Using Music During Therapy

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I’ve spent a lot of time this last month at an OT clinic in Hong Kong, called SPOT, and one thing I have noticed is the use of music during their sessions. I think each therapist (perhaps besides the speech therapist) uses music in each session at least once. This can range from singing nursery rhymes, to listening to music from an MP3 player, or even using the listening programme to help children with auditory sensitivity.

For the OT sessions, singing songs is a great way to get the children to interact with the therapist. When they are playing with toys, or completing activities such as swinging, it can be quite easy for them to become isolated in play – which is the opposite of what OT’s are trying to accomplish. So singing with the child can keep them interacting with the therapist, as well as keep them in a cheerful and positive mood.

But I have also observed that music is especially helpful in the physiotherapy sessions. It acts as a great distraction for children when they are practicing stretches that could be uncomfortable for them. Physiotherapy sessions can be unbelievably stressful for young children who don’t really understand why they are being made to stand up and sit down over and over, or why there is someone forcing them to bend their knees. So music is a way of calming them, keeping them focused on the therapist and helping to soothe any negative emotions they may be feeling.

Music is mostly effective on girls – you can pretty much sing any song during a session with them. But boys are a bit more difficult, especially older boys, as they may not find signing songs as fun or as engaging. Although songs while swinging always seem to be effective regardless of gender.

Songs can be tailored to any situation in a session. For example, I have seen ‘twinkle twinkle little star’ used to encourage a child to lift their arms up in a physiotherapy session. Or ‘the wheels on the bus’ to encourage a child to move around the room more. It has also been widely used to cheer up children who are upset or crying – which happens more often than you’d think when they come in for therapy. Children can become upset at separation from the caregiver, or even just at the frustration of not being able to play with the toys that they want. So music can help to tackle this, again by distracting them and engaging them in something new. There is basically nothing you can’t do using a song.

So, for all you therapists out there, make sure you are taking advantage of this awesome technique during your sessions with children!

Written by: Philippa Berry
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