Music Therapy for People with Disabilities | SPD - Singapore

Music Therapy for People with Disabilities

Our clients at the Day Activity Centre always enjoy themselves at the regular music sessions conducted by volunteers from VocalHeart. SPD physiotherapist Lee En Ting shares in this article how music therapy can be beneficial for people with disabilities.

According to the British Association For Music Therapy, music therapy is a “psychological therapy which uses mainly musical improvisation to build a relationship between therapist and client” (Bevins et al 2015).

Music therapy in Singapore is incorporated as part of the curriculum in special education schools for students with learning disabilities and is also a form of activity for some patients in the hospital (Lim 2015). Music therapy has also found its way to residential homes - “Music and Movement”, a musical group therapy combining both music and actions conducted for the residents of Singapore Cheshire Home, a residential home for persons with physical disabilities is just one example (Singapore Cheshire home annual report 2014).

I had the opportunity and privilege to assist in a couple of such sessions. Each session had a structure with each section having its own objectives:

• Introduction song – To orientate and/or recap previous sessions and support memory of the names and faces of group members and facilitators.

• Group playing with bells/fans/clapping – Other than to encourage group bonding, this activity enhances skills such as following instructions of facilitators signaling differentiating rhythm and volume changes. The use of different instruments also trains gross/fine motor hand movements.

• Section playing with different instruments (bells, cymbals, drum, shaker, tambourine) – This activity offers choice and control on instrument selection, and the use of different instruments encourages exploration outside of the participants’ comfort zone. It also enhances skills such as following, taking turns, listening and creativity of expression. Participants will have the ownership of playing individually within the section and developing their own music playing style.

Besides “Music and Movement”, there are many other forms of musical therapy such as “Mini Orchestra” consisting of pure percussion instruments and “Drumming Sessions”, which is group play with different types of drums.

Active and enthusiastic participation of the residents has indeed led to development of positive relationships and quality of life in general overtime. The fact that there is continuation of various musical programmes even after more than five years since being instituted shows the viability of such therapy in a residential home setting.

Bevins, S et al 2015, Staff views of a music therapy group for people with intellectual disabilities and dementia: a pilot study, Advances in Mental Health and Intellectual Disabilities, vol.9, no. 2015, p. 40.

Lim, JQ 2015, Music therapy: hitting the right notes in medical treatment, 28 October 2015, Channel News Asia, viewed 11 February 2017

The Singapore Cheshire Home 2014, 56th Annual Report, viewed 10 February 2017