I had the chance to assist in an initial assessment for music therapy the other day. The potential client was an 8-year-old non-verbal boy, “Johnny”, diagnosed with a chromosone disorder and autism.

In the drum circle and on the piano, he made strong eye contact, vocalized some pitches, and showed a strong desire to communicate and be heard. He looked up when his name was sung and was very readily engaged by tactile instruments like the guitar and cabasa. He showed some awareness of co-activity, but did not always seem inclined to share his instruments and be told to wait for his turn. He was constantly seeking stimulation from sight, touch and sound, an would frequently get up from his chair to run around the room.

I realised how an assessment session may look like any normal therapy session in which the therapists engage with the client, but the mindset is different. The client’s abilities are used as a stepping stone to gauge the goals which he or she can achieve over the next few months. Activities will then be structured to meet those goals. I was challenged to practice writing an initial assessment report, and to come up with some goals for the little guy.

Possible initial goals for Johnny:
– To build working relationship with therapists and settle into therapeutic environment
– To enjoy musical co-activity as a basis for social interaction and communication
– To increase attention span and focus through engagement in instrumental play (eg: drumming)
– To encourage vocalizations through singing / instrumental play as the basis for developing functional speech

When we were chatting after the session, Johnny’s mother expressed her feelings of frustration and failure at not being able to communicate with her son. I do hope that something positive¬†will come out of his experience with music therapy in time to come.

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