This is the first article in a series of upcoming articles on multi-sensory approaches for educating children with severe learning difficulties.
There is general agreement about how important music can be in both the education and in the daily lives of children with severe, or profound and multiple, learning difficulties. This is because music is such an intrinsic part of each and every one of us, from the rhythm in our heartbeat to the melody in our laughter and singing. Music therapy is based on the fact that, in some way, everyone is attracted to and responds to music and sounds. We listen to music that we like. It can change our mood. It can calm us, or excite us.
Music therapy has gained favour in British education since Juliette Alvin founded the British Society for Music Therapy in 1958. Her book Music Therapy for The Autistic Child studies some very effective ways in which music therapy can help create diverse channels of communication using a range of techniques all adapted to meet the specific needs of the child receiving the therapy. Music therapy finally became a registered profession in 1999, regulated by the Health Professions Council. This move acknoweldges the respect that music therapy has achieved over fifty years in education. Music therapy is conducted by professionals highly trained as both musicians and therapists, ensuring high standards of practice.
For those with communicative disorders such as ASDs, the benefits of music therapy are wide-ranging, enhancing expressive and interactive ability, providing a means of socialisation, and an opportunity to expand sharing and community skills. Music therapy also allows the individual a great deal of self-exploration that can be otherwise very difficult to attain.
But what are the differences between music education, music therapy and music as a vehicle for other forms of learning, development or engagement? To what extent are professionals in schools aware of these issues and prepared to explore them from an informed perspective?
As with so many possible multi-sensory approaches to education for children, and adults, with SLD or PMLD – approaches which hold such potential, and are so intrinsically appealing to all who support pupils with complex needs, the provision of new resources for curriculum and much-improved staff development are both crucial to the realisation of music’s full potential in the lives of pupils with severe and profound and multiple learning difficulties.
Some related links….