Use Your Voice: Non-verbal people

At Chiltern Music Therapy, we are passionate about empowering others to "use their voice" - whether this be musically, functionally and/or metaphorically.

We are dedicating the month of August to sharing inspirational stories, and providing helpful information and tips. Today we are focusing on people who are non-verbal.

Language is a significant part of communication, but we can express ourselves in many ways and this is unique to each person. We regularly work with non-verbal clients, and one of the most important aspects of this work is supporting people to use their voice - not only in a literal sense but also more broadly in facilitating self expression and developing their autonomy to communicate and be themselves.

Non-verbal people can face many barriers in getting the support they need to live their fullest and happiest lives, but this can be greatly improved if those around them can learn their individual ways of communicating and, where appropriate, to give them some extra tools to interact meaningfully with others. In music therapy, we might offer client-led activities such as improvised music, where we attune to and work with the spontaneous sounds and movements that a person makes. This helps to validate and develop their own methods of communicating as well as any underlying emotions. We might also use structured music and songs to develop functional communication, such as focussing on particular speech sounds, using communication aids to make choices, or cause and effect type activities where they can learn new ways of getting what they need from their environment more easily.

Our Music Therapist, Laura, shares her insight into working with non-verbal children.

"Working in SEN schools, I have seen the various ways that music has made an impact for non-verbal children. I have heard them make new speech sounds for the first time, uncovered potential emotional difficulties and developed strategies to improve these problems, and I have seen the children and staff light up and become energised at this new way of expressing themselves. Giving them this opportunity helps to prevent further difficulties down the line and it’s also a really fun way to spend time and get to know each other."

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