Music Based Sensory Learning

Boomwacker playerIt is no secret that individuals of all levels of ability can benefit from multi-sensory experiences in the process of learning.  Here at Oak Park Music Therapy, we harness the tool of music through the manipulation of the elements of music (rhythm, volume, harmony, melody, texture, tempo) to make sure that the information being conveyed is both perceived and then our clients work towards mastery.  This is done at a developmentally appropriate level for all ages – from early childhood all the way to the elderly.

The outcomes that our clients and students are working towards in individual and group settings often include:  increased attention, decreased self-stimulation, enhanced auditory processing, improved cognitive functioning, decreased agitation, increased socialization, improved receptive/expressive language, successful and safe self-expression, and enhanced sensory-motor skills.  Not every client is in need of all of these goals, and sometimes we target one area more than another depending on the needs of that client.

Here is a familiar example of how music can assist in learning.  Consider the act of learning one’s phone number.  When put into song, it becomes a pneumonic device to assist the brain to encode information for easier recall.  We have worked with children whose parents worked for months on helping their child memorize their phone number.  In one case the children learned their “play date song” in about 5 minutes.  This little song stuck, and the kids no longer struggled with remembering their all important phone number.  This added to their safety, and to their parents confidence in having their children out in the community.

Take a moment to read the description of music therapy in special education from the American Music Therapy Association.  Some of you might be interested also in the annotated bibliography of research findings.  Here is an excerpt to get you started.  As stated by the AMTA,

“Music therapy is a well-established professional health discipline that uses music as the therapeutic stimulus to achieve non-musical treatment goals.” “Research supports connections between speech and singing, rhythm and motor behavior, memory for song and memory for academic material, and overall ability of preferred music to enhance mood, attention, and behavior to optimize the student’s ability to learn and interact. Rhythmic movement helps develop gross motor skills (mobility, agility, balance, coordination) as well as respiration patterns and muscular relaxation. Because music is reinforcing, it can be used to motivate movements or structure exercises that are prescribed in physical rehabilitation. Involvement in music may provide a distraction from the pain,  discomfort, and anxiety often associated with some physical disabilities.” “Music is processed by a different area of the brain than speech and language; hence, a (person) may be able to more easily absorb information and skills presented with music. Therefore, one of the purposes of music therapy for persons with special needs is to provide the student with an initial assist using melodic and rhythmic strategies, followed by fading of musical cues to aid in generalization and transfer to other learning environments.”

Contact us for a consultation on how Oak Park Music Therapy interventions can be designed to help realize your or your loved one’s greatest potential.

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