Music Therapy and Gifted Learners
Hey! We are working on offering a social skills group for children starting this August. If you have a child who could benefit from such a group and live near South Jordan (or if you know someone else who does) could you take five minutes and fill out a survey? Your responses will help us know how many groups to plan for. Thank you! <3 Jennifer
Today's post is the second of a series on Gifted and Twice Exceptional Learners, and will be talking about how music therapy can help these individuals. You can find the previous post, which explains more about what giftedness is, here.
I think I need to clarify something from my last post.
Generally, when I talk abou disabilities on here, I try to stress the fact that having a disability is not all bad, that individuals who have disabilities are more than able to have happy and successful lives.
Looking over my previous post, though, I think I might have given the opposite impression for gifted learners.
Gifted learners do have very real challenges, and I focused on that in my previous entry because I don't think most people realize that. But I want anyone reading this to also know that Giftedness is more a blessing than a curse.
Gifted kids can be a challenge to work with (speaking as someone who's been on both sides of that interaction), but they are also delightful. They have a unique way of seeing the world that is often surprising. Gifted kids are frequently compassionate beyond their years, and they have a contagious enthusiasm for ideas that can be breathtaking. If you are, or if you care about, a gifted learner, that is something to be glad of.
Unfortunately, music therapy and giftedness is not very well researched. I've only been able to find one documented study-- one conducted in the late 1980's-- on the subject. And to the best of my knowledge, I am the only music therapist who works specifically with gifted learners. This is something I intend to rectify; in a few years I'm hoping to conduct and publish some research studies on music therapy and giftedness.
In the meantime, the above does not mean that there aren't plenty of gifted learners already receiving music therapy. As discussed before, many gifted learners also have disabilities which can lead to them being referred to music therapy. I've worked with several such individuals myself. And while there is little research on gifted learners specifically, there is research supporting the use of music therapy to address the challenges gifted learners face.
In music (and other art forms such as dance and drama) there is something called improv. The idea of improv is that you are making things up as you go along.
One powerful thing about improv is that you can create a safe space where there are no right or wrong answers-- where trying something new is always well received. This can be powerful for gifted learners who struggle to try new things because of perfectionism or anxiety about failure. Individuals can become more confident in taking risks and trying new things.
For another example of using music therapy to help someone deal with fear of failure, I'd actually like to refer you to a previous blog entry, "Try Everything: A story about finding voice." The boy in the story is actually a 2e learner that I worked with in a previous job.
Making music in groups is an excellent way to develop social skills for individuals of any diagnosis or cognitive ability. Playing music together fosters a sense of unity and community, and can allow people of different abilities and backgrounds to work together to make something positive. Important social skills like following directions, listening, volume control, focusing, and waiting.
Our musical behavior reflects our social behavior-- if you have a person that tends to dominate the conversation and a person who tends to hang back and speak softly, what do you think happens when you give everyone drums? Pretty much the same thing. The good news is that, if you can change someone's musical behavior, you can help them learn to change their social behavior.
Incidentally, I can't resist making another plug for the Social Skills Group for children we are offering in South Jordan this coming August. There will be more information on this blog and our assorted social media over the course of the next week so stay tuned if you think this can benefit a child you know.
Music can be a powerful tool in helping people cope with their emotions. There are many music therapists working in psychiatric settings with individuals who have depression and other disorders (UNI, or the University Neuropsychiatric Institute up in Salt Lake City employs many part time and full time music therapists, for example), and even those who don't have a mental disorder often use music to cheer themselves up if they are feeling down.
One tool music therapists often used is called the Iso Principle. The basic idea (and I am simplifying this) is that you can change someone's mood by starting with music that matches where they are at now and transitioning to music that matches where you want them to be. For example, if someone is upset, you don't want to go in with cheerful happy music-- that'll just annoy them. But if you can go in with a song that is as upset as they are, you can then go to a slightly calmer song, and then a slightly calmer song, and work your way to music that is calm and cheerful-- and the amazing thing is that the person you are working with will calm down along with the music.
A music therapist can even help someone to create a playlist of songs, running from upset to calm, that can be a tool for gifted learners (and others) to use to self-regulate intense emotions.
Songwriting is also a powerful way of dealing with emotions. Turning someone's challenges into a song validates them, and creates a place for healthy self expression. Even better is when you can give someone the opportunity to share a song they've written with others; this can turn a negative experience into something more powerful, and help individuals feel more accepted. That's something that everyone, not just gifted learners, need to find.
That's where we'll close for now. Coming up next will be a post with some resources for gifted learners and their families.
Please feel free to contact us or leave a comment if you have any questions or thoughts about this topic! In addition to our upcoming social skills group, we do provide individual music therapy for gifted learners and others, so contact us today for a free consultation on how music therapy can help your specific needs.
Everyone: Have a wonderful Independence Day Weekend (or if there is anyone reading this from another country, have a wonderful run of the mill weekend), and we'll see you soon!