Family Group Music Therapy

Early years sessions are our family group peer support format. Families are invited to attend these sessions which offer a context within which to share and improve all aspects of communication through a variety of musical activities. Movement to music is often used as an integral part of this work offering an additional skill to parents. Puppets, colourful scarves, stretchy fabric and a range of fun and accessible instruments form useful props in these playful and popular sessions.

Government policy from 'Every Child Matters' - launched in 2003- through to current Department for Education strategy acknowledges the important role of early intervention:

"a strong focus on the first few years of children's lives leads to huge economic, social and emotional benefits" (1)

Targeted music therapy family work provides an intervention which focuses on empowering needy families through supporting the development of a greater range of communication skills, which in turn nurtures children's development, helps promote strong attachments and increases self-confidence within all family members. It deliberately reaches out to families who may be socially isolated - such as those with a child with special educational needs or behavioural difficulties - and engages families positively within the education system and creates an opportunity for building key social support networks. Taken as a whole, these outcomes hugely increase the likelihood of successful lives and attainment for these families and children.

There are two main studies describing the effectiveness of Music Therapy family group work. The first study examines parental perceptions of group work for families with a child with Autism. The positive responses to the intervention cited in the paper also reflect those given generally by family group members:

"I think he was the most improved of the kids. A huge change from the beginning. He was interacting by the end. I think that this was great for him". (2)

In her book 'Music Therapy with Children and their Families' Oldfield (3) describes the rationale for her pioneering work and research in this field which is the main influence for the direction of our work at Living with Harmony.  Supporting and empowering parents has an ongoing positive impact on the lives of children and families. Families experiencing their children's achievements first hand can really influence their family dynamics and motivation. One mother describes her feelings about her son's musical engagement:

'His enthusiasm and pleasure were so intense that it was impossible not to feel happy myself, especially when he started to share his enjoyment with me' (4)

Social and emotional causes for delays in communication are directly addressed through family group music therapy (5). These are important areas which link to the positive outcomes of 'Every Child Matters'.

Evaluation

Living with Harmony takes the quality of the service and service improvement very seriously. We are happy to receive feedback at any time during or after a project. We have currently two approaches to evaluation for the family group work. The Music Therapy Star for the children and a questionnaire for the parents.

Music Therapy Star

The Music Therapy Star assessment - which includes parents, professionals/teachers, music therapists and family members - is useful for monitoring the effectiveness of the work for the child. It is a validated tool which brings a visual representation of the child's abilities and then maps how those change.

Parental Feedback

Feedback questionnaires asking for parents to describe their experience is important in improving the service and in capturing the parents point of view. We are happy to co-create these to include the priorities of our delivery partners.

Outputs

  • Presenting and setting up the work in two targeted nursery groups
  • Evidence: attendance and delivery confirmed by nursery senior management
  • Weekly Family group Music therapy provided for the two targeted groups
  • 48 Family group music therapy sessions over six months including 20 families.
  • Evidence: weekly attendance register kept by music therapists.
  • Evaluation report and individual reports

References can be found here.


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