Selective Mutism and Music Therapy
In this state special school setting, Peter is the focus of Music Therapy sessions that have been ongoing for over 6 months. Peter is living with selective mutism (SM). Selective mutism is an anxiety disorder that prevents children speaking in certain social situations, such as a learning environment or in public. Over the initial fact finding and working with staff who know Peter well, it was determined that Music Therapy would be of potential great benefit to him by focusing on the following aims and outcome measures:
- To increase communication through the use of music and words.
- To focus on exploration and play through musical experiences and new technology.
- To increase confidence through active listening, participation, and leading musical experiences.
- To use words in song.
In this instance, a few clip segments of the initial session with Peter and then subsequent snippets of sessions throughout the 6-month period, have been collated together to show where development has occurred. Over the course of Music Therapy, Peter increased the number of ‘moments of engagement’ both musically, and perhaps even more significantly, verbally whereas initially he was withdrawn, cautious and less willing to engage fully. Over time Peter began forming sentences that he had previously not been witnessed to use with staff, including intelligent lines of questioning about musical instruments, their shape, sound, and ‘why’ they are the way they are. As the sessions came to a close, Peter even began engaging with improvised song based on a theme which in this case was ‘Transformers’. His development over the time he came to Music Therapy was impressive and this was reinforced by his teacher and key staff that work with him on a day to day basis.
It’s important to note that whilst Music Therapy is not a ‘cure’ for any condition, with the multidisciplinary way in which we instinctively work with staff, clinicians, and other health professionals we are able to increase the effectiveness of individualised frameworks that are put in place by the staff at settings we visit.
The clip above demonstrates that Peter is beginning to display a number of factors that confirmed aims were being met. In this instance Peter has appeared to set up a drum kit from random instruments in the room. I was able to challenge him musically at many points throughout the session which showed how far he had progressed in terms of developing confidence. Aside from the clinical reasoning and looking at outcome measures it was also fun, and this aspect is always important in being more human, and less therapist at times.