A child looks at me from across the room. Moments ago, he was motionless and emotionally upset. Now he wears a beaming smile and holds his breath in anticipation. Then he erupts in vigorous foot stomping, knowing that I see every move, and hearing the thump-thump of the guitar bass line that reflects his movements. I return the smile, aware that this child has just realized that I entered into his closed-off world and that I see and follow him.
The child’s joyful face paints a different picture for me and their parent than when they first arrived. I am in full synchrony, or entrainment, with this child’s movements. Entrainment is the philosophy of two oscillating forces that come into synchrony and is a key element of music therapy.
Music therapy is an allied healthcare profession that utilizes the neurological perception and aesthetic experience of music to facilitate physical, cognitive, emotional and social wellness. Music therapists work with all ages and abilities to bring meaningful musical interaction for healing and growth. Whether preemies or typically developing children, children with autism, teens navigating the stormy waters of growing up, adults with depression, trauma, or end-of-life care, there are many means to provide quality care for almost any condition.
The music child is a part of us that is hidden away from the world, yet is drawn out in music. It is the core sense, or spirit, of an individual. The music child is the person beyond developmental ability or disability. It reminds us of the potential and beauty of each child. This is the space in which the child can learn and grow.
Watching a child grow is amazing. From their first word to their first knock-knock joke, there are so many developmental milestones to master. Music is an ideal method of meeting these milestones with flair and style, singing out to the world that this child is here and learning the beauties of life. Early rhythm skills teach timing, body awareness, counting and patterns. Singing can teach early literacy and social skills, and foster independence. Moving to music encourages the development of fine and gross motor skills because our body learns to move through rhythm. These are just a few of the many benefits of music therapy.
Several years ago, I began a different journey when I became a mother. The first time I met my child was in the neonatal intensive care unit, and the separation so soon after his birth was an experience that took several months to recover from. I can attribute that healing and healthy bond to the time I took every day to utilize my expertise and sing with my son. Since then, I have infused that learning experience into the early childhood classes that I lead, to allow for meaningful bonding activities that will generalize to the home environment.
Music therapy is something that all ages and abilities can enjoy to enhance early childhood development and the child-caregiver bond.
Danielle Oar, MT-BC is a board-certified music therapist and owner of Refuge Music Therapy, which serves the Eugene and Springfield area. She is a proud mother and community member, devoted to increasing awareness and availability of music therapy services. Contact her by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, call 541-231-7239 or visit her website.