In Autumn 2018, teachers at The Shraddha Centre for Special Education got in touch with Advisory Panel member Nina Cherla to express their interest in music therapy. The Centre has 120 students in total – children and young people with learning disabilities, between seven to twenty years old. Having previously worked with two more Hyderabad schools, Nina hoped that this training project would bolster the local network, promoting local ownership by the schools.

Headteacher Pavan chose four of her most creative staff members to train, two who worked with younger children and two with adolescents, in order to spread the reach of the music training as far across the school as possible. Three music groups were formed – all children and young people chosen to take part had in common a difficulty interacting socially, communicating and using language. 

Nina began with an introductory workshop for staff to think about the basics of music therapy, and the first couple of weeks focused on modelling activities and reflecting on aims, introducing new concepts as the sessions went on. Importantly, the group made time for reflection at the end of each training day. They decided to focus on activities that promoted social interaction, self-expression, awareness of others, and choice-making – to different degrees depending on the group’s ability.

With time P began to take part in the sessions, accept and explore various instruments. He seems to be less isolated and more curious about the world around him. Furthermore, the teachers reported that Phanindra has begun to accept physical touch… It seems that music has helped him to become more aware and accepting of others.

Music therapist’s report

By week four, the teachers were leading parts of the sessions. Together with Nina they kept discussing their experiences and ‘fine-tuning’ their approach through practical exercises. The group also began to see real developments in the young people; they were expressing themselves positively, finding a voice where before they had found communication challenging.

Teachers were struggling to find a way to engage with A… However, in the music groups he truly blossomed. A would bang the drum forcefully and smile, enjoying the attention and being in control. Furthermore, this joy seemed to last long after the music session

Music therapist’s report

By week six, the teachers were leading their own sessions with Nina’s observation, and 21 students had participated across the course of the project. Not only this, but The Shraddha Centre had dedicated an entire room only for music therapy and scheduled regular sessions. This meant that many more of its 120 students would have the opportunity to access music as a part of their care. The school even asked Nina to stay on to deliver more music therapy, and staff were keen to keep building on their skills.

If Nina could stay on and give few advanced classes (sessions) to us, it would be most helpful to us. Nina taught us so beautifully, we are really grateful to you

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