'playing and singing without seeing' |Music therapy at Art for All Camp August 2004
"Music is an exceptional tool for helping people because of its power to reach everyone. Like nothing else, music creates multiple stimuli, allowing many different people to experience its effects regardless of their disability. Music can touch everyone. While music is usually thought of as an auditory stimulus, or a series of pitches that people can hear, it also creates tactile stimulation. When a large cymbal is struck with a mallet the vibrations can be felt by touching the cymbal. When the loud booming bass on a stereo is heard it is also possible to experience the power of the vibrations in the body. Music does not need to be heard to be beneficial. Because of the universality of music, music therapy becomes an aid that can help children with impairments in vision and hearing.
Music therapy is the use of music, by a trained professional, to help patients make changes in their lives so as to adjust better to or overcome obstacles. There are two types of music therapy, adaptive and palliative. Adaptive music therapy is used to help people adapt to their handicaps. (Heller, 1987) Palliative music therapy is used to treat the symptoms of patients with physical, mental and emotional disturbances. (Heller, 1987) Both forms of music therapy help patients achieve their goals and have a better life.
Using music to help deaf and blind children better function at basic skills is an example of adaptive music therapy. For the deaf and blind child basic skills are difficult to learn because they have impairments in two senses: sight and hearing. Because of their handicaps, deaf and blind children grow up in an isolated world. They are often unaware of their surroundings, cannot, communicate, and have difficulty in learning motor skills. In working with a deaf and blind child, the goals of a music therapist include: providing sensory stimulation, increasing self awareness, developing awareness of others, developing an awareness of the absence of sound, increasing the attention span, increasing the accuracy of motor skills, improving social interaction, providing a means of emotional expression and developing language and concepts (Cormier, 1982, p 11). Music therapy can help the deaf and blind child learn to adapt to a seeing and hearing world despite their handicaps.
Music therapist worked with J, a nine-year-old boy with vision and hearing impairments, to improve his expressive language, improve social skills, and refine motor skills. Because J has sight and hearing impairments, music seemed a viable way to reach the client. The music therapists created several music activities that would give the client tactile stimulation to learn from. To increase the attention span and improve the social skills of the client, the music therapist and the client engage in a call-response rhythm game. Facing each other the therapist and client place their hands on each other’s shoulders while the therapist taps out simple rhythms. Encouraging the child to imitate the rhythm patterns on the therapist shoulders focuses the child’s attention and interacting with the therapist promotes social skills. This activity can be slightly altered to encourage vocalization and improve the client’s language skills. The therapist and the client place their hands on each other’s throat while the therapist sings. By allowing the client to feel the vibrations of the vocal chords, the client can learn how it feels to sings. This music activity develops an awareness of others in the client, improves social interaction between the client and other people, and increases the attention span of the client.
Music therapy uses the many aspects of music to help people heal and adjust to their lives. The use of music therapy in deaf and blind children is very effective. Using vibrations, deaf and blind children can experience music without having to see or hear it. Music helps to provide deaf and blind children with tactile stimulation while it increases self awareness and awareness of others. It increases the attention span by requiring children to focus on an activity and improves social interaction by incorporating others in music activities. Because music is so versatile it can reach everyone. Music therapy used with deaf and blind children is an effective way to help them learn basic skills and adapt to their disabilities." (Melissa, November 23rd, 1998 Music Therapy 185 Dr. Solomon - Email: firstname.lastname@example.org)
- Heller, G.N. (1987). Ideas, initiatives, and implementations: Music therapy in America, 1789-1848. Journal of Music Therapy, 24, 35-36.
- Cormier, Lucille. (1982). Music therapy for handicapped children: Deaf and blind. Washington, D.C.: National Association for Music Therapy.
- Davis, William B., Kate E. Gfeller, Michael H. Thaut. (19??). An Introduction to Music Therapy Theory and Practice.