When I first met Sara, she was shy, isolated from the other children, and had a constant look of fear in her eyes. She seemed insecure of her speaking and behaviors due to her severe hearing impairment. She has had this disability since birth, and the school is trying to teach her spoken language. She does not possess any cognitive or intellectual disabilities like some of the other children, so it appeared that she had a difficult time relating to her peers. Sara has big beautiful eyes that used to always seem as if she were searching for affirmation that she was responding correctly.
It has been about 6 months since I started working with her at the Bhavita School for Students With Special Needs. Last session, however, I was suddenly aware of the immense change I witnessed in her behavior and skills. Since I started group music therapy, she has developed a sweet friendship with another girl as they engaged and played instruments together. When I come to the school, they run to greet me and start singing the welcome song even before I get to sit down. Sara plays the drum with fever. I can tell how much she enjoys the vibration of the drum because of her beaming smile. (Side note, it is also amazing how accurately she can follow rhythm and copy rhythmic patterns despite her disability.)
When I arrived at the school, Sara had just finished drawing this wonderful guitar picture to show me!
During last week's session, another student was singing and shouting loudly while playing the drum. Sara thought this was hilarious and began laughing uncontrollably out of joy. Her beaming smile lit up the whole room. It caused the whole group to laugh and smile even bigger.
I initially developed specific therapeutic goals with the speech therapist to improve her verbal communication. However, when I started noticing the drastic changes in her peer relationships, I began focusing on more social goals. Although speech is no longer a primary objective, I believe that focusing on peer relationships sets up a perfect environment in which she can improve her communication.
Now, she is not practicing speech with just the therapist. Sara has friends in which she desires to intentionally connect with, motivating her to use purposeful verbal and non-verbal communication. After all, the purpose of improving speech would be to increase relationships and communication. I feel so happy that Sara learned how to do that through musical interactions!
When Sara dances, she moves with confidence. When she vocalizes and speaks, she does so with determination. Although I may not be able to fully fix her speech problems, it has been amazing to witness this transformation through music therapy.
*Sara's name has been changed for the sake of privacy.
Here's a couple clips of our music therapy session and the dance party afterwards!
Another small clip of me working at the outpatient physiotherapy center. At the beginning of this session, this girl was barely moving her hand more than an inch without assistance. Once she got ahold of the drum, she played her heart out!