With or without musical talent, your special child can benefit from music therapy. I should know. Pangga, my sister with Down syndrome who passed away a few years back, loved to sing. She had a good voice. She could follow the notes and the rhythm to the beat. Because Pangga never learned how to read, she memorized the songs’ lyrics just by listening over the radio, hearing other people sing or watching television. There were of course funny twists to the lyrics. So, you may ask yourself, ” Is music therapeutic? Are there benefits at all for my child with special needs?
Pangga taught herself to be jolly by singing. Music definitely was therapeutic for her. Even at late nights when she couldn’t sleep ( she slept all day, that’s why ) she would belt out a song to the annoyance of whoever is awakened by her rendition. Funny eh?
You, as parents of children with special needs, know very well that your kids struggle with focusing and learning to express themselves clearly. You might have heard that music therapy can help your child in this aspect.
Want to learn how? Read on.
What is music therapy?
Music therapy is a creative arts therapy – it involves a process used by music therapists to help clients improve their physical and mental health.
Furthermore, music therapy encompasses the skillful use of music and musical elements by an accredited music therapist to help and improve not only the mental and physical health but also the emotional and spiritual health of a person.
For our children with special needs, music therapy improves their focus, engagement, communication, and even their mood.
Music therapy has been used way, way back, even in biblical times to affect human emotion. David’s harp music soothed King Saul. Several cultures, like the ancient Greeks used music for healing.
Veterans Administration hospitals following World War II recognized that music helps their patients, so it was acknowledged as a complementary healing practice. Musicians were continuously hired at the hospitals from then on.
In the hospital where I work, I’ve been seeing musicians, like guitarists or a violinist play their thing at a corner of our institution almost everyday.
Benefits of music therapy
This video shows how Ryan Judd, a music therapist, teaches his clients, all with special needs, on how to focus, improve communication and a lot more.
Here are the many benefits of music therapy to children with special needs:
- Music therapy motivates communication. Even if they are non-verbal or cannot express themselves well, the special kids’ facial expressions and their big smiles or laughter say it all.
- Music therapy makes the body move and may cause bouts of laughter. That means that the child enjoys the music and the encounter with the therapist. They learn to dance with the music.
- Music empowers.The kids become proud and fulfilled that they are able to learn something to share.
- Music therapy helps address academic concepts and speech goals. The kids learn more vocabulary and even how to connect with people around them.
- Music therapy rewards communication. The kids learn how to express themselves.
- It re-directs and engages. This is really helpful for kids who have meltdowns.
- Music therapy inspires and leads to social connection. Again, these special kids enhance their capability to open up to people especially to their families.
- It honors and enlivens a child’s spirit. Kids are uplifted and become jolly because of music. Just like Pangga, my sister, who taught herself to be happy by singing to her heart’s content, anyday, anytime.
- By playing the musical instruments, your child’s gross and fine motor skills are enhanced.
The music therapist
Look for a music therapist who can teach your child how to engage, enjoy music and improve his well-being through music.
Let us learn from Benji, who was diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder at 2 1/2 years and eventually learned how to communicate and able to cope with school, with a big help from his music therapists.
Characteristics of a good music therapist:
- Patient and sensitive
- Loves music, can sing and play a musical instrument
- Understands the needs of his client
- Loves being with children
- Passionate and dedicated to his craft
Musical instruments-your special child’s favorite
Pangga loved the harmonica; she enjoyed playing with it daily. You would see her smiling wide when she holds it and blows air to make music out of this tiny but awesome musical instrument.
The harmonica lets the special child focus and be attentive while he is trying to produce music. The music per se, gives him joy and calms his nerves.
It is so fulfilling for your special child to learn that it’s so easy to make his favorite musical instrument work and produce musical notes on his own. He can control it, make his music soft or loud, long or short, happy or sad.
Any musical instrument has the capacity to engage your special child. Observe your child while with his therapist, and see which is his favorite so you may decide to buy for him to play in your home.
Begin or continue music therapy at home
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As always, our homes are the first point of learning for our children with special needs. Thus, music therapy should begin at home or continue if your child is with a music therapist already.
It should be easy to do it.
Fill your home with music.
Always turn on your radio or television to musical channels. This way, your child and the whole family will always be in a jolly mood. With less stress and more smiles and laughter around.
Or if you have a stereo or DVD player, it’s good to buy music like this to help with the anxiety of your special kid and to uplift his mood on a daily basis.
For younger kids, the Nursery Rhymes would encourage them to dance and improve their language skills.
Buy musical instruments and let the whole family play their choice, even your special kid.
Just like Pangga with her harmonica. Click the image to see the price.
Your home will always be set in a joyful mood if your child with special needs learn to play even just one musical instrument.
Just tapping on the piano randomly will bring out simple music that he will enjoy. Or blowing on the harmonica will surely let him have a wide smile and laughter.
When you constantly engage with your child and participate in his music, you will form strong bonding relationship and in time, his communication skills will be enhanced.
Enjoy music with your special kid. It’s never too late to start.
Most importantly, enroll him in a music therapy class and reap the awesome benefits.
Originally published: October 8, 2018 Updated: June 15, 2020
Have you enrolled your special child in a music therapy class? If so, how is he doing? If not, go find the best music therapist in your area and enroll him now!
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