June 13, 2019
For children with special needs and medically complex conditions and their families, Music Therapy can be a powerful form of support. It is an evidence-based practice that has the ability to improve the quality of life for New York children and young people. We know that music and the arts have a real healing power that can assist children in reaching their goals in rehabilitation as well as provide a space of freedom from physical challenges.
At St. Mary’s Hospital for Children, Music Therapy is one of many programs we offer, as well as other creative initiatives throughout the week. St. Mary’s Kids can receive one-on-one individual services with our board-certified Music Therapist, and we also hold group therapy sessions and programs that are inclusive of a wide range of children with different needs.
Benefits of Music Therapy
Among the benefits of Music Therapy for children with medically complex conditions in New York are its abilities to:
- Promote physical and emotional wellness
- Reduce stress
- Promote communication
- Inspire expression
- Minimize pain
- Support learning
In addition, for kids with special needs, these therapy sessions provide an opportunity for self-development as well as relaxation and the exploration of different talents and activities. In addition, Music Therapy is fun.
Sharing the World of Music
Christine Pedersen, MT-BC has noticed the power of Music Therapy for children with complex medical conditions. “As a music therapist, I feel so much joy being able to utilize my musicianship to enhance the experience of the children here at St. Mary’s Hospital for Children,” she says. “When I facilitate musical experiences with children, I feel that I am sharing part of my world with them and they are sharing theirs.”
She takes pride in supporting kids as they achieve their milestones in a creative, musical environment. “When I notice a child singing in key, reaching for an instrument with their non-dominant hand, interacting with their peers during instrument play, it excites me to know that music is such a strong motivator for them.”
The benefits of Music Therapy are backed up by clinical research. It can guide children in developing their social skills and self-awareness by finding a new avenue for expressing themselves emotionally and releasing their feelings. The sheer exuberance and sound available through music allows children with special needs in New York to find catharsis and even joy. When St. Mary’s Kids express themselves through our Music Therapy program, they cooperatively work boost their self-confidence, pride, and sense of independence. Our Music Therapy program focuses on encouragement and support, so St. Mary’s Kids can feel confident in the positive feedback that they receive for their musical explorations.
The St. Mary’s Talent Show 2019
St. Mary’s Kids also benefit from the opportunity to show off the skills they develop through our Music Therapy program. In November 2018, some of St. Mary’s Kids participated in the Annual Tribute Dinner by performing at the event. The children’s excitement and interest in participation sparked the idea of a St. Mary’s Kids Talent Show, designed for the children to showcase their skills in singing, dancing and playing instruments.
The upcoming St. Mary’s Kids Talent Show will include both children receiving inpatient treatment at St. Mary’s Hospital for Children as well as kids in our outpatient programs. This helps to support their social interaction and peer bonding as well as enjoying the fun and creativity of music. Their group performances highlight themes of self-esteem, inclusion, and belonging.
Some people may get nervous at the thought of performing in public. However, St. Mary’s Kids are excited to show off their capabilities! During rehearsals, the kids radiate pride and joy with powerful dance moves, exuberant singing voices, and smiling faces. Music and performance help all of the children to express their feelings and come together as a group.
Fostering Development Through Music
St. Mary’s Music Therapy program makes use of a multi-disciplinary approach.
Our music program interacts with the other therapies that St. Mary’s Kids receive to mutually strengthen and support the children’s development. The goal of all of our therapeutic services is to foster the children’s growth, a process that can include multiple paths. Music Therapy can encourage positive outcomes throughout the range of therapies that our children receive.
For example, children are encouraged to express themselves vocally as part of their musical expression, something that can work in conjunction with speech therapy to help foster speech development and vocal expression. St. Mary’s Kids use musical instruments as part of our Music Therapy program. Kids enjoy them because they provide an immediate, loud and musical response to their activities. By using their bodies to play with our musical instruments, kids can supplement their achievements in physical therapy and rehabilitation. Music Therapy can also help to improve social skills, working hand in hand with other therapeutic approaches designed to improve communication and relationships with peers.
Some of the Music Therapy services offered at St. Mary’s Hospital for Children include:
- Sensory groups – These programs are aimed to support and enhance children’s sensory experience through musical expression. They promote mindfulness and relaxation and help kids to develop the appropriate response to stimuli.
- Educational instrumental play – St. Mary’s Kids learn about different types of musical instruments, including both melodic and percussive instruments. They learn about the types of sounds they produce as well as how to identify them visually or by their sound.
- Instrumental expression – Children are encouraged to play with our musical instruments, individually and in groups. This can help support their individual expression as well as develop their skills within the group setting, for instance, impulse control, socialization and turn taking.
- Karaoke – Not just a fun activity, karaoke promotes children’s confidence, happiness, and pride while having fun around their friends. In addition, it helps to support them in making decisions and recalling information in a supportive, joyful environment.
- Comfort care – For children receiving palliative care services, Music Therapy sessions utilize gentle voice work or rhythmic tapping that entrains to the child and promotes sleep, relaxation, and deeper breathing.
Support for the Whole Family
Our Music Therapy program does not only provide significant benefits for St. Mary’s Kids, but they can also help entire families to get through difficult times. Our Music Therapists have made special songs for grieving parents who have experienced the loss of a child. In addition to including meaningful music and lyrics for the family, these songs are also “legacy recordings;” the heartbeats of their beloved children are woven into the beats and rhythm of the music. This innovative program for New York grieving families is so moving and unique that it was featured on NBC New York television news.
With the support of the Theresa Alessandra Russo Foundation and other supporters, St. Mary’s Music Therapy program has been able to expand its program and obtain a wide range of musical instruments. This support enables us to provide a variety of Music Therapy services for many Long Island children facing complex medical situations and finding relief through the power of music.
The Theresa Foundation works to support and honor the lives of children with special needs and their families by nurturing each child’s artistic expression. Because the foundation is so committed to a “world where every child, regardless of ability or challenging conditions, is free to communicate through every art form,” supporting St. Mary’s Music Therapy program was a logical choice to help New York kids with special needs blossom and communicate.