Music is a language that is universal, regardless of race, gender, heritage, ability, age etc. Music can make us feel numerous different emotions, it can make us get up and dance or it can bring memories flooding back. It is an incredibly powerful tool.
Many Speech and Language Therapists and, obviously, music therapists will advise the use of music therapy for children with SEN. There are so many benefits of using music with children with additional needs as it stimulates and enhances cognitive abilities, helps them develop motor skills and offers a new form of expression.
Here are just some of the benefits music can have with children with SEN and also some activity ideas to use in class!
1. Helps grow vocabulary
Children will come across new and different words in the songs that they sing. The words are often repeated and when they are able to relate a new word inside the context of the song, they will rapidly increase their vocabulary. This is true for children who are both verbal and non-verbal - always try to sign when you are signing so that the children who are non-verbal can learn new signs and relate them to new words.
2. Improves motor skills
There is a lot of motor skill required to hold and play an instrument, and for some instruments, you need both hands. Being able to grip, shake, or beat instruments can improve fine and gross motor skills as well as bilateral coordination where both sides of the brain are needed and therefore communicate better with each other as they build neurological connections. Here are some great instruments you can use in your class orchestra!
3. Helps fight stress and improve memory
Music has been found to have a calming effect on the brain and doctors have argued that it can be used to relax people. Some studies have even shown that listening to or playing music lowers blood pressure. Another reason why music is used extensively with children is that it helps boost their memory! You are far more likely to remember content when it is incorporated into a rhythmic song, like the alphabet song. Just think about how many songs you know the lyrics to!
4. Improves focus and attention
All children, though especially those with SEN, can find it tricky to concentrate for extended periods of time. Music can keep children focused as it demands attention and the skills learned here will spill over into other areas. Constant exposure to music, especially playing music, will help children develop their concentration and attention skills.
5. Improves social interaction
Music brings people together and many music therapy activities are done in groups. Music can break down barriers and help children who either struggle with communication or are non-verbal find a way to express themselves through a new medium. When participating as part of a group, children's social skills will continue to develop as they create music with one another, feel part of a group and can take direction from a 'conductor'.
Music Therapy Activities
Five Little Speckled Frogs
Five Little Ducks
10 Green Bottles
1, 2, 3, 4, 5, Once I Caught A Fish Alive
Ten in the Bed
Wheels on the Bus
Old McDonald had a Farm
Head, Shoulders, Knees & Toes
Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star
Ob-La-Di - The Beatles
Somewhere Over the Rainbow - Israel Kamakawiwoʻole
You Are My Sunshine - Jasmine Thompson
Don't Worry, Be Happy - Bobby McFerrin
Three Little Birds - Bob Marley