MUSIC THERAPY WITH SEND & ASD
Music Therapy is an effective intervention for people within SEND settings or for those who have been diagnosed with autism or ASD (autistic spectrum disorder).
Derbyshire Music Therapy can offer in school provision to SEND schools or units, or a private service to parents and carers in need of some additional support for their child. All clients are advised to enter into an initial 6 session assessment period.
At the end of this assessment, a full psychoanalytic report is produced by the therapist. This report can help identify further therapeutic aims for the therapy moving forward, or could also be shared with schools or other professionals involved in the care of the client to help with the wider understanding of the clients internal world and interpersonal challenges.
HOW CAN MUSIC THERAPY HELP?
People with ASD can experience:
Difficulty with communication and interaction with other people
Restricted interests and repetitive behaviours
Symptoms that affect the person’s ability to function properly in school, work, and other areas of life; including family and social relationships.
Music Therapy uses musical instruments and sensory sounds as the main way or “mode” of communicating. The focus on non verbal and sensory communication allows for contact and connection with a persons internal world and feelings that may be very difficult or challenging to engage with using normal words and language.
Using musical instruments we can explore being together as therapist and client, or more importantly as the “self” being with others, without the need to speak or articulate anything at all. This can help remove any pressure or expectations to talk which can result in many feelings and emotions being communicated and expressed unconsciously in the music and sounds that are made.
WHAT HAPPENS IN A SESSION?
A music therapy session is primarily the chance for a client to simply be with another person in a musical encounter. There is no pressure to play any instruments and some clients may spend several sessions not making a sound. A music therapist can use various techniques to connect and communicate with a person living with ASD.
To give an idea and a sense of how a music therapist works, below are just a few examples of some of these techniques and how they support the client.
Essentially a musical chat, making sounds back and forth in turns to demonstrate that each person is hearing and responding to each other with sounds. This can allow short or prolonged conversations to happen. How long these conversations last and the content of the sounds made can offer real insights into the interpersonal world of the client. The therapist can use these insights to direct the therapy and learn more about the psychology of the client.
Allowing the client to freely express either on an instrument or vocally, with the therapist meeting them emotionally or energetically with a similar sound at the same time. This communicates to the client that wherever they are at emotionally at that current moment is valid, acknowledged, allowed, and most importantly that they are not alone in that moment.
Grounding & Holding
People diagnosed with ASD or ADHD can often have difficulties regulating their emotional responses to feelings. This can include anger and rage, or just excitement and volume. A technique such as grounding can help bring a person who is excited or angry back down to a more stable and calm state. This can be done by offering a steady solid beat when they are perhaps playing fast and frantically. If we move towards the Holding technique we might use calm and repetitive tones and chords to create a predictable and relaxing sensory experience that can help the client feel safe and stable. This is the sensory/musical equivalent of soothing a distressed infant with gentle shushing sounds.