Volume 4 (2) 2012 – Article
Vocal Connections: How Voicework in Music Therapy Helped a Young Girl with Severe Learning Disabilities and Autism to Engage in her Learning
This article examines the use of the non-verbal voice in music therapy with children with severe learning disabilities, complex needs and autism. Recent literature on the use of the voice in music therapy is summarised and links are made between the aims of music therapy and those of special educational establishments. Theories regarding the voice and the self, and the important connection between body awareness and emotion as precursors to learning are referred to, particularly in relation to learning disability. Through a case study, I demonstrate how a young girl used voicework to build connections with herself and the music therapist, whereby consequently she became more motivated to interact with her surroundings. I argue hence that the use of the non-verbal voice in music therapy, through its intrinsic connection to identity and internal emotional states can contribute significantly towards the healthy developments necessary for a person to be able to learn. Therefore, by increasing our knowledge about the actual process of learning, and the significance of our work within that process, we can move towards demonstrating clearer outcomes of music therapy in the educational context and have a stronger ‘voice’ within the multi-disciplinary teams that serve this population.
voicework, non-verbal voice, autism, severe learning disability, connections, self-awareness, body, learning, education
Tina Warnock qualified as a music therapist in 2000 from Anglia Ruskin University, following a degree in social psychology from Sussex University in 1992. She has since worked primarily with children and young people in special school settings, and for the NHS in Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services. In 2008 she set up the Belltree Music Therapy Centre in Brighton where she is currently Head of Service, developing music therapy provision in Sussex. Tina is also a visiting lecturer on the MA Music Therapy Course at Roehampton University.