Content of Music Therapy
Music therapy sessions do not usually look or sound like traditional instrumental music lessons. Therapy sessions may take place in a group or individual setting, with a therapist working with one or more individuals with developmental disabilities. Any instruments can be used in music therapy -- some of the common instruments used include piano or electronic keyboard, percussion instruments and drums, guitars and string instruments, and the human voice.
Music therapy is commonly used to improve or develop communications skills in individuals with developmental disabilities. Making music in a therapeutic setting can lead to spontaneous vocalizations, singing or the development of clearer speech sounds. An Australian study, reported in the Fall 2003 issue of the "Journal of Music Therapy," examined the development of intentional and preintentional communication in children with severe and multiple disabilities. The study found music therapy helpful in motivation to communicate, attention to objects and interest in interaction.
What is Music Therapy?
Music therapy places more emphasis on the therapeutic effects of music than on developing specifically musical skills.
Through music therapy sessions, individuals with developmental disabilities can improve their physical skills and coordination, as well as their ability to communicate with others and express emotions. Structured musical improvisation is a common mode of music therapy, which may or may not involve musical notation or pre-existing compositions.
As with other populations, the first step to providing DSI's music therapy to people with developmental disabilities is to conduct a thorough assessment of their capabilities. This is most effective after a specific target behavior has been identified and defined and the therapist has had a chance to meet with the client.
Music therapy strategies include but are not limited to using music to teach other skills, improve communication, work on behavioral issues, and to improve insight. Implementation follows, where the music therapist conducts either individual or group sessions. Music Therapy sessions may take place at DSI or the client's residence.
Music, having the strongest research base of all the arts to document its effectiveness, can be used as a discriminative stimulus, a reinforcer, a structure or activity to provide a desired learning experience, or a cue to facilitate learning of social, academic, and perceptual/motor skills.
Skill Areas Addressed
A study reported in the Spring 2004 issue of the "Journal of Music Therapy," assessed the different skill areas addressed by music therapists working with individuals with developmental disabilities. A total of 108 music therapists completed surveys regarding their work and their assessment methods. The most common skill area assessed by music therapists was in motor skills, followed by communication, social skills, cognitive skills and specific music skills.