BRITs blog – meet Susanna

We couldn’t do what we do without the generous support of the BRIT Trust. Through the Nordoff Robbins Graduate/ Partnership development scheme, their support allows us to reach more people across the UK and over the next six months, we’ll hear from the music therapy graduates who are benefiting from the scheme.

Susanna’s story

Since September it has been a privilege to work at Greenacre School in Barnsley one day a week as part of the Nordoff Robbins Graduate Employment scheme.

Having completed the Master of Music Therapy (Nordoff Robbins): Music, Health, Society training in July I had not imagined gaining work as a qualified music therapist so quickly, but thanks to Nordoff Robbins and the generous support of the BRIT Trust I have been thrown straight into this amazing and challenging position and I am loving it!

Greenacre is a special school educating children and young people aged 3 – 19 with severe and complex needs. It includes provision for pupils with communication and interaction and/or specific speech and language disabilities who may not have a significant learning disability but for whom the best outcomes will be achieved in a special school setting.

They moved in to a superb new building in September 2011, were judged by OFSTED to be Outstanding and designated as a National Support School in 2013, and converted to Multi-Academy Trust status in April 2015.

This has been a new venture for the school as they have not had a music therapy provision before, though other music does happen in school, so it has been a great opportunity for me to set up the music therapy provision in the school this last term.

I am currently delivering music therapy to around 17 pupils per day at Greenacre and have a full timetable of small groups and individual sessions with pupils from each department across the whole school, the youngest at age 4 and oldest aged 19.

The children and young people I work with are mostly non-verbal and have a range of severe and complex learning difficulties and needs such as Autism, Visual impairments, complex physical and/or medical conditions. Many of these difficulties limit their capacities for communication and interaction with other people and engaging in the world around them. Music therapy, on the other hand, through interactive music making can highlight and develop what they can do and can help enliven and stimulate.

Each week the children and young people continue to challenge and inspire me as they overcome difficulties and push their own boundaries.

For someone like Lucas (not his real name) who is blind, has limited physical movement and is non-verbal, lots of things in the world happen around him that he struggles to engage with and there is little that he can influence in his life. In music therapy, by following what he can do with his head movements to play the tambourine or castanets, he hears his contribution being acknowledged in the music and this encourages him to do it again and to be more intentional in his movements. The smile on his face when he hears the music is going at his tempo is priceless.

For someone like Aimee, music therapy gives her a new experience of herself. The music stimulates and motivates Aimee and challenges her to control her movements and vary what she does. Aimee also finds space to express herself vocally during these sessions. In a recent session a staff member commented: “Wow, I have never heard her vocalizing and making sounds like those before, it’s really great.”

I have loved getting to know staff at Greenacre and seeing the enthusiasm and hard work they put into giving the children and young people the best opportunities and education they can.

It is invaluable having staff support in sessions. Their knowledge of the pupils is really beneficial to me whilst working with the students and their feedback on sessions is always welcome. Staff seem to enjoy being in the sessions as well, and are often disappointed themselves when the goodbye song starts.

It is always encouraging to see staff members’ positive reactions to seeing students engaging and achieving things for themselves in sessions, as well as enjoying being part of the music and the group.

The sessions give staff an opportunity to experience the pupils interacting in new ways and can give staff and pupils a new positive shared experience, which in turn can strengthen communication and relationships between staff and students within the school.

I am very grateful to have the opportunity to work in a school like Greenacre and to see the positive impact music therapy has had on the students and staff there in just a short period of time. I am looking forward to how this work will continue to develop here and to build on the musical relationships already established and hope the work will continue to grow to further benefit pupils in more aspects of school and home life.

Nordoff Robbins and the BRIT Trust

Find out more about the music therapists who are benefiting from theBRIT Trust Nordoff Robbins Graduate/ Partnership development scheme.