This photo of a seemingly insignificant event in a music therapy session today is actually so remarkable that this youngster’s teachers and I are still stunned.
For the first time in six years of weekly music therapy sessions, this preteen played a keyboard independently. Because of challenges related to marked sensory issues, impulse control, and effective communication, he typically screams loudly while hitting any instrument within reach before pushing it to the floor. All of this after reaching out indicating he wants to play. But today – the last day of music therapy for this school year – he reached out, allowed me to put the keyboard on his tray, then calmly and methodically played C-D-E-F-G before looking up at me with a bit of a giggle. Note that he is actually playing the notes with one pointed finger rather than banging with a flat hand. I could hardly contain my delight, but realized I needed to remain calm to avoid a sensory overload for the preteen. He continued a “5-note improvisation” long enough for me to grab a camera and snap a photo to share with his family. Then, rather than screaming, hitting, and pushing the keyboard to the floor, the youngster just looked up as if to say, “How did you like my song?” I gently sang his name in a similar melodic pattern, then quietly asked another student in the class to take the keyboard to their table and play. Even when I left the classroom after music therapy, the student was still looking “pleased as punch.” We’ve been setting the occasion week after week after week in an effort to encourage this youngster to discover the joy of making his own music, and, today, the patience paid off. The music therapy strategies and protocols used with this youngster and many other individuals of all ages with significant limitations in my music therapy practice over the years are described in our popular “Severe Disabilities Toolbox.” http://musicworkspublications.com/courses/severe-disabilities/