Volume 7(2) 2015 – Article (first published on 17 September 2014)
‘What Sound Can You Make?’ A Case Study of a Music Therapy Group for Children with Autism, Learning Disabilities and Challenging Behaviours
Children with autism have historically received individual music therapy sessions; however they can also benefit from small group work where they can have a shared musical experience. This case study describes a practical example of a group for children with autism who also have learning disabilities and challenging behaviour, combining psychodynamic music therapy with a behavioural approach (TEACCH). On one hand my therapeutic stance is influenced by psychoanalytic writings that draw on the understanding that music can re-create mother-infant interactions and holding and containing environments. On the other hand, TEACCH is a behavioural system employed by schools in which strategies and techniques are used to adapt the environment and enable children with autism to learn and develop. This system uses photographs and visual communication to aid children in understanding their environment and depends on schedules and routines to help children learn. The case study describes how the music therapy group provides an opportunity for the children to interact socially, further developing their communication and social interaction skills.
music therapy; autism; group work; psychodynamic; TEACCH; learning disabilities; challenging behaviour; social interaction
Becky White is a freelance musician and music therapist working in the South West of England. She has worked in special education for 12 years, working with children and young people with a variety of disabilities. She has also worked in community settings, running music therapy groups for children and adults with disabilities. Becky performs with various bands across the South West, playing acoustic and electric bass guitars and trombone.