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CPD: Using music as a communication and crisis tool in PMLD

TAKEN FROM A DISCUSSION LED BY GEOFF BARTHOLOMEW AND ANNIE RUSCILLO

Children with PMLD (profound and multiple learning difficulties) can really struggle to communicate their needs as many are non-verbal or pre-verbal – and we as adults can struggle to get an insight into their worlds too. A lot of work is done from age 5+ to give children with PMLD the tools for communication in schools but what if we gave them appropriate tools at a younger age, through using music, sound and vibration, to kick start the process earlier, thus preventing a struggle to catch up?

We have been working to explore this by translating the psycho-motor responses of children with PMLD (with the assistance of their parents) to a set repertoire of music – instead of just looking for movement, vocalisation or reaction, we look for stillness too, which can be a sign of total absorption. It is interesting to think how we can tailor music (and silence) for individual needs of each unique child. One of the aims of this study is to give parents a musical toolkit that they are confident to use when their child is in pre-crises to prevent a full meltdown. Another is looking at using music with children with PMLD and their siblings in order to help develop interaction and therefore relationships – and how parents can facilitate that communication.

We want music to help children with PMLD demonstrate what they are capable of, without any limitations from the labelling of their condition. This is an example of using music to solve real problems for children with additional needs – not just music for musics sake or music as a therapy. 


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