MUSIC THERAPY AND AUTISM
Ryan loves communicating through shared musical play, which is wonderful because Ryan has autism and this profoundly limits his capacity to engage in typical exchanges of communication.
THE MUSIC THERAPY TECHNIQUE OF IMPROVISATION
This clip of Ryan depicts the music therapy technique of improvisation. Ryan had been attending music therapy for 18 months before the electric drum kit was introduced into his sessions. We could tell Ryan was immediately interested in the kit because he would stand close to it and sometimes touch it before walking away. It wasn’t until Ryan’s third session with the kit in the room that he initiated sitting on the stool in readiness to play. Robyn, Ryan’s mother, started recording because she was so thrilled to see him sitting up like a drummer, but as the clip reveals Ryan wanted to do so much more.
I am playing the keyboard in the background. I have set the keyboard voicing to steel drums to match the drum kit’s voicing, and I am using empathetic improvisation techniques to meet Ryan in the musical space, and extend and deepen his engagement with the play.
THE PURPOSE AND PROCESS
Through this process Ryan comes to know I am present, I want to share, and I love what he can do. Ryan discovers the joy and reward of reaching out to new experiences. Ryan learns something more about what he is capable of, and so do his communication partners. These types of experiences happen often in Ryan’s music therapy. Ryan has been attending music therapy for two years on a fortnightly basis. His sessions are one hour long and Ryan directs the course of each session by using the various visual supports in the room.
Robyn uses Ryan’s respite funding from St Carthage’s Community Care to pay for his sessions. I have many clients of all ages living with a range of disabilities that access my service through the Helping Children With Autism (HCWA) Scheme, Lifestyle Solutions (Aust), and Red Inc.