Ask Tamara. Your Questions Answered…
You may never have thought of music therapy as a therapeutic learning tool for your child. Maybe it’s something you’ve been curious about but haven’t pursued, or you maybe you’ve never heard of it.
Well, look no further! We asked Tamara Leszner-Rovet, an experienced and skilled music therapist, about the benefits of music therapy to those on the autism spectrum.
What is Music Therapy?
Music Therapy is the use of music and musical interventions to achieve non-musical goals. Through singing, improvising, composing, instrument playing, etc., a Music Therapist can use these interventions as a catalyst to help achieve communication, cognitive, academic, motor, emotional and social goals while also enhancing quality of life.
Can you tell us about your work as a music therapist? What made you choose this field?
I am a classically trained pianist, and my dream from the time I was little was to be a piano performer. I worked with one of the top teachers at the Royal Conservatory of Music for many years. I knew instantly from that first session I observed that this is what I was meant to do, and applied and was accepted into a Music Therapy program for the following school year.
It became very clear quite quickly during my practicum placements that I was meant to work with children. I am naturally a very energetic, enthusiastic, and passionate person, and these personality traits are very compatible with children. I love their exuberance, curiosity, and wonder! Being able to help children speak, walk, and help then with social skills among many other things brings me such joy. It is an absolute pleasure working with some of the most amazing, brilliant children and their families.
My private practice specializes in working with children and teenagers with neurological disorders and developmental delays, though we also work with adults and older adults in long term care. We also provide adapted music lessons, which are tailored to the particular client’s strengths and needs to learn a particular instrument.
My practice can be challenging at times, but is always extremely rewarding and fulfilling. I seldom feel like I’m working- I absolutely love what I do!
Who can benefit from music therapy?
Anyone who has any therapeutic goals to work on! Music Therapy approaches can be tailored to the client’s strengths and needs to ensure a positive and rewarding experience for all involved.
How is music therapy helpful to those with Autism Spectrum Disorder?
From my experience, individuals with ASD tend to be drawn to music and very often have natural musical abilities (i.e., perfect pitch, rhythm, etc.). Music in itself is naturally rewarding, so a client may think they are coming to sessions to “play” when I am actually using music to help target their particular therapeutic goals.I often work with a client’s other therapists (SLP, OT, ABA, PT, etc.) to help facilitate and enhance therapeutic goals, and through the power of Music Therapy we are able to progress and achieve goals quite quickly!
How often do individuals with autism actually become musicians or demonstrate musical abilities?
I have had the pleasure in my career to work with some of the most unbelievably musical and talented individuals. The majority of the clients I work with do possess the gift of perfect pitch, and do become amazing musicians. I’m not concerned about whether or not they become famous- music is a skill that these individuals can carry with them for the rest of their lives.
How does music therapy help non-verbal children?
Music is an alternate way to facilitate communication without requiring verbal skills, so it is quite beneficial for children who are non-verbal. Music can be a healthy and safe way to express emotions that someone who is non-verbal would not be able to communicate through language. Improvisation is such an effective intervention to meet the needs of children who are non-verbal. With time, verbal skills can emerge- I’ve seen and heard this with my own eyes and ears!
Does music therapy help enhance language skills?
Yes! Music can be used to practice and discriminate between sounds, encourage sound and language production, sentence structure, pronouns, etc., and help and develop an understanding for language patterns that can be generalized in other areas of the child`s life.
What is a typical music therapy session like?
There is lots of singing, instrument playing, songwriting, improvisation, movement, and most importantly – fun!, in a typical music therapy session. Every client is different and is working toward different therapeutic goals, so we tailor sessions to meet the needs of the client.
What is one of your favourite music therapy activities?
It is so hard to choose one, but I really love improvisation. It is a skill that is not taught in the classical music curriculum, and I needed to work really hard to master. It is such an effective and meaningful way to meet the client where they are at on any particular day, and an opportunity to create music together and connect.
In your opinion, what is the future of music therapy?
I truly feel the future of Music Therapy is bright. Music Therapists in Ontario are now becoming regulated with the College of Psychotherapists of Ontario, and Music Therapy is being recognized more and more as an effective way to help people of all ages and abilities.
I used to have to explain to every person I met what a Music Therapist was – I do not need to do that nearly as often, and I see that as progress and hope for the future!
Any last piece of advice?
If you have a child with special needs who seems to love music, it is definitely worth looking into receiving Music Therapy services by an Accredited Music Therapist (MTA).
If you have any further questions for Tamara, or if you’re in the Greater Toronto Area and interested in inquiring about her services, please visit her website at www.tpsmts.com