Tag Archives: Music therapy

Music Makes it Work

by Michael Murphy

Dan walks in right on time, but circle has run long at Friendship Academy. Dan doesn’t mind, he readies himself for his session. The children watch him as he does, waiting to get to say hello, waiting for their turn to find their spot on the carpet for music. As we wrap up our circle routine, a couple songs to go, the children look back at me and continue. With each song, Dan starts to play along, strumming in the background. We tend to make up songs, but that doesn’t slow him down. Dan goes along and adds another experience to our circle. He is in no rush, but increases the pace along with my song. Each child hears their name, jumps up from their chair and hurries to their carpet square for music. Dan praises their walking feet, greets them and listens to their quick stories about their day or comments on a new Paw Patrol shirt.

Music therapy adds something special to our classrooms. We all sing songs to our students, it serves an educational purpose and provides functional language, but there is something different about Music Therapy. The students are always excited to see Dan, they’re ready to sing the moment he walks in. Our quietest kids jump into “Hail Hail the Gang’s all here,” One of Dan’s welcome songs. Students call out their requests, and Dan finds a way to redirect or work in a new song or two. A towering teacher, Dan spends time on his feet, at eye level with the kids or works to control the gaze of students, willing to do what it takes to maintain that attention and push children to another level of focus. One thing at a time, Dan has all the time in the world to spend with each student until they give him something special for that day; a smile, a word, a sentence… Dan asks for a lot, but gets exactly what he needs before he continues.

We’ve seen shy kids open up, quiet kids yell, “busy” kids slow down and reluctant kids jump in. They throw curveballs at Dan and he throws them right back. “Z,Y,X,W…” Dan starts “his” ABCs. The children shout “NO!”, stopping his song. “That’s not how it goes” says a student who months before spoke in only grunts and groans. Commanding the attention and participation of a big concert of adults is cool, but there cannot be anything more difficult than getting a group of children to listen to your every word, chord or cue. Dan does it.

The exciting part about Music Therapy is that the same song is never really “the same song”. Either Dan plays it different, the children sing it differently, maybe the support staff adds a little something extra. It depends on the day, the weather, what the kids had for breakfast. Each session is exciting and each session ends too soon.

“Music time is over,” begins. Heads hang low, students sing along. Snack comes next, but they wont find solace in their Goldfish and fruit snacks. Dan’s time has ended, they have to wait a whole half hour to hear Dan’s songs blare in another classroom. Different again, effective again. They shout goodbye to Dan, they thank him. If only they knew how to ask for an encore, they would never let him leave. Music Therapy works and it is awesome to watch.

Music Intern

by Grace Clements, Music Therapist

There is a new face joining us at Easter Seals this year in the Music Therapy Department. Her name is Sabrina Stafford and she comes to us from Temple University. She is currently a second-semester senior studying Music Therapy with a concentration in classical voice. As part of her training, she needs to accrue 1000 clinical hours at Easter Seals. This’ll take her through until the Fall of this year!

Sabrina has been pursuing music since the first grade when she began taking piano lessons. Her love for music has opened up many opportunities for her such as being a member of a number of choruses and even singing at the Kimmel Center. It wasn’t until college that Sabrina discovered Music Therapy.

In her spare time Sabrina is also an employee in the Activities Department in a Nursing Home in West Philly. Sabrina enjoys brightening the environment of the nursing home with familiar song. Recreating music from the 50’s and 60’s allows residents with memory issues to reminisce and become more acquainted with reality.

Easter Seals appeared to be the perfect fit for Sabrina due to her natural affinity for working with children with Special Needs. In fact, she is the eldest of two siblings who have special needs. This is a population that is near and dear to her heart. She has seen how music has been able to act as a means of communication, self-expression, and enjoyment for her and her siblings. Sabrina came to Easter Seals in hopes that she could pass the gift and benefits of music to the children who attend here.

Welcome, Sabrina!

Sabrina photo(1)

Fall Festival!

by Donna Keiths

Delaware County held their annual Fall Festival on Friday, October 24, 2014.  Families joined children and staff in a variety of events; music with Miss Grace and Miss Morgan, apple printing, and pumpkin bowling.  Children made an owl’s face from graham crackers, marshmallows and candy corn and then enjoyed their creation.  There was sand to explore and tubes of “spiders and cobwebs” to shake and observe.  Arasapha Farms provided a tractor and hay wagon for a wonderful ride around the school property.  The weather cooperated for a glorious day for all.


What does it mean to be a board certified music therapist?

by Grace Clements

Hello Easter Seals Family! I thought I’d share some information about becoming a board certified music therapist.

The first step in becoming a music therapist is to attend an AMTA (american music therapy association) approved school. During a students music therapy education, the student acquires 200 fieldwork hours and 1000 hours of an internship. The program is organized so that the future music therapist gets experience in many different populations. I had fieldwork at HMS school for children with cerebral palsy, Caring Heart Rehabilitation, Germantown Recovery community, and Hear Our Voices (a grant funded songwriting program for at risk youth) and I did my internship at Belmont Center for Comprehensive Treatment.

A strong education in music is also needed to become a music therapist. Music therapists are trained to work in a variety ways, improvising music, writing music, re creating pre-composed music, and many variations of this. A strong understanding of psychology and music is important, and learning how these two components work together.

First and foremost the person must be interested in working with people, and must be able to relate well to others. A music therapist must be sensitive to their surroundings, able to take in everything that is happening, while still being able to stay present in leading the music.

After completing the 1000 hour internship the student is eligible to take the board certification test, which includes questions about the implementation and implications of music therapy. Once the music therapist passes the exam, they are nationally certified to practice music therapy. the MT-BC program of the certification board for music therapists is fully accredited by the National Commission for Certifying Agencies (NCCA) The test is reviewed and updated to keep up the advances in the field of music therapy. To maintain the MT-BC, the music therapist is required to either re take the exam every 5 years, or participate in trainings called CMTEs. requiring the therapist to re-certify helps the therapist stay up to date with current practices.

Why is it important to be board certified?

It is important for there to be a national standard for music therapists, so that we can be represented well as a field. Having a board certification helps our field become more widely recognized to companies and possible employers. A certification makes services more available to clients because other therapists and doctors can refer their clients to the music therapist. The certification allows music therapy to be covered in school-based services or by insurance.

I hope this has been informative! If you have any questions about music therapy feel free to contact me, gclements@easterseals-sepa.org.

Until next time,

Grace Clements, MT-BC
Full time Music Therapist at Easter Seals SEPA