A short introduction from one of our new therapists

January 9, 2023

By Robert Simonis, Music Therapist, EMT

I’m happy to have joined the Ealing Music Therapy (EMT) service team. Last summer, I graduated from the University of Roehampton where I spent three wonderful years learning and developing to be a Music Therapist. I am really excited to begin my new career as a Music Therapist with EMT. In this blog, I will briefly describe my musical background and what inspired me to become a music therapist.

I was born in West London and have lived in the borough of Ealing my whole life. Ealing has a rich musical history and I was encouraged by my parents to begin piano lessons when I was eight years old. I received private tuitions from various teachers in Ealing, achieving all the practical ABRSM piano grades by the time I was eighteen. I went on to study privately with the late Helena Brown who sent me to complete an EPTA Pedagogy Course for teaching piano at the Royal College of Music. Later, I completed my piano ABRSM teaching diploma and grade 8 theory. Since then, I have regularly been teaching piano privately to students of all ages from beginners to advanced level.  

My musical interest is rooted in the blues and rock genres. As a teenager, I would often listen to various records and attempt to transcribe and re-record them on my workstation keyboard. This led me to apply to Rose Bruford University where I studied a BA in Music Technology. At Rose Bruford, I learnt about microphone placement and mixing techniques for pop and rock music genres as well as audio theory. I also received classes in the Language of Music, Technique of Music, Orchestration and film music. 

My interest in Music Therapy began when reading a book by Dr Oliver Sacks called Musicophilia. In this book, Dr Sack’s promoted the use of music therapy as a positive tool to help people that were struggling to adapt to their different neurological conditions. These case studies inspired me to research into how Music Therapy is clinically practiced and to understand the processes that helps people in the therapy. Helping people was something that I’d always wanted to do as a career. In music therapy, I had the opportunity of combining my love for music with my desire to help people through the power of music.

This month, I began my first job as a music therapist working at a school for children with a diagnosis of Autism and associated learning difficulties. I am really looking forward to beginning this new journey in my life at such a wonderful school with excellent teachers.

Selborne Primary School

By Gemma Lenton-Smith, Music Therapist, EMT

Ealing Music Therapy has had the privilege to set up a service at Selborne School this academic year.  Music Therapy is provided one day a week at the school and delivers both individual and group sessions depending on the needs of the children. The Service both supports the children’s Additional Resource Provision (ARP) and in the mainstream. The school has been extremely welcoming, supportive and has embraced what music therapy can provide for the children within the school.   

This term I have had the pleasure of working with one Keystage 1 pupil. They have engaged well in sessions using different instruments and stories to express themselves. Self expression has allowed them to build their confidence and take more risks and explore different emotions.

Selborne School has very much welcomed me as part of the team.  It was lovely to be involved in the Christmas assembly with staff and children.  I am also looking forward to providing staff training in January to explain in more detail about music therapy and what it can offer primary aged children.

11 years on, Music Therapy continues to make a difference even in times of the pandemic

November 10, 2021

By Rachael Hannah, Music Therapist, EMT

In October 2021 I will be leaving Springhallow, eleven years after I started here. I will be very sad to say goodbye to this wonderful school and will be working over the next few weeks to make the transition as smooth as possible for the next therapist to take over.

Springhallow School is an Ealing LEA maintained day community special school for pupils aged 4-16 years with autistic spectrum/communication disorders. Children at the school have learning difficulties ranging from moderate to severe. The school also has a recently opened post-16 facility for 16–19-year-olds on a separate site.

Music therapy provision in Springhallow is one day per week, which is generally five sessions of individual &/or group work.

Following the long period of lockdown and school closure due to the Covid-19 pandemic in the first half of 2020, Springhallow school reopened to all pupils in September. The school was well organised with increased safety measures in place, and music therapy sessions also followed these measures: social distancing, mask wearing, ventilation, extra cleaning and arranging the staff and pupils in ‘bubbles’. Attendance was good throughout the term and luckily bubble closures were minimal.

In the January lockdown, I did sessions remotely: working from the school music room via ‘Zoom’ – either to pupils in another classroom in the school or to pupils in their homes. This was very successful in some instances and more difficult for other pupils. Once school reopened to all in March we resumed sessions as per the Autumn term.

I saw pupils in 1:1 sessions as well as working with class groups. The many changes brought about by the pandemic, the lockdowns and school closures have been challenging for these pupils in different ways, and it has been a busy year adapting the work to support each pupil individually.

Music therapy at Springhallow continues to be valued and well supported, and I would like to thank the school for their ongoing support.

My personal account of working as a Therapist at EMT

February 25, 2021

By Omer Plotniarz, Music Therapist, EMT

2020 – 2021 was a very special year for me, both in my professional and private life.

Working alongside Covid, had made us, the therapists, more creative and adaptable to all the changes and regulations as well as the change in our service user’s needs. The lack of consistency and predictability brought up some new challenges that we haven’t experienced before as therapists – emotional support and poor mental wellbeing and support. I have experienced more cases of high anxiety levels, challenging behaviour and depression. This has required more focus on the emotional needs.

With the up coming changes within EMT this year, I am planning to attend ‘supervising’ training and to take a bigger role within the EMT work.

More than everything I wanted to thank EMT for the support and assistance with everything involving the birth of our son Albi. Both Einav and I can’t express our appreciation – from being in hospital, talking to the schools, being attentive to our needs and giving us time and flexibility when needed – Thank you!

Music Therapy in Mainstream School

May 10, 2020

By Omer Plotniarz, Music Therapist, EMT

Coston School is a mainstream Primary School which has an Additional Resource Provision (ARP) unit for children with moderate learning difficulties, severe developmental delay, emotional difficulties and Autistic spectrum disorder.

Previously there was no music therapy in Coston Primary School and I am grateful for the opportunity of setting up the service. The initial aim of the service was to provide care for the ARP unit’s students and to gradually expand into the mainstream area supporting students with their emotional and mental wellbeing.

To introduce the service to the school I presented to the ARP’s staff a workshop about music therapy, explaining about the work, aims, potential referrals and showed some videos of different cases. As a result, the first referrals for music therapy made by the ARP lead and me. Later, staff members started to refer more students to music therapy.

The music therapy provision offered by Ealing Music Therapy included individual, group and spontaneous sessions that include staff members that support the setting when needed.

This was a very tricky year introducing music therapy in a new setting, with 2 lockdowns and school closure. As a result, the school opening hours as well as number of students varied which needed adjustments both from staff and me. I would like to mention the ARP staff and to thank them for all their work and support during this year. They showed great motivation and dedication to the students and their learning. I really enjoyed working with them and felt included from the very first moment.

Towards the end of Spring term, my line manager- ARP lead, had to reduce her hours and attendance in school due to personal reasons. This has been challenging especially when I needed support, however the other staff members did their outmost to support me during these times.

Within the 2020-2021 academic year, 21 children from the ARP unit received regular music therapy sessions whether in an individual close/open-group settings.  The music therapy provision spread between the different age groups in the school and involves close work with the staff and other professionals who work in the school.

This was a very successful and productive year in terms of music therapy especially in regard to the group work I have done, running 3 different class groups.

Supporting Mental and Emotional Wellbeing with Music Therapy

March 23, 2020

By Omer Plotniarz, Music Therapist, EMT

Belvue is a Secondary School for students with a range of Learning Disabilities, Emotional Behavioural Difficulties and Autism. For many years, music therapy has been an integral part of the school’s landscape and is part of the school’s multi-disciplinary team.

The music therapy provision offered by Ealing Music Therapy includes individual, group and spontaneous sessions that include staff members that support the setting when needed.

The children in the school been referred to music therapy with various aims such as support their emotional well-being, develop their social and communication skills, as well as increase their self-esteem and sense of achievement.

Within the 2020-2021 academic year, 6 children from the school received regular music therapy sessions within an individual setting. The music therapy provision is spread between the different age groups in the school and involves close work with the staff and other professionals who work in the school.

As a school we had experienced some challenges during the academic year, with lockdown, frequent changes of regulations and closure of bubbles and classes. Despite all the challenges, the school continued supporting the students and their families and did its utmost to provide education and care.

In terms of the music therapy work – music therapy continued be an integral part of the school services and being part of the school’s nature. The service is well respected by the staff member and senior management team. From next year I will work on both Mondays and Fridays in school which I am really looking forward to. It will give me the opportunity to take a bigger role in the school and feel more connected to the students and staff.

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