A Therapist’s Blog

Music therapy started at St. Nicholas school for the first time earlier this year. Thanks to The Lord Leonard and Lady Estelle Wolfson Foundation, St. Nicholas School in Purley were introduced to a music therapy service from Nordoff Robbins. I had the exciting role of starting the service at the school, meeting the children and staff and informing the school about what music therapy is and how it can provide social and emotional wellbeing for children with Autism and special educational needs (SEN).

Working closely with the head teacher and music teacher, we were able to identify some children who we thought would benefit from receiving music therapy sessions. In particular, we identified those children who were unable to access the current curriculum; through either lack of language, communication skills and/or social interactions. From this, we created a music therapy timetable, which included a variety of individual, group and class sessions, to accommodate the needs of those children.

Once sessions begun, staff were kept up-to-date with the progress of their pupils through verbal, written and visual communication. We discussed current aims and shared new ideas about how we could further help the children with their communication, attention and listening skills in their everyday school life. At the end of last term, the children in the small music therapy groups choose two fellow classmates to come and watch their mini performance of songs that we had been working on. This opportunity allowed the pupils receiving therapy to showcase their work, and many of them got very excited and relished in the opportunity to perform, gaining self-confidence by sharing the experience with their peers. The audience joined in with the singing and gave them a huge round of applause at the end! Trish, a teaching assistant and musician who helps run the groups says,

“By assisting the music therapist in sessions, I see first hand how the children develop their ability to interact with each other. The children enjoy making music together and are clearly benefitting from the opportunity to participate in group music therapy sessions.”

As we enter the Autumn term, there are new faces in the school and plenty more opportunities for children to experience themselves in new ways; by creating, exploring and engaging in improvised musical activities with their peers. Nick, the head teacher says,

“It’s great to have high quality music therapy taking place at the school. Not only have parents commented on the difference it has made to their children, but we have seen improvements in the children’s social and emotional behaviours outside of the sessions. We’ve also received professional input to our own staff team which has provided additional strategies which we can use across the school. This was highlighted in very strong video evidence that was presented to us, by the therapist, at a training session at the end of the school year. We are looking forward seeing more evidence of music therapy in practice over the coming year.’

New children are being given the chance to find their voices in music therapy. Hopefully 2016-17 will be a creative and fruitful year for the children at St. Nicholas School

– Fraser Moyle, Nordoff Robbins Music Therapist