Born in the Capital Region, Alec Betterley has been a musician all his life.

“I used to work a teaching job, a day habilitation program in Brooklyn without music but I would bring in instruments and I realized our clients connected with music at the same time I was gigging a lot and I realized I could fuse the two and do this for a job,” says Alec Betterley, music therapist at Wildwood School.

What You Need To Know

  • The Wildwood School's students range in age from 5-12

  • Its music therapy program helps with emotional regulation for kids with disabilities

  • The program also helps with communication and life skills

The school for children with disabilities has 225 students, ranging from 5 years old to 21.

Betterley says music is used as a tool for emotional regulation.

“Some of our kids, if they’re prone to tantrums or have a lot of challenging behaviors, music can be very helpful for some of them,” Betterley said. “For others, it’s a little too stimulating, but for some of the kids, it helps them relax and transition from place to place.”

It’s also used for educational curriculum and communication, even to teach life skills, like COVID-19 protocols.

“Maybe they’re not verbal and if they hear the melody of the word, they are more inclined to sing the word or verbalize it. I don’t know; music just seems to access certain places in a lot of people and some kids that are difficult to access otherwise,” Betterley said.

Alec says the most rewarding part is seeing his students grow and taking their love for music with them.