A musical journey into online music sessions
Written by Fiona Sharp
“My daughter is 33 years old and has a profound learning disability. Until the pandemic we attended weekly group face to face music sessions with Fiona which we all really enjoyed. When face to face sessions were no longer possible, we were able to arrange online one to one sessions with Fiona. My daughter is usually very reluctant to engage with online activities but they have proved to be enormously beneficial for her. She has always enjoyed the songs but now she is also using communication cards and objects of reference to choose songs and activities. This has made the music sessions even more meaningful and she has also discovered new skills. Her sister is now able to join in virtually. These sessions have been a very positive experience, not just for my daughter but for the whole family.”
Pat decided to contact me about 1:1 online music sessions for her daughter Lauren half way through the Pandemic. Pat was noticing Lauren’s communication was starting to decrease, her posture had worsened and she was concerned Lauren was starting to show signs of depression.
The pandemic has had a huge impact on many people with PMLD (Profound Multiple Learning Disabilities), and over the past two years I have seen individuals who I have worked with for many years deteriorate rapidly over a few months due to lack of social interaction, communication, lack of movement, changes in routine and perhaps a lack of understanding about what is going on.
Previous experience proved that Lauren was not interested in participating with online activities, so I made sure the routine and structure was the same as when she participated in face to face music group sessions prior to the pandemic. It did seem to work as she was fully engaged in the first session for about 20 minutes. This rapidly increased over the weeks and Lauren was then able to fully participate, interact and engage for a full half hour session.
To encourage her communication skills, Pat made a communication board for Lauren to use during the sessions so she can make choices with what songs she wants us to sing. Pat also has a vast array of props/objects of reference for Lauren to use during each song. This means that Lauren is not just sitting listening to the music, but is actively choosing and using props, instruments and making clear choices with what music she wants during the session. We have also been joined by Lauren’s sister which allows for the family to all be together on screen during the sessions which has been a lovely added benefit.
Over the past year Lauren has made huge developments both with her communication skills and her posture. With the aid of a neck support during the session she now looks straight at me on the screen making very good eye contact. She looks directly at the communication board and her props during the songs and overall seems a lot more content, happy and able to benefit from an online activity.
Pat goes on to say: “It has always been my view that Lauren would not be interested in online activities and that her attention span would not be sufficiently focused for her to derive enjoyment or learning in this way. Lauren’s profound learning disability means that she can often take a long time to develop new skills, and this has proved to be the case with the online music sessions. However, she still has the capacity to learn and with perseverance and imagination, as well as support from Fiona, we have collectively devised new ways of helping Lauren to communicate and to have fun. Furthermore, one of the unforeseen benefits has been that these skills are transferrable into other aspects of Lauren’s life. So there have definitely been very positive outcomes for the whole family.”
Is there are permanent place for online activities? I would definitely like to think so. I have been astounded at how online music sessions with some of my participants have massively developed their concentration, communication, listening skills and engagement. What was originally a Music Practitioner’s nightmare has ended up being a huge asset to the work we do at F Sharp Music. We can now run online music sessions across the country allowing participants to be involved in weekly 1:1 and group music sessions from all across Scotland, some who may not have had the opportunity to participate in music sessions prior to the Pandemic.
For more information about F Sharp Music online 1:1 and group music sessions, please email: