Train Therapy

My first inkling that he could be Special came from the moment he entered the train. His elder sister and mother were behind him as he ran from seat to seat, his eyes not looking anywhere in particular, all the while keeping a happy grin on his face, seeming happy just to explore the space in the train carriage. He came to the seat next to me and plonked himself down. His sister, giving me an almost-apologetic look, came to lift him up and brought him to a more spacious part of the carriage, where he could sit with her and their mother.

As the train started moving, he became fixated by the moving scenery outside. He moved to the window, and pressed his face against the pane. All was quiet for a while.

Then –

“Thud”. “Thud”. “Thud”.

As the little boy continued hitting his fist against the window, all I could think of was how to musically engage him through his rhythmic pounding.

We might start with basic mirroring. He’s an energetic kid – I might try a Mixolydian or Lydian mode. From the basic beat, we could either accelerate or slow down. Or I might subtly change the accents so that we’re not just playing in 4/4. Maybe change to 5/4. Or 7/4. Or introduce subdivision of beats. The musical environment could help him see that his actions can be purposeful, meaningful, responsive. His sounds and actions could be directed to become communication. And with time, he would learn to use his sounds with purpose, to move with purpose, knowing that people will respond when he has something to communicate. He would be motivated to want to communicate. The music could do that for him. With him.

Of course that was all in my imagination and thought – by the time I had ended my fantasy therapeutic session for the little kid, they had alighted at their stop.

Still, a music therapist-wannabe can daydream, right?

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