Music at Chatsworth Futures

Nordoff Robbins music therapist Richard Sanderson works with students at Chatsworth Futures, a specialist college for 19-25 year olds with severe, profound and multiple learning disabilities and autism spectrum conditions. Richard helps the young people to engage, communicate and experience positive interactions through music. 

Richard said:

“Many of the students at the college have a range of disabilities which impact their ability to connect with other people in meaningful ways, and music offers a channel through which this connection makes sense to them and becomes possible.” 

Richard works with students like Jamie, a young man who has learning disabilities and is blind, to create a musical framework which puts him at the centre of their interaction. During sessions Jamie and Richard play together on the keyboard, where Richard focuses on listening in detail to Jamie and responding through music to create a positive and flowing interaction – both engaging Jamie and enabling him to feel heard and met in music. 

Richard works differently with each student, varying the style of music and instruments used, to best engage with each young person. Through this approach, Richard says, “I validate everything they do as potentially communicative and significant, which encourages them to continue communicating and motivates them to expand this further.”  

Richard also brings students and staff members together, encouraging them to make music in group sessions – using music to positively impact on the college environment and support its ethos of helping students to reach their full potential. 

Richard Wilkinson, Assistant Head Teacher, adds that:

“Having our Nordoff Robbins therapist at Chatsworth Futures enriches our curriculum and enables our learners to experience a safe, happy environment where they can develop a sense of control and order by leading a session and positively impacting on the actions of those around them. 

“This promotes empowerment and the self-esteem and confidence of our young people, affording them the opportunity to communicate through music on their own terms and in their preferred way, whatever their ability and complexity of need.”

Chatsworth Futures provides a small, supportive and challenging environment, which enables learners to develop their functional skills, independence and communication. Students also develop skills for living, using practical and realistic contexts to learn, develop and grow.