Music therapy and learning disabilities and developmental delay

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"We had finally found something which would bring happiness for our little girl."

1.5 million people in the UK live with a learning disability and can find it harder than others to learn, understand and communicate. Learning disabilities can also create frustration, anxiety, unhappiness and behavioural difficulties, particularly as children grow up and into adults. There are many syndromes that cause learning disabilities, such as Down’s, Rett, and Fragile X. In this group in particular we work with both children and adults.

Potential benefits

Every course of music therapy is different, and there are no set results. However some of the ways that people with learning disabilities have been found to benefit from music include:

  • Language development:
    • sharing and answering of musical phrases gives experience of ‘conversation’
    • stimulating concentration and listening abilities
    • exploring and imitating sounds
    • learning words and developing an understanding of their meaning (rhythm and melody can be used to accentuate key words)
  •  Play skills (essential for developmental progress):
    • facilitating the connection between holding and using an object (e.g. a beater)
    • developing the imagination by bringing stories alive (e.g. nursery rhymes)
    • encourages initiative and spontaneity
  • Physical development:
    • rhythm of music can help stimulate movement
    • developing motor skills and the co-ordination of muscle patterns needed for walking etc.
  • Relationships:
    • improving social skills such as turn-taking
    • reducing isolation by creating a normalised social context
    • enabling shared experience
  • Emotional development:
    • allows exploration and expression of feelings
    • develops confidence and self esteem through sense of achievement
    • releases frustration from a previous lack of verbal communication
  • Early Intervention:
    • enhancing development in young children displaying signs of developmental delay (who may or may not have a learning disability)
    • supporting families experiencing isolation, stress, frustration
  • Growing up:
    • offering a creative emotional outlet to address difficult feelings
    • supporting young adults making transition from school to day care services
    • increasing confidence and sense of achievement, making use of skills and abilities
    • developing autonomy

If you’d like to speak to one of our therapists about music therapy and learning disabilities, get in touch or find out how to make a referral for you or on behalf of an organisation.