Our Work With Children
Find out how music therapy is explored by children, how it works in schools and the impact it has.
Find Out About How Music Therapy Has Helped Children
Music Therapy For Children
Children make sense of their world through play. In music therapy, the child can ‘play’ with sound, using this powerful means of expressive communication to explore their feelings and ideas in a creative way. This can be particularly relevant for children, as they often struggle to understand their feelings well enough to put them into words, or they may simply be too young to do so.
The focus is on creating music in a live and spontaneous way, using whatever musical skills your child already has. The therapist is trained to pick up on the child’s responses and reflect these musically, also sometimes using words, helping to validate the child’s thoughts and feelings. Our aim in school is that the skills the children develop in music therapy sessions will help them to express themselves more confidently in other settings.
Music therapists are recognised Allied Health Professionals and are regulated by the Health and Care Professions Council. Sessions are led by therapists for Key Changes Music Therapy, a registered charity that provides music therapy services in the South East of England for children and adults.
How Can Music Therapy Benefit A Child?
Music Therapy can help a child develop their abilities in the following ways:
Expressive communication skills
Improving confidence and self-esteem
Understanding our own and others’ feelings
Imagination and creativityForming and maintaining friendships
Elliot is a young man, 25, diagnosed with severe autism, learning difficulties and complex needs. He is also known to have issues with transitions, communication and anxiety. After moving into a residential care facility in March 2018, Elliot took time to become familiar with his new surroundings and support network, often choosing to isolate himself away in his bedroom.
Having noticed a strong connection to music, Elliot’s mother, Tracey, felt that music therapy could be a suitable outlet for her son. In the referral form, Tracey noted that all six of the listed reasons for referral; communication, emotional, social, attention + awareness, self-expression, creativity; were all important reasons for Elliot to receive music therapy alongside his reluctance to spend time with his family.
I met Elliot at the home in mid-February 2019. He was reluctant to see me and was reportedly anxious prior to my visit. I was introduced to him whilst he sat in his bedroom however, Elliot quickly ushered me out by saying “ok, goodbye then”. This was a pattern that continued for my first eleven visits to the home. It was noted that Elliot had attended guitar lessons before and that he often dismissed the idea of returning to past ventures. This led me to believe that Elliot misunderstood my reason for visiting him. If only I could connect with Elliot, without the preconceived notion being ‘the pressure of playing music’, or our session being ‘a lesson’.
Over time, Elliot then began sitting downstairs in the lounge as I arrived. The support staff and I collaborated in forming an approach for me to enter the lounge without causing anxiety for Elliot. We felt that presenting Elliot with multiple instruments may have been overwhelming. The idea of a familiar staff member entering the lounge carrying one instrument (the glockenspiel), laying it on the table and then leaving, transpired to be an effective means of introducing Elliot to music therapy.
After several moments of Elliot being alone with the glockenspiel, I then entered the space. Previously, Elliot had dismissed my presence entirely, asking me to leave. However, this time, Elliot allowed me to sit with him and we began a dialogue. The topic soon turned to the red glockenspiel resting in front of us. Elliot referred to it as “the ultimate vegetable destroying machine” and requested for me to play it. This led to a long improvisation, centred around the destruction of vegetables. Elliot was expressive with his voice, exploring pitch ranges and tempos. Throughout this exchange, I felt connected to Elliot as we laughed and shared a long-awaited playful exchange.
This session proved to be a turning point in our relationship. Over time, I gradually included all my available instruments, one by one. More recently, Elliot has welcomed the inclusion of the guitar and has even spent time playing it himself. Elliot now eagerly awaits my visit, greets me with excitement and expresses himself musically. Since this turning point, Elliot has been more welcoming of his family when they visit, often going out for trips and engaging in conversation.
Read About Matthews and Elliot's Story
What Happens In A Session?
Before sessions begin the therapist will chat with staff and agree aims and objectives which best take into account the child’s needs. She / he will also meet for an informal chat and to observe your child the week before therapy begins.
With aims and objectives in mind, the sessions are then structured to include a variety of activities, which give the child the opportunity to explore playing in different contexts and with different instruments.
Some examples of activities are:
· Playing 1:1 with the therapist
· Drumming circle activities as a group
· Playing duets with another child
· Free improvisation – making up music altogether without using a particular structure.
These activities can help children to grow in their ability to listen and respond to others and express their own thoughts and feelings in return.
The work is continually reviewed and discussed with a supervisor. As part of the overall evaluation teachers, children and parents are asked for feedback towards the end of the sessions.
Music Therapy in Schools
Music Therapy sessions take place during the school day, in a room especially allocated for music therapy.
Children are currently referred by teachers and SENCOs. If you would like your child to be considered for music therapy, please discuss this with the SENCO.
The therapist will issue a report to the SENCO at the end of the block of sessions, which will describe how the child has responded to the music therapy and suggest further recommendations, if appropriate.
We feel so lucky to be able to offer music therapy to some of our children. For children whose communication and social skills are at an early stage of development it provides a joyous way in and a way of promoting the essential building blocks of interaction and communication. For other children who are still learning about feelings and emotions it is a safe space to explore and learn through their relationship with a trusted adult using music as a means of communication and expression. The children blossom on their musical journey and we are very grateful.
Some Links to Endorse Our Work
The children are mostly unable to speak, yet even those most severely restricted by their condition can make sounds. Given the appropriate support, the children can communicate, express their needs and wishes, interact with others, and become integrated into their social world. For the most severely disabled child, music therapy is the only way in to their isolated world.
The skilled music therapist, trained to listen deeply and to respond supportively can establish a relationship where communication is enabled and personal growth is possible. The music therapist, in conjunction with the teachers and parents of these most disadvantaged children, helps each child move forward developmentally and personally, towards their potential. "The Rosewood team want to reach the children at the school through whatever means is effective, and are keen for music therapy to be available to those who could gain most from it."