees. Their work is so inspiring, and a great example of our mission in action. Congratulations to them all!”

UCP recognized the following awards recipients at the Opening Reception and the Awards for Excellence dinner and presentation at the 2014 Annual Conference.

The Kathleen O. Maul Leadership Award is presented to an exceptional executive director in memory of Kathy Maul, a remarkable executive director at UCP of Suffolk who died young and left a legacy of leadership ability and strong commitment to UCP. For his work over the past thirty years to ‘help families dream new dreams,’ it is with great pleasure that UCP presented this leadership award to Dr. Gary Edwards, CEO of UCP of Greater Birmingham.

When Dr. Edwards was named Executive Director of UCP of Greater Birmingham (UCPGB) in 1982, the staff totaled 25. Thanks to his dedication, UCPGB currently employs 160 people who serve several hundred children and adults – and their families – every day. During his tenure, Dr. Edwards expanded early intervention programming to make UCPGB Alabama’s largest service provider, launched a physical medicine and rehabilitation facility that serves eleven counties throughout the state, and developed UCP Enterprises to employ over 100 adults living with disabilities. For these, and countless other accomplishments, Dr. Edwards is highly deserving of this accolade.

The Chair Award is presented to a corporation deemed exemplary by the Chair of the UCP Board of Trustees that, through its support of UCP, has made a direct impact on the lives of the people the organization serves.

UCP presented this award to The Hershey Company, a valued champion of the organization’s mission since 2010. As a sponsor for UCP’s My Child Without Limits (MCWL) program, The Hershey Company supports health professionals and families and caregivers of young children, ages zero to five, with developmental delays or disabilities. With Hershey’s generosity, UCP provides medically reviewed information and resources, as well as an online support community, to people throughout the country and around the world. In 2012, The Hershey Company announced a new initiative to expand its hiring of individuals with intellectual and physical disabilities in its manufacturing facilities. The Manufacturing Apprenticeship Program embodies Hershey’s Corporate Social Responsibility philosophies and the company’s commitment to attract, engage and retain a more diverse and inclusive workforce. The Chair Award was presented to The Hershey Company in recognition of the corporation’s continued investment in the lives of people with disabilities.

The Employer of the Year Award recognizes a business or agency that has made an outstanding contribution to employing people with physical disabilities, or that has provided training programs leading to employment and creating a better working environment for people with disabilities. It is with great admiration that UCP recognized Meijer, Inc. of Grand Rapids, Michigan for doing just that.

UCP of Metro Detroit nominated this leading Supercenter because of the company’s steadfast commitment to diversity and dedication in helping people with disabilities reach their full potential through meaningful employment. In 2009, the organization made a commitment to recruit qualified individuals with disabilities into its manufacturing and distribution network, and partnered with local and state vocational rehabilitation organizations in Michigan, Indiana, Ohio, and Wisconsin to effectively source candidates with disabilities. Meijer sets a precedent for all workers to respect diversity and to be mindful of disabilities. The organization provides training to leadership members on diversity and inclusion. Further, they have a full-time employee dedicated to driving the disability employment initiative and coordinating vocational rehabilitation efforts. Meijer stands as an active voice in discussions around Disability Policy Reform for the State of Michigan in an effort to create more opportunities for persons with disabilities. For fostering an environment where all employees are treated equally and given the tools they need to succeed, UCP honored Meijer, Inc. as the 2014 Employer of the Year.

The Ritter Legacy Award recognizes an affiliate that has produced exemplary communications through a variety of media that increases public awareness about people with disabilities, the programs of the affiliate, and the national UCP brand. This year’s award goes to UCP of San Luis Obispo for its Life Without Limits Individual Campaign. This campaign depicts real people with disabilities as individuals with interests similar to all people within the community. This marketing tactic is strong, powerful, resonates with the general public, and promotes UCP’s mission of a life without limits.

The campaign has succeeded in raising awareness within the affiliate’s service area – building the mindset that people with disabilities are active within the community and have individual interests. The campaign presented a dynamic representation of individuals with disabilities across a number of channels, including print, social media, and video. We applaud UCP of San Luis Obispo for its innovative communications, powerful promotions, and targeted marketing outreach.

The Outstanding Youth Award is designed to honor a young person who has significantly enhanced the lives of people with disabilities through caregiving, volunteerism, advocacy, innovation, or fundraising. 

This year’s awardee is Marie Blanchard, nominated by UCP of Oregon and Southwest Washington. Her teachers have called her powerfully determined, impressive, and inspiring.  A volunteer coordinator called her responsible, dedicated, and enthusiastic. Friends consider her “a walking infomercial on the joy and potential of being a person with a disability.” Born with cerebral palsy, Blanchard’s physical limitations have not stopped her from becoming an artist, activist, fundraiser, and supporter of UCP – all before the age of ten! She has also raised over $20,000 in support of UCP of Oregon and Southwest Washington’s “Walk, Run, n’ Roll” event, gave a keynote speech at a statewide disability conference with an audience of several hundred, created a disability awareness program that has impacted over 150 local elementary school children, written her own original cookbooks, and started a highly successful Etsy store featuring her original art pieces.

Blanchard inspires teens to embrace their disabilities and challenge themselves to live a life without limits, and we are humbled and inspired by her efforts. 

The Nina Eaton Program of the Year Award recognizes a program of a UCP affiliate that has made an extraordinary contribution to the quality of life of people with disabilities, enabling them to become more independent, productive or integrated into the family or community through a particular program.

The 2014 award is presented to UCP of Huntsville and Tennessee Valley, Inc. for its Childcare Enhancement with a Purpose (CCEP) program. The CCEP program is an innovative inclusion training and technical assistance initiative that uses a multidisciplinary team approach to address issues related to childcare providers and community settings. The program offers a proven approach to training individual childcare providers and parents through on-site trainings, consultations, and technical assistance supporting best practices for inclusive environments for children with special needs. Further, the training provides the knowledge base and tools necessary to identify and assist children at risk of possible developmental delays. UCP affiliates throughout Alabama are proud of the CCEP program and of the program’s insight and innovation to address a crucial need of families throughout the state who have children with disabilities.

The Universal Accessibility Design Award recognizes an individual, business, government or governmental agency that has provided leadership developing a universally accessible environment by creating new tools modifying the environment, enhancing independent living or achieving a barrier-free environment.

UCP of Sacramento and Northern California nominated Wijit, Inc., a component of Innovations Health Devices, for its technological creation that has revolutionized the manual wheelchair. The Wijit is a unique, level-activated propulsion system that ends reliance on the manual push rim and allows wheelchair users to work with their larger muscle groups, greatly reducing upper extremity stress injuries. The Wijit alleviates the need for expensive motorized chairs by replacing the existing wheel of the wheelchair from the axle out. This innovative technology allows manual wheelchair users to travel twice as far while expending half the energy – benefiting mobility, reducing repetitive stress injuries and saving money. The invention of the Wijit is worthy of the Universal Accessibility Design Award due to the impact it has made on the communities that UCP serves.

The Ethel Hausman Volunteer of the Year Award recognizes an exceptional individual who, through volunteering, has made an outstanding contribution to UCP.

Every Monday through Friday for the past eight years with very few exceptions, Althea Lewis has volunteered at the UCP of Tallahassee’s LifeLinks Day Program. While she does not drive, Lewis rides the bus or catches a cab every day to and from the facility – demonstrating her strong volunteer ethic. In this capacity, she does what she does best: share her kind and uplifting self with profoundly disabled individuals. And it shows!

Individuals within this program that do not verbally communicate or readily respond to stimulation know Lewis and respond her gentle approach. Her presence causes them to smile, move more, make sounds and engage in direct eye contact. Her care and compassion for the individuals she serves is genuine and causes a true difference in her community. For the impact she has made on the LifeLinks program and for her unfaltering dedication to the organization’s mission, UCP proudly presented the 2014 Volunteer of the Year Award to Althea Lewis.

The Life Without Limits Award honors an individual with disabilities who has demonstrated leadership and achievement of such caliber as to be a significant role model to people with and without disabilities.

Danielle Liebl of UCP of Central Minnesota received the 2014 Life Without Limits Award in recognition of her work to successfully challenge stereotypes, her status as an outstanding leader within her community and her active participation in activities to enhance the quality of life for others with disabilities. Described as the ‘poster child’ of Special Olympics Minnesota, Liebl’s participation and leadership in this organization began at the age of eleven. She was an athlete for six years competing in swimming and golf, and continued her involvement as an advocate promoting inclusion and participation in her local community of Richmond and Cold Spring, Minnesota. During her time on the Special Olympics National Youth Activation Committee, Liebl co-founded a campaign called “Spread the Word to End the World.” This campaign has gained impressive momentum and become an international movement.

While a student, Liebl served two years on the board of directors for UCP of Central Minnesota and participated in events and committees to improve programming and services to individuals with disabilities across the state. A 2013 graduate of the College of St. Benedict, Liebl was most recently selected as one of only ten youth (out of 700 nominees nationwide) to be awarded a 2013 Peace First Fellowship. This award includes a $50,000 grant over two years to establish her nonprofit organization, DIFFERbilities Experience, for the purpose of providing opportunities in arts, education and sports to persons with and without disabilities to promote inclusion and acceptance.

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About United Cerebral Palsy

United Cerebral Palsy (UCP) educates, advocates and provides support services through an affiliate network to ensure a life without limits for people with a spectrum of disabilities. Together with nearly 100 affiliates, UCP has a mission to advance the independence, productivity and full citizenship of people with disabilities by supporting more than 176,000 children and adults every day—one person at a time, one family at a time. UCP works to enact real change—to revolutionize care, raise standards of living and create opportunities—impacting the lives of millions living with disabilities. For more than 60 years, UCP has worked to ensure the inclusion of individuals with disabilities in every facet of society. Together, with parents and caregivers, UCP will continue to push for the social, legal and technological changes that increase accessibility and independence, allowing people with disabilities to dream their own dreams, for the next 60 years, and beyond. For more information, please visit www.ucp.org.

Power From Within

Guest blog post by Chelsi Figley


Chelsi Content Pic 1My name is Chelsi and I am a member of the USNT for Paralympic Powerlifting. I’m 31-years-old and was born with spina bifida and hydrocephalus. My lesion level begins at L-1 and I have never been able to walk without the assistance of hip-knee-ankle-foot orthoses (HKAFOs). I grew up in and still live in a very small town in Northeast Ohio. I did not have many connections to adaptive sports or other recreational activities adapted for people with disabilities, with the exception of a local spina bifida group that gathered occasionally for picnics, pizza parties and an annual bowl-a-thon. Basically, I grew up in an able-bodied world, mostly adapting myself to it rather than it adapting to me. It was hard to be ‘different’ in a small town. People didn’t really seem to know how to handle my diversity– maybe because there wasn’t much of it in such a tiny community. I was always loved and never had much of an issue with bullying; however, I didn’t have much access to activities that included me as a ‘normal’ kid. 

Chelsi Content Pic 2

As an adolescent, I began using a wheelchair, rather than walking with my braces, as it helped me keep up with everyone else and allowed me to be included in the mix. Plus, my peers loved pushing me around the playground and talking about building engines and other additions to my chair. My teen years then brought a pretty big denial phase (even spilling over into early adulthood), as I wanted very little to do with anything that would or potentially could label me as being someone ‘different.’

 From the time I was very young, I would watch the Olympics (at the time not being aware of a Paralympics opportunity) wishing with everything in me that there would be a way some day that I would be able to be one of those Olympians. It wasn’t until I was 25 years old and discovered the bench press that I began to realize that I too could enjoy activities like any other ‘normal’ person– as long as I accepted any adaptations that may be needed. Once I found that I had a talent in the weight room, I looked up the sports that were included in the Paralympics (which I had been made aware of in my early 20s) and found powerlifting, which was a competition of the bench press– my specialty. I found a trainer who was willing to dedicate his time to my dream of being an athlete in Paralympic powerlifting, which really helped me discover my confidence and worth. Even knowing the many adaptations that he had to make in order to make me successful, he was willing to proceed. The way I saw it, if he was willing to make the adaptations, then I had to be willing to accept them.

Chelsi content pic 3

(Photo Courtesy: Arbogast Photography)

Five years later, I have qualified for the USNT twice for the World Championship Games and once for the Para-Pan American Games, and am steadily working towards a spot on the U.S. Paralympic Team. This year, I am competing in Dubai, where I hope to set a new personal record that climbs me a little farther up the International Ranking ladder. I will also compete in several able-bodied competitions to continue getting as much exposure to competing as possible.

 Slowly, I have begun accepting my differences and have gained more self-confidence in all areas of my life along the way. I have returned to college, pursuing my counseling degree with the goal of one day working with individuals who have situations similar to mine. I want to help people understand that what makes us different is really what makes us the same. Everyone is different, so being different really is ‘normal.’ The most important thing to remember when realizing and achieving goals of any kind, whether they be life-long dreams or simply finding contentment in life, is this: it’s okay to get frustrated. It isn’t supposed to be easy. Life isn’t easy for anyone. Keep going anyway. Keep trying. Keep adapting. Also, find humor in whatever the circumstance may be. Believe me, it helps to soften the blows. Keep laughing, even at yourself. And one final piece of advice from me would be: don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t or you aren’t good enough. Keep searching for that person (or those people) that will help you make it– even if it takes more than 25 years. 

Chelsi Content Pic 4

(Photo Courtesy: Ken Richardson)

If you would like to follow my journey towards the Paralympics or need a connection to get started on your own goals, feel free to check out my Facebook page.






To learn more about spina bifida please visit MyChildWithoutLimits.org.

Music Therapy – Hitting that Right Note for Children and Adults with Disabilities

by O’Ryan Case, UCP’s Manager of Public Education Programs


UCP’s 2014 Annual Conference is right around the corner and will be in Nashville, Tennessee– otherwise known as Music City. I mention this because I recently had a chance to learn about music therapy, a program that I hope every individual with a disability and their families has a chance to check out at some point.

According to the American Music Therapy Association (AMTA), “Music therapy is the clinical and evidence-based use of music interventions to accomplish individualized goals within a therapeutic relationship by a credentialed professional who has completed an approved music therapy program” (AMTA, 2013). First, let me emphasize the “credentialed professional” part– I have learned that these professionals are extremely dedicated to their work and music therapy involves much more than simply playing music and singing. I will explain this a little further later. I have heard of music therapy before, but it was not until I saw a recent post by writer Ellen Seidman, on her blog, “Love That Max: Special Needs Blog” that it really caught my attention. In this post, a video shows Seidman’s son, Max, full of excitement and singing along with his music therapist. It looked like a blast! And I wanted to learn more.

Fortunately, UCP’s affiliate in South Florida, UCP of Miami, has an incredible music therapy program and its Executive Director, Dr. Leigh Kapps, put me in touch with its two board certified music therapists, Dr. Linda Lathroum and Ms. Meaghan Gasch. Dr. Lathroum works with their high school and adult music therapy programs, and Ms. Gasch works with their preschool program. I had the opportunity to ask them both some questions, and below are some of the highlights of our conversation:


How did you get started and how long have you been doing this?

Meaghan Gasch: It is my pleasure! I’ve been doing this for three years.

Linda Lathroum: It is my pleasure as well. Eleven years for me– in order to become a Music Therapist, Board Certified (MT-BC), you have to complete four years of school work, followed by a six-month internship and then pass an exam. There’s much more involved in our work than simply playing music and singing.

At what ages have you seen children begin having music therapy sessions?

Gasch: We have a class specifically for ages 0 – 2, and I have worked with a baby as young as four months old. I would say a common age to begin is at two-years-old.

Lathroum: Music therapy has been used in neonatal intensive-care units, all the way to hospice settings. It truly is beneficial for people of any age.

Can you tell me about the types of benefits that music therapy brings and how it works with other therapies, such as occupational therapy and physical therapy?

Gasch: Music therapy helps build physical health and cognitive, social and communication skills. In our preschool, the therapy helps children learn how to pay attention, verbalize and interact with others, as well as their motor coordination.

Lathroum: Although music, physical and occupational therapists work in separate professional fields and have specific goals, there is a huge overlap with our work, and we definitely work as a team.

How often do children and adults participate in music therapy sessions and how long does it typically take before you notice results?

Gasch: Our preschool runs 30-minute sessions and I’ve led private sessions that have lasted up to an hour. Progress is very specific to the individual– results can be seen as soon as one week after music therapy begins, or it can take years before results are seen. For example, a child with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD) may be very sensitive to the sound of music and spend an entire session covering his or her ears for months before becoming desensitized to the music.

Lathroum: Sessions at our high school and adult programs, which see twenty-three and 200 participants respectively, last around 40 minutes. Like many aspects of music therapy, the duration of sessions is individualized and depends on the attention spans of the participants.

Meaghan, you mentioned working with a child who has an ASD and may be sensitive to sounds. Are there types of things you do to help accommodate this?

Gasch: I actually have two classes for children with ASDs. Doing things such as lowering the volume and letting the children touch and explore the instruments can help the children feel more comfortable. It may seem like a small detail, but using a classical guitar, as opposed to a steel string guitar, can help as well. A classical guitar has nylon strings, which creates a more subdued sound, as opposed to a steel string guitar, which has metal strings and gives a louder, metallic sound.

What types of instruments and music do you like to use and play?

Gasch: Definitely percussion instruments. Drums, pianos and guitars are probably the most-commonly used instruments, but I also like to use my accordion, washboard and harmonica.

Lathroum: I use a lot of percussion instruments, but I also play the guitar, piano, and violin, and like to use those well. As far as the type of music to play, I find that participants most enjoy music that was popular when they were in their early-20s. So, I tend to play a lot of Michael Jackson and Elvis Presley music in my adult classes.


Is it true that insurance companies do not cover music therapy sessions?

Gasch: No. Though there can be a lot involved, there are ways to get insurance companies to cover them. I have seen instances when a child receives four to five hours of music therapy covered each week. I would say a lot of it has to do with the particular insurance companies.

Lathroum: There are ways it can be done. What is encouraging is that, as music therapy and its demand continues to grow, more and more people will continue to request it and things should get better.

As we wrap up, do you have a favorite story or highlight that you would like to share?

Gasch: Absolutely. I remember working with a six-year-old boy with autism. He was extremely smart. He was nonverbal, had challenges communicating and was prone to having tantrums. When we first began our music therapy sessions, he would get upset. He slowly started to play with the instruments and then, one day, I realized he loved the microphone. I spoke into one, saying “hello,” then gave it to him and watched him say “hello” back. From that point, he loved having a microphone, even if it meant him using a paper-towel roll as one. One day, his mother was at our school and ended up crying with joy as she watched him singing with his microphone.

Lathroum: Let me tell you– that “microphone” is magic! The individuals I work with absolutely love having one. It can really be a motivating tool, and truly helps with linguistic and social skills. One experience that really resonates with me is seeing how excited participants get about performing at our chorus events. Our program has groups that go out and perform into our community, and it is so wonderful to see the joy that it brings. Another highlight is seeing progress, no matter of its size or how long it takes to see it. When I see participants go from covering their ears and being totally unengaged, to holding hands and singing with others, it truly is rewarding.

Thank you so much for speaking with me. How can people learn more about music therapy?

Lathroum: The AMTA’s website has great resources for parents and professionals that I would highly recommend!

Gasch: Additionally, if anyone would ever like to come visit UCP of Miami and observe our programs, he or she would be more than welcome to do so!


It was a pleasure learning more about music therapy and the types of benefits that it brings. Hopefully, its demand continues to rise and more and more sessions become covered by insurance companies. As Seidman said, they should be.

If you have any questions or would like to learn more about music therapy, please feel free to contact Dr. Lathroum (linda.lathroum@ucpsouthflorida.org) or Ms. Gasch (meaghan.gasch@ucpsouthflorida.org). You can also email me at ocase@ucp.org.