This article explores the topic of music therapy and the ways it can help children with special educational needs.shutterstock_294702437

Music therapy can be defined as the use of music or musical elements by a trained therapist to maintain and rehabilitate mental, physical and spiritual health. Music therapists are qualified and accredited professionals that not only have a music background, but a strong understanding of counselling, psychology and biology. On par with occupational therapy and physical therapy, music therapy is often practised in hospitals, medical facilities and day care centres as a part of patient recovery. Music therapy is also an effective educational tool for children with special learning needs. Before carrying out any activities, music therapists assess the child fully in order to create an experience that will make them learn best. These activities usually include singing, listening to music, dancing and making music using various musical instruments. The nature of music therapy that is purposeful, strategic, and goal-driven has been successful in the area of special needs education. Here are four reasons why music therapy is effective in teaching children with special educational needs.

Music Therapy is Motivating and Inspiring

Music has the power to inspire, motivate, and lift the spirits. Therefore, music therapists channel these elements into their activities to help children with issues such as social anxiety and a lack of self-confidence. Upbeat music is usually used in therapy sessions to create a positive and fun-filled environment for children. Therapists interact with the children using musical instruments such as guitars, tambourines, and music shakers. They encourage children to participate by teaching them how to play these instruments. This simple act of participation brings children out of their shells and teaches them about rhythm, patience, and following instructions. It is extremely motivating and validating for children when they are able to play an instrument in tune or follow a beat correctly. This in turn increases their self-confidence and eagerness to learn more.

Music Therapy Improves Communication Skills

Music therapy is helpful with improving verbal communication, vocalisations, and speech production of children with learning disabilities and speech impediments. These children encounter difficulties expressing sounds, syllables and words. Teaching language skills to special needs children is no easy feat. With the help of music therapy, children pick up new language skills subconsciously! Music therapists have children sing along with them, paying special attention to how they memorise and vocalise lyrics. Without them realising, children are learning to enunciate words correctly and widening their vocabulary. Also, the child’s communication skills in a social context improve while they interact with their therapist by responding to verbal cues and body language.

Music Therapy Improves Motor Skills

Some children with special educational needs such as autism may be introverted and not physically active. Music therapy is a great way to facilitate and encourage movement in those children. Therapists make children play instruments such as bongos or tambourines that require constant arm movement and strength to create sounds. Children are unaware that their muscles are being activated by playing these instruments as they are so engrossed in the music. Also, music therapists incorporate more movement while the children play their instruments. For example, music therapists may ask children to move their instruments from left to right or ask them to clap. Also, children can be taught simple dance moves that complement the music the therapist chooses to use. Therefore, children’s motor skills are greatly improved through music therapy. It is also a fun way to get children to exercise as well.

Music Therapy Builds Trust and Acceptance

Therapists often conduct musical sessions in groups, especially in schools, where there are children with special educational needs. These sessions are crafted in a way to promote inclusivity and teamwork. For example, each child gets to play a musical instrument and has to harmonise with everybody else to create pleasing music. Activities like that give children who have problems socialising a chance to interact with their peers in a safe and positive environment. In addition, acceptance and tolerance are fostered among classmates when participating in group musical sessions. This is vital as children with special needs often feel excluded or left out among their peers. Increased interaction with friends and teachers will result in a stronger self-identity and help build self-worth in students with special educational needs. Music therapy is clinical, evidence based and scientifically proven to be an effective rehabilitative and educational tool. It is important to note that music therapy is not meant to replace a formal education of a special needs child, but instead complements it. Music therapy aims to help children with special educational needs improve communication skills, social skills, and motor skills. If you are a parent of a special needs child and are interested in exploring music therapy for your child, visit the Malaysian Music Therapy Association (MMTA) http://www.musictherapymalaysia.com/