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Monday, July 15, 2024 | Back issues
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Music Therapy Works, Family Tells Wisconsin

WAUKESHA, Wisc. (CN) - Wisconsin cut off funding for an 11-year-old autistic boy's music therapy, falsely claiming that "music therapy was not recognized as evidence-based therapy," the boy's mother claims in court.

Fatma Demirbilek sued the Wisconsin Department of Health Services, in Waukesha County Court, on behalf of her son.

Her son, E.D., had been receiving twice weekly music therapy under the Children's Long Term Support Program, a Medicaid waiver program.

The state in November 2012 ordered county agencies to stop using Medicaid waiver funds for music therapy, "because in its opinion, music therapy was not recognized as evidence-based therapy," the Demirbileks say in the complaint.

The boy, who had been receiving twice-weekly 30-minute sessions of music therapy, was cut off effective Feb. 1, 2013.

On Feb. 8, 2013, however, the DHS reversed its order "and ordered country agencies to reinstate the music therapy services of waiver recipients pending further review," the complaint states.

But not for E.D.

On March 7, 2013, the DHS sent him a letter saying he was still cut off, retroactive to Jan. 31, 2013, because DHS considered music therapy an "experimental treatment."

The first academic program in music therapy was established at Michigan State University in 1944, after it was found that music therapy could help the physical and psychological pain of veterans wounded in World War II. "But music therapy remained, for the next quarter of a century, scarcely recognized," neurologist Oliver Sacks, M.D., wrote in his book, "Musicophilia."

Today music therapy is offered as a major field at some colleges and universities, at the graduate and post-graduate levels, according to the American Music Therapy Association.

In Wisconsin lawsuit, the family won on appeal, but was denied attorney's fees "on grounds that the respondent's decision was substantially justified."

The family seeks declaratory judgment on "1) whether the respondent's decision was in whole or part substantially justified; and 2) whether the petitioner is entitled to a fee award."

"Petitioner seeks judicial review because the respondent's decision violates the due process clause of the United States Constitution and is not based on substantial evidence in the record."

The family is represented by Shirin Cabraal with Disability Rights Wisconsin, of Milwaukee.

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