Music Therapy Stories

A child with significant special needs

M has a diagnosis of Juvenile Battens Disease and is registered blind. He also has difficulties with gross motor co-ordination; speech and language, behaviour and emotional and social development. These difficulties are linked to Juvenile Battens Disease. This disease is degenerative. M is experiencing an increasing number of emotional outbursts and frustration due to his disability.

M loves music therapy. He is always keen to go to his session. He now struggles in some subjects; however, he is improving in music therapy and it is an area where he is still continuing to learn and progress. M has been able to use his music therapy sessions as a way of expressing himself, release pent up energy, communicate and interact through a shared musical experience and have fun.

Music Therapy helps M to express himself and feel that he is progressing. Music therapy supports him in managing his emotions, helping him to keep calm. The music therapy has provided M with the opportunity to develop his sense of self, his increased self-confidence and sense of being more at ease with himself. This enables him to cope better in other situations.

From the parent of a 6-year-old boy struggling, socially, at mainstream primary school:

“Music Therapy has helped George, who has autism, by encouraging him to build a relationship with another person, something he finds challenging.

There was, as expected, some initial resistance from George  to working with the therapist. He attempted to control the sessions and was reluctant to let the session finish on time. With the patience and perseverance of the therapist trust and rapport was established.

A significant breakthrough was later made in the therapy sessions as George allowed the therapist to make an input to his play, and took the input on board. This is something he had previously found very difficult. He is now able to accept input from others at home and school.

The dialogue created through music has been immensely beneficial to George.”

An observation… kindly sent to one of our therapy team by a non-therapist in a residential setting for adults with severe learning difficulties and epilepsy.

On therapies…

As the day progresses, a small army of therapists gets to work with a variety of service users. Some are group sessions. Others are on a one to one basis. Therapies are often misunderstood. They’re seen as a nice to have luxury. For many service users they’re a must have. With the economic climate remaining hugely challenging, work placements can be extremely hard to find. The challenge is often to provide a framework for people to remain active, stimulated and happy so that they maintain the determination required to pursue a fulfilling life.

For some, participation in group events is hard. Service users like Duncan have very severe epilepsy and profound learning disabilities, making life challenging in almost every way. Few of us know what it’s like to live life with constant seizures. It can make the world seem like a terribly confusing place. It’s often highly distressing. Music therapy is one way of easing this confusion, and providing an outlet for emotions that service users may well have, but find difficult to express.

Duncan’s half hour session with experienced music therapist Cathy Rowland is a place of sanctuary for him. A time of calm. He’s allowed to set the agenda, to choose the instruments, and Cathy carefully and tenderly accompanies him and supports him in what he chooses to do. Duncan’s participation will depend on a variety of circumstances, not least his recent seizure activity. But to see his smile and his obvious enjoyment is to confirm the huge value of this therapeutic intervention.

James, 38,

...has learning difficulties and lives at home with his familiy. Communicative and lively as a child, his mother became increasingly concerned when he began to withdraw and to show signs of depression. he also began to wet his bed at night. In seeking a positive outlet for him, his mother referred him for one-to-one music therapy. Three months on, his motivation was returning and as his self-esteem improved, his bed-wetting stopped.

Through the relationship he developed in Music Therapy he was able to lift himself out of his depression and to move on in a much more positive direction.




David, 15,

...had been excluded from school and electronically tagged for repeated car theft. In his third session of Music Therapy, he agreed that it was: "....better than nicking cars!". His teachers were thrilled by his personal transformation.


...has an acquired brain injury. He referred himself to the music therapy group. Although his speech was initially difficult to understand, he tried hard to be understood. The group music experience seemed to drive his motivation – the music transcending his usual communication difficulties.

As therapy progressed, Jo spoke more and more and has been understood, despite his difficulties. He is expressive in his playing of the African Djembe drum, sometimes showing a playful or humorous side to his personality which he finds difficult to express in other settings.

A group member with an acquired brain injury wrote about his experience of music therapy:

“Before my head injury I was quite into my music. At school I had regular singing and flute lessons and got a lot out of them. Since the head injury I no longer play the flute due to lung capacity. I no longer sang for this reason also.

In music therapy I was able to use my musical knowledge to join in with others.

I loved re-visiting my ‘old knowledge’. I see music as a real key way to show feelings and I feel that even for those who can’t talk, feelings are displayed so clearly. For example, on the drums:  if someone’s annoyed they bang like hell; timid— they do it quietly. It’s so easy to see their mood.”


Client confidentiality is protected at all times.




Key Changes is a registered charity.  Charity number 1124102