How Does Music Therapy Make a Difference with Young Children?
• Music stimulates all of the senses and involves the child at many levels. This “multi- modal approach” facilitates many developmental skills.
• Quality learning and maximum participation occur when children are permitted to experience the joy of play. The medium of music therapy allows this play to occur naturally and frequently.
• Music is highly motivating, yet it can also have a calming and relaxing effect. Enjoyable music activities are designed to be success-oriented and make children feel better about themselves.
• Music therapy can help a child manage pain and stressful situations.
• Music can encourage socialization, self-expression, communication, and motor development.
• Because the brain processes music in both hemispheres, music can stimulate cognitive functioning and may be used for remediation of some speech/language skills.
Example Case Study:
A music therapist working in a community music school refers to one of her students as a “musical child.” The six-year old girl, who has physical and developmental delays, is somewhat verbal and interacts in a limited way with others. When she began music therapy at age three, it quickly became obvious that she had exceptional innate musical ability. She could play the piano by ear when she was two, although her hands have only four fingers each. And even though she rarely spoke, she sang – and in tune.
The last three years have resulted in significant growth. Through weekly individual 45-minute and then 60-minute music therapy sessions, the child has made progress in the length of her attention span, degree of independence and ability to follow directions. She now speaks one and two word phrases spontaneously, and there is also marked improvement in her social skills. In addition to singing and playing keyboard and piano, the child now plays the omnichord, autoharp, bells, chimes, xylophones, drum set and various small percussion instruments. In her initial stages of music therapy, when she played the keyboard and piano, she would not allow anyone else to play with her. Now, however, she plays the melody and the therapist plays the accompaniment. The child’s preschool teacher has asked her to play for other children in her class, thereby using her musical strength to draw her into the group.
What Do Music Therapists Do?
Music therapists involve children in singing, listening, moving, playing, and in creative activities that may help them become better learners. Music therapists work on developing a child’s self-awareness, confidence, readiness skills, coping skills, and social behavior and may also provide pain management techniques. They explore which styles of music, techniques and instruments are most effective or motivating for each individual child and expand upon the child’s natural, spontaneous play in order to address areas of need.
Often working as a part of an interdisciplinary team, music therapists may coordinate programming with other professionals such as early intervention specialists, medical personnel, child- life specialists, psychologists, occupational and physical therapists, speech/language pathologists, adapted physical education specialists and art and dance/movement therapists. Music therapists may also furnish families with suggestions and resources for using music with the child at home.
Music therapists develop a rapport with children. They observe the child’s behavior and interactions and assess communication, cognitive/academic, motor, social/emotional, and musical skills. After developing realistic goals and target objectives, music therapists plan and implement systematic music therapy treatment programs with procedures and techniques designed specifically for the individual child. Music therapists document responses, conduct ongoing evaluations of progress, and often make recommendations to other team members and the family regarding progress. Music therapists will also often make recommendations to team members and the family regarding ways to include successful music therapy techniques in other aspects of the child’s life.
--Text courtesy of the American Music Therapy Association
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