Music Is Feeling
Music Is Feeling
Riley sits cross-legged on the floor, banging a big, round drum. It’s the beginning of his music therapy session with Noreen Donnell, Clinical Director of Music Therapy at blueballoon Health Services. Riley has been doing Music Therapy with Noreen since he was 3 years old. Riley, now 15, is asking questions as he bangs out a rhythm on the large drum. “What’s your favourite movie?” he asks music therapy intern, Natalie Laughton.
Music acts as a foundation for Riley to learn other important life skills, such as: conversation, problem solving, language, and social skills. Later, Noreen holds up a book which lists the days of the week, and the activities Riley does each day and at what times. Riley has a busy weekly schedule that includes school, yoga, drama, swimming and music therapy. As Natalie strums a guitar and sings a song about daily routines, Riley correctly names the times and matches a small Velcro-card, depicting his daily activities, with the correct time in the book. The music therapy card is placed at 5:30pm on Thursday.
Leanne, Riley’s Mom, says, “Music engages Riley’s interest and allows us to apply all of the concepts that we are trying to teach him. Riley has reached many speech goals through music, it helps organize his brain for learning, and it’s a free form of expression where no one is judging him.”
Noreen says that Riley has developed many skills with music, and that there has been a shift from learning external, basic concepts as a young child, such as following instructions (reach up high, touch your toes etc.), to more complex internal concepts, such as dealing with difficult emotions. Music therapy can help to get difficult feelings out in the open because different instruments, sounds, and melodies can represent various emotions: the therapist plays what sounds like sad or angry music, and then they can begin to label those emotions. This has been helpful for some children, like Riley, who have difficulty with emotional processing.
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