Special Needs Children: Every Child Has the Potential to Grow
At Harmony Music Therapy we work with many special needs children. With all of them, our philosophy is that “Every child has the potential to Grow”. I firmly believe that philosophy and hold to it with every client I see.
I recently had a conversation with a client’s mother about her daughter’s progress in music therapy and how to proceed. After talking for a while she commented “I like talking to you because you have hope for my child”. It occurred to me that there may be people out there who show limited hope for special needs children and the unique challenges they face. Then have the audacity to communicate that opinion to their parents.
While it is important to have realistic expectations for children with developmental challenges, it is also important to expect growth. To believe in the child. To continue to have expectations. Of course, the rate of growth and the level of expectation will be different for each child, but there is no reason to believe that growth will be nonexistent for an individual simply because of a disability. Every child has the potential to grow.
I spent the majority of my career working with individuals with severe and profound disabilities. Many of these special needs children function on a developmental level years behind their chronological age. The chronological age range was 3-22, but the developmental age range was about 9 months to 5 years. However this did not hinder any of the teachers or service providers from setting goals and working toward them with high expectations. For many of the students it took one or two years to accomplish something that may come naturally to a typically developing child (i.e. grasping an item and putting it into a container, focusing on a task for 30 seconds, or learning numbers 1-10), but that didn’t matter. It wasn’t about comparing kids to each other, it was about comparing the student to his or her self and expecting Growth! It often required creative intervention, collaboration between disciplines, and frequent 1:1 or small group time, but as long as the goals were initially appropriate for the child, it would come.
As a side note, music therapy was often one of those key interventions which would help a student progress and reach his or her goals more than any other!
Despite the rate of growth or the support needed to achieve it, every child has the potential to achieve great things. We as parents, practitioners, and members of society should always instill confidence in those around us, identify what help they may need to achieve their goals, and provide support for special needs children climbing those mountains to growth.