What is Music Therapy (MT)?
Music therapy is the planned and creative use of music to attain and maintain health, well-being and developmental gains. A music therapist uses music with intention to achieve therapeutic goals. Research has shown that music therapy can help in the following areas of child development.
Communication skills/ Language
Research has shown that music stimulates many areas of the brain. Musical interactions can assist children in gaining confidence with receptive and expressive language including: word usage and timing, vowels and consonants, practice in requesting, understanding directions, following routines etc. Music can provide an alternative way to communicate and can provide a shared successful experience without words, encouraging engagement in verbal and nonverbal self-expression through song singing and instrument playing. Songs can be used to help to support kids in coping with and practising everyday interactions. Language concepts and routines can be learnt effectively through songs.
Cognition/thinking: singing, playing and listening to new and familiar music may help kids: to stay on task, increase attention span, improve length of joint attention, problem solve, follow instructions, count, understand and practise new concepts. Developmental tasks we can practise include: processing, predicting and responding to musical cues, sequencing, and improving the literacy skill of filling in known lyrics and spontaneously substituting or inventing and matching rhyming lyrics in songs.
Singing new and known songs whilst playing instruments together provides a fun and motivating environment for individual and shared sensory experiences. Music can support children to tolerate sensory input by creating specific songs to maximise engagement and further develop auditory processing skills. Improvisation can be used to share musical conversations without words and help kids learn how to listen and reflect to others. Playing instruments can help to improve sensory tolerance to different types and layers of noise and to different textures. Our music therapists will lease with your occupational therapist to create activities and opportunities for your child to be able to remain on task and increase their length of attention.
A music therapist finely tunes into a child’s state of regulation and can support children to learn how to self soothe, stay calm and self regulate through self knowledge and explicit labeling of feelings. This can help children to attend and focus more for learning. A music therapist can create songs or musical experiences that are individually tailored with layered musical elements to support maximum engagement and interaction.
Physical and language skills
Playing instruments including drums, bells, maracas etc. can help to improve gross and fine motor skills, co-ordination and timing. Playing in time TOGETHER helps children to uncover their own rhythmicity and this can support listening and interacting. Action songs encourage body awareness and regulation and can be written to incorporate verb and concept learning through big and small actions, dancing, body percussion, clapping, stomping, jumping etc. Physio exercises can be combined with specifically written songs to motivate continued engagement.
The shared experience of playing music as an equal communication partner assists children in learning to recognize and understand emotion, and how their behaviour is perceived by others. We focus throughout all activities on practising: whole body listening, “am I thinking what you are thinking?", showing what I am thinking with my eyes, what are you thinking about? Is it different to me? There are many explicit strategies that can be practised and taught through facilitated music activities, which can limit associated anxiety within social interactions.
Music played together can help motivate children to share, take turns, sit in place, wait, put their hand up, listen and look, exercise impulse control and share. It provides opportunities for focussed attention and genuine shared engagement.
A music therapy session provides: quality developmental and musical experiences with parents, and/or siblings in a supportive environment. Our therapists can share strategies on how to use music at home by providing ideas and resources. Songs can be specifically written for your child to assist with certain challenging routines or transitional activities (see Song Builder). The group sessions offer opportunities to meet and engage with other families in a similar situation. Our therapists work in a family centred model, and understand the primacy of the parent child relationship in child development, so sessions are full of strategies to take home.