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I spotted an article written by another Music Therapist entitled “Music Therapists Do It Differently,” by Rachel Norman (http://soundscapemusictherapy.com/2013/10/14/music-therapists-do-it-differently/ )  The article is about how when walking by a Music Therapy room it may only look like people are having fun, playing, or singing along with the music, but there is much more going on than meets the eye. Sometimes I think that because of the years and hours we have spent in school learning things we did not know, we forget we had to have something first, a basis, to be able to learn what was set out to be taught.

It seems to me that many people, when working with a person that is not where their peers are in a certain area, we tend to look at where the peers are and begin to try to help the disadvantaged person from this perspective, which, in my opinion, is erroneous. To progress anywhere, we need to begin with a foundation. We have to look at our clients with what they already possess and what they already can do, and then progress from there. I call this working from inside out, working with what we already have and facilitating growth.  Working this way may take a little longer to get the visibly desired skill; however, when acquired, lasts without prompting. For example, one may be able to get a quicker answer from a child with a speech delay by taking a child’s face and saying, “The sky is ……. BLUE.” Besides being disrespectful, this method only works with unnatural hands on prompt.  Before getting that verbal response, we need to be able to get the child’s attention. We have to be interesting enough to get that which may take some time in learning what works for this child. The best clues will come from the child himself. Lets say this child spends lots of time flapping his arms and not looking.. Well then, when in Rome… In other words, play and/or sing to the flapping.

Now, admit it. If you walk by my room and see me playing music with a nonverbal child who is flapping along with me without this previous information, what will you assume?  Is this nonverbal child speaking yet? Probably not yet, but he is looking at me and responding to what I am doing. Nonverbal only describes some of the needs, not the child. We have to see and get to know the child and work with their strengths. Make it pleasant, make it relatable to the individual, and make it easy. When life is already a struggle and confusing, sometimes getting by is hard enough. Music itself contains the structures we need: beginnings, endings, phrasing, and predictability. Tempo and volume can be adjusted to fit the individual, the group, or the moment. Melodies and harmonies can express the emotions that we can not yet put into words, but can feel internally.

Antoinette Morrison, MT-BC

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