Future Reflections Winter/Spring 1997, Vol. 16 No. 1


Changing Your Child's World With The Power Of Music

by Linda Zani Thomas

Bethany* trails her hand along the wall as she hesitantly enters the music room. She drops to her knees and swings her head side to side--the stereotyped movements of an autistic child on unfamiliar turf.

She stops, focuses, and listens open mouthed to Jill Buchanan's first notes on the piano. Music Therapy has begun.

Through music therapy emotionally and mentally challenged children like Bethany can break away from behaviors that keep them at arm's length from others. Music creates a safe environment, stimulating and encouraging children to seek intimacy and communication.

Angelo* hovers over the tambourine, his fingers alternately first stretching out and down then drawing back into fists. Although he can't see the tambourine due to his visual impairment, he knows it's there by the hint of a jangle as John shimmies it just below his fingertips.

He pats the tambourine once, open palmed, then twice, and smiles with satisfaction and pride.

Music therapy can help children with visual and physical impairments transcend tactile defensiveness. Using their own range of motion--no matter how limited--children with cerebral palsy can push themselves to develop fine motor skills.

Music therapists Jill and John Buchanan were honored guest presenters at the New Jersey Parents of Blind Children meeting in March. They explained the basic tenets of music therapy and goals. It helps children:
--develop self-esteem;
--increase impulse control;
--improve language development; and
--increase attention span through focused activity.

And it really works! My daughter--who is visually, physically, and mentally impaired--attended music therapy for four years, and we largely credit the program with helping her make sense of her environment, start to speak, and overcome her tactile defensiveness.

I recommend two clinics that are accessible to New Jerseyans. My daughter attended both, with most of her therapy completed at Nordoff-Robbins. Each private session was one half-hour. Group sessions are also available.

Nordoff-Robbins Music Therapy Clinic
Carol and Clive Robbins pioneered improvisational music therapy and have published numerous papers on the subject and traveled worldwide demonstrating their techniques. They have a clinic in New York City at 26 Washington Place (near New York University in Greenwich Village). They can be reached at 212-998-5151.

The Music Therapy Clinic
John and Jill Buchanan were trained at the Nordoff-Robbins Music Therapy Clinic in Manhattan and have over seventeen years of combined experience working with handicapped children. Their Music Therapy Clinic is located at One Station Plaza in Ossining, New York (914-944-9404), about 45 minutes from North Jersey. They have also given group therapy sessions at schools in New Jersey.

* Fictional names.