Abraham is a 13 year old boy with diagnoses of profound and multiple learning disabilities (PMLD) and global developmental delay (GDD). Abraham attends a high school for young people with special needs.

Abraham’s teacher referred him to music therapy for support with interaction and play, wondering if the therapeutic space could offer him ways of being more interactive and spontaneous.

Abraham attended 13 individual music therapy sessions with a Trainee Music Therapist, supervised by an experienced Therapist within the same school setting. In the initial sessions, he presented as a much younger child, needing to be close to the therapist and exploring instruments by tapping and licking them. He would enjoy rolling around on the rug and cushions, and the therapist felt a strong mother-infant type of connection.

As sessions continued the therapeutic alliance and trust grew, and more space became possible; the therapist placing instruments around the room and encouraging Abraham to explore autonomously. Abraham looked at instruments for many weeks before building up the courage to touch them, watching the therapist role model making sounds on the instruments such as the hand bell, before tentatively making his own small sounds. He became more confident in moving around the room and over time played the tin shaker, maraca, shaky egg, ocean drum, hand bell and gathering drum. He began to play for longer periods, and to engage in call and response turn taking, making more eye contact and seeming to notice when the therapist copied his sounds and played them back to him.

In the closing sessions, Abraham used his body more expressively, rocking and swaying as the Therapist accompanied the movements with her music. Abraham also explored using his voice more often, babbling and giggling during the interactions each week.

At the end of the work, the Therapist met with the class teacher to feedback what had happened in sessions, and noted Abraham had also been using his voice more in class, helping him to connect more with both peers and adults. The Therapist was able to share ideas of creative play that could be supported in class, to enable further communication and interaction with Abraham.

Hsing Chen Lin, Music Therapy Trainee, Ealing Music Therapy

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