Jammin’ Jenn Music Therapy is very pleased to announce a group music therapy program we are running in early 2014. In our work we come across some fantastic organizations doing great work with children that have special needs. We are very proud to be running a group with Laura Hynes of Extraordinary Minds in Staten Island, New York. Please click on the flyer below to learn more about this program. If you are in the Staten Island area please join us! We are planning on rockin’ n’ rollin’ and conducting some outstanding music therapy.
Music Therapy for Children with Special Needs Blog
We as music therapists are very fortunate. We get to do something for a living that can make a significant difference in a child’s life. Beyond that we give parents so much hope to see their child’s potential, through the most creative form of therapy, music.
One of the most basic human needs is to give and receive love, to be told that one is loved. Deep down, it what makes us all tick. Sometimes children with Autism are non-verbal or they have profound struggles with expressive language. Of course physical love can be expressed and that means the world. But when a parent hears their child express love with words it is one of the best and perhaps most needed feelings a Mother, Father, or other relatives can experience.
Many times when working with children that suffer from expressive language disabilities, over time and with hard work, their communication can develop. Sometimes, there are words “in there” but it takes time and a team of skilled therapists to “pull out” those words.
“I love you” is a common phrase we work on with children. We don’t just sing the word for a child to echo back without meaning. Rather, we use visuals, or actually have a parent in the room as we are singing an “I love you” song prompting for language.
We work on syllables and sounds aiming for that cherished phrase, “I love you”.
If we can “pull” those words out of a child, a child that has never verbally expressed love before to his Mom for instance, this is a triumph for this child, for the family and of course for us as therapists.
Jammin Jenn Music Therapist, Amanda Pelletier, a very talented therapist has been working with a particular family for a while now. This family expressed the following in an email to us, “I am forever grateful for the recommendation and for the services offered by Jennifer Pacht- Goodman & Amanda Pelletier, you have in conjunction with all of Daniel’s other therapies made a huge shift in our lives. Daniel said, “I love you” tonight! We are over the moon and very, very thankful.”
It happened! One of those triumphs!! Music therapy is only one of the therapies this child is receiving. Without a doubt, this child responds extraordinarily well to music therapy. Amanda, in conjunction with his other therapists made it happen! They were successful in “pulling out” these highly valued words. This child was able to, for the first time, express – WITH WORDS love to his parents.
Why Music Therapy Versus Music Education?
What is the difference?
A traditional music educator teaches attainment of musical knowledge and skills with an emphasis on developing performance abilities. Standard curriculum tends to be the focus. In most cases, music education teachers do not have sufficient experience or training in educating special needs children. According to the American Music Therapy Association, published research studies indicate that music educators often report lacking adequate training regarding the educational needs of students with disabilities and limited knowledge of effective strategies to meet those needs.
As special needs students attend traditional music education class they are typically taught by traditional, rigid methods with no adaptations to meet the child’s specific needs and learning style.
Music Therapy, however, is highly adaptive. A music therapist is trained and experienced in recognizing that each child has different strengths, weaknesses, and learning styles. Music therapy focuses on the development of non-musical skills. Musical activities are custom designed to promote specific cognitive, motor, perceptual, communication and behavioral goals that address a specific individual or group. Musical “talent”, “aptitude”, and/or “ability” are not prerequisites for progress.
Music as a medium is powerful. It often facilitates a connection to children with special needs that in many other circumstances cannot be made. Music is transformative in its effect. It positively alters mood and processing, which in turn produce fertile ground for progress in many areas.
Music therapy as a discipline is becoming more and more established, validated by broader and increasingly recognized research. As a result, special education professionals are beginning to realize that the traditional music ed. setting is not sufficiently appropriate for special needs children. It does not cater to their needs. Furthermore, the setting does not leverage the power of music as a medium hindering the potential progress that music therapists are well equipped to deliver.
I grew up singing the songs from Annie, A Chorus Line and Barbara Streisand, etc. That was my love, my passion. People always ask me what made me leave performing to do Music Therapy. My answer is that I just knew that my talent was not meant for the stage 8 shows a week. It was not an easy thing to walk away from my life in the theatre and don’t get me wrong; I loved traveling all over the world and singing, but something was missing. It took me years to figure out what was missing but after many years working as a Music Therapist I finally know what it was. It was a confidence, a confidence in my talent as a singer and the insecurity was just too much to handle. My confidence as a Music Therapist is as high as it can be. As far as singing goes, I am the voice of so many of my clients. There is no producer or director telling me my note was not great, or I missed a dance step. I run my own show and I know that what I do works. I know that when a family comes in for services I can evaluate not only what is going on with the child but the family dynamic. I am able to assess very early on what the child and the family need from me as their therapist. I care, bottom line, it is just my nature to take it all in and try to improve the quality of the families life with Music Therapy. There is absolutely no insecurity on my end, because I say it as I see it.
Being that I have been in the field for over 13 years, I have seen it all. I have seen the most severe autistic child to the highest functioning; and even though there were times were I may have been uncertain about how to treat a particular case that might have been more challenging, I never lost confidence, never thought I cannot help this family. It feels great to be able to say that after years of tears, frustration, and rejection from my theatre world stint. I am in the right place. I am the star of my own show and I don’t need any applause.
This months blog is going to focus on intuition for what to do and when at a particular moment in the sessions.
I was recently interviewed by a HS student and one of her questions was,” Is there a particular music you use in your sessions?” My answer was,” NO, I use music that ranges from familiar children’s songs to Bon Jovi”.
In thinking about intuition and what a client needs, what music a client needs at a particular moment in the session, I recall a session this past weekend with a little boy. He entered the therapy room as he usually does, happy and ready to engage, smiling from ear to ear. As we started doing music activities, which included shaking bells, playing drums and singing Old McDonald; I began to sense he was just not happy with what we were doing. He was moaning and sort of whining, resisting the connection. I quickly had to think, “What does this little boy absolutely LOVE?”
I remembered that dancing is something that he has most recently had taken a liking too, so I put on the recorded CD of Bon Jovi’s Livin On A Prayer. The smile that came across his face brought tears to my eyes, he was in his glory. It is just so important for a therapist, particularly a Music Therapist to know and feel in their gut what makes their clients tick!
The rock music and dancing energized him, distracted him from whatever was bothering him and the session turned out to be one of our best. In this example, instead of just dancing and vocalizing along with the music I was also thinking,” Okay, now this kid is smiling, he is engaged, lets throw some of his goals in here while we are dancing”. Increasing vocalizations, imitating sounds, holding instruments without stimming with them.
I grabbed 4 rhythm sticks and we began to dance and tap together. I was also vocalizing. We were connecting, laughing, smiling, jumping, and turning. To sum it up, we were having a ball!!!
My intuition was right, you just have to know what your client needs in the moment. There is not a lot of time to think about it, and I never “plan” my sessions. I go with each moment and work to always accomplish making some kind of connection with the client. Experience of course has helped me get to this place. I was not always this intuitive about client’s needs, it took time, but if you know your client well enough you will be successful.