If you walk down the halls of one of 12 different schools in Winnipeg, you may be able to hear the sounds of singing, laughter and music. That’s because Variety, the Children’s Charity generously provides funding for weekly Music Therapy programming in 12 different schools in the city. During Music Therapy sessions you may see children doing activities such as singing, action songs, movement to music, playing rhythm instruments, and musical games. These are all carefully planned by the Music Therapist to reach specific therapeutic goals. Music becomes a motivating factor to help children with special needs work towards reaching their potential.
Some of the common general goals that are worked on during Music Therapy sessions may include things such as: encouraging positive social interaction, increasing self-esteem, encouraging self-expression, increasing fine-motor or gross-motor skills, or any other goals that are important to the specific children involved in the sessions. A Music Therapist is always kept on his/her toes, as there is always a range of diagnoses within a group session – from autism to down syndrome to visual impairment to cerebral palsy, etc. – so the goals for one group will sometimes be very different from another group.
As a Music Therapist it is very rewarding for me to see children progress over the school year. Sometimes there are obvious improvements that make my day, but more often than not it is the little things like just seeing a smile on a child’s face, or seeing the interaction between 2 children as they do an activity where they are sharing a drum together. Music plays a part in all of our lives to some degree or another, and it is no different for children with special needs. Music has a way of engaging all of us, and to me that is the basis of Music Therapy: utilizing that aspect of music to reach individuals with special needs.
Variety’s generous support of this special programming is helping children like Philip, who has autism. Through Music Therapy, Philip is learning to interact with his peers in a number of ways: This is seen, for example during the “Hello Song”, where we sing hello to each member of the group. Philip uses his speech to say hello by name (ex. “Hello Olivia”) During this time he also shakes hands or gives a high-five to his friends. He also interacts by sharing or taking turns playing instruments with his friends during various Music Therapy activities. As well, he is making choices and verbally stating his choice (ex.”I’d like to play the tambourine”). As well, he is increasingly able to follow directions and remain focused during sessions. The hope is that these types of skills will transfer into other areas of life, not just Music Therapy sessions – and help him be more effective in interacting with others and the world around him.
Philip and the many other children involved in this program are grateful for the generous funding of the Music Therapy programming – just one of the many way that Variety, the Children’s Charity is changing lives for the better!
Marcie Gerbrandt, BA, BMT,MTA