Wednesday 16 October 2019

Minister visits Marino for a little music therapy

Mary Fogarty

Minister Simon Harris paid a visit to Marino School in Bray last Friday, to join a group of students in music therapy.

'Marino School is fortunate to benefit from the music therapy expertise of Katerina Cussen and her amazing music therapy workshops for this school term,' said principal Oonagh Kenny. 'Katerina is completing her MA in music therapy and she has chosen Marino School in which to complete her final placement and to develop skills in independent work as a music therapist.'

To show their support, minister Simon Harris, together with Cllr John Ryan donated €500 to help fund additional instruments. Ann Nolan, the director of Music Generation Wicklow also kindly supported the programme by lending several instruments.

Katerina said the whole experience at Marino School has been fantastic.

'The reception from Oonagh and the all the staff has been incredible, from showing an open mind to music therapy, finding a room in the school, to putting up with the initial disruptions to the school routine and coating everything in a "can do" attitude,' she said.

'Everything that the teachers and the special needs assistants in Marino do is so focused on the child and so full of kindness. They work as a team and are fully committed to each child and his or her individual potential. It has been a privilege to be part of the team. I would also like to thank to all the parents for supporting the service. Finally, thanks to all the children who brought their own pure self into the music and who utterly enjoyed the process.'

The programme facilitated individual sessions as well as small groups. While children make music they are making friendships, and experiencing enjoyment. Working in small groups, the therapist can support children in learning and practicing social skills, turn taking, listening to others and initiating conversation.

The teachers have commented on children being more focused when they return to class after a therapy session, improvement in children's mood, and children being relaxed and calm. Music offers an alternative way to communicate, especially in a non-verbal context, and was a huge motivator for some children to participate in school activities.

Music and song can have many benefits. Music can motivate and when used intentionally it can empower a person to take action and participate. Singing can serve as a scaffolding to learn new words, free improvised playing can facilitate a connection with others, rhythm can help organise one's movement and improve motor skills, and musically adapted social stories can support positive behaviour. Children get to make lots of choices and exercise control over their environment by playing instruments, using their movement and voice. All these techniques are supported by strong evidence.

Feedback from parents and staff was overwhelmingly positive and many expressed a wish that music therapy be a round the year service, to continue to support children in the school environment.

'Katerina planned and led music therapy sessions with students, supported by staff in Marino School, over the course of the last ten weeks,' said Oonagh. 'She made remarkable progress with students and has even established a "Marino Band"! We fully support Katerina in identifying and promoting the role of music therapy in working with students with additional needs and also the statutory registration of creative arts therapies in Ireland. I would like to thank Katerina for all her great work with students in Marino School to date. We are certainly going to miss her.'

Wicklow People