Graduation Year


Document Type

Master's Thesis


Master of Science



Program Director

Jennifer Lucko, PhD

First Reader

Jennifer Lucko, PhD

Second Reader

Katherine Lewis, PhD


Students with intellectual disabilities (ID) typically face difficulties with social emotional skill sets, yet many classrooms for students with ID do not incorporate social emotional learning in the curriculum. Modifying SEL programs to fit the needs of students may be an appropriate solution, however, little research exists exploring the effects of modifying various SEL programs to fit the needs of students with intellectual disabilities (ID). This research explores the benefits of modifying multiple social emotional learning (SEL) programs to best fit the needs of students with intellectual disabilities. Qualitative methods were used in order to investigate how SEL programs and music therapy affects the behavior of students with intellectual disabilities. Participants include seven elementary school students who have been found eligible to be in a special day classroom for students with moderate intellectual disabilities. Two SEL programs, The Zones of Regulations and Providing Alternative Thinking Strategies (PATHS), were modified to teach students five different emotions. The emotions were taught through music and songs. The results of this study reveal how teachers’ reactions to students’ responses to questions about their students’ emotional states affected student self-identification of their emotions. When teachers are more aware of their reactions and responses to students, they can remain neutral and allow students the safe, unbiased space to choose an emotion that is directly correlated to their internal and external behaviors.