Omolara’s Story

Omolara is 16 years old and has severe learning difficulties and physical disabilities. She is non-verbal, and relies on Makaton, a simplified form of sign language, to communicate.   

Omolara has had a complex upbringing and experienced a great deal of loss in her life, and because of this, she was described by her teacher as being very “anxious to get things right”. Omolara struggles to make choices in school, fearful of ‘making a mistake’.  

It is for these reasons that Omolara was referred to music therapy.  Music offered Omolara an environment where she was listened to and valued, and where the flexible and improvised nature of the sessions could remove her fear of “getting things wrong”. Crucially too, it gave Omolara the opportunity to explore making independent choices through music making. 

In our first few sessions, Omolara’s anxiety was apparent in her music making; she would look to me for reassurance, and she would play with me very shyly. But as the sessions progressed, Omolara started to recognise that what she was offering was meaningful, and in our space, it was our conversation together in music. This led to Omolara beginning to initiate her own musical ideas, and gradually becoming more and more daring and adventurous in making music. 

What has been so lovely to see is Omolara’s personality shining through – her mischievous and playful nature is fully evident in her music.  

Omolara has become so much more confident; she now plays with a real sense of purpose, using a huge range of sounds and often spontaneously bursts into dancing in the sessions! Omolara has also started using her voice in music too – for a young person who cannot verbally communicate, and who has always been so anxious to avoid mistakes, this has shown great courage – her desire to sing and contribute has overpowered her fears.  

One of Omolara’s school teachers said: “Omolara has transformed from an anxious, eager to please and timid student to a relaxed student who understands the language of music. She struggles to communicate with others and yet in her music therapy sessions she is bursting with confidence and is able to communicate with ease.” 

Omolara has started using her voice more and more in class, and in the summer, her class began to rehearse for the school show. Omolara sang along with so much enthusiasm in the rehearsals that she was chosen to sing a solo at the beginning of the song in the actual show – the first time she’d ever sung in a school performance! 

Her teaching assistant added: “Music therapy has brought out a whole new side of Omolara. The nervousness has come away and her confidence has come on in leaps and bounds. In the school show, Omolara was singing solo with the biggest smile on her face – you can see how proud she is of herself. It’s absolutely beautiful how it’s developed her.” 

Kerry, Nordoff Robbins music therapist