What does the 70s song snippet, “Na,na,na,na — na,na,na,na — hey, hey, goodbye,” have to do with a day at school?

For one small boy at the Meyer Center for Special Children, singing this song over and over again with his music therapist means he is nailing his daily Individualized Education Program (IEP) goals. Practicing the “Nah, Guh, and Buh” sounds? It’s all play — not work — to him! 

Are you parenting a special needs child? You know the daily struggle of helping your child with challenges in areas that come naturally to many children: speech, movement control, and emotional connections. 

Why music therapy?

You’re grateful for any positive steps forward in your child’s life. Working with a music therapist is an often overlooked option. Why should you consider this option?

Lisa Hanson, a board-certified music therapist at the Meyer Center, explains, “When you listen to music it’s a whole brain assault. Your whole brain is firing. Your body automatically responds. Even your respiration and blood pressure are affected.” 

She’s seen wonderful steps forward for the children she’s helped in her fifteen years at the Meyer Center for Special Children in Greenville, SC. Imagine a child progressing from not speaking to being able to sing a solo in the school program! True story!   

Slow and steady wins the race!

Such progress does not happen overnight. It takes time and patience, and carefully-tailored therapy. Often Mrs. Hanson works as a team with other special needs educators such as speech pathologists. “Baby steps are everything,” says Mrs. Hanson. 

Being a music therapist is like being a “horse-whisperer”. Lisa tunes in carefully to each child’s response to music. She custom-tailors her program for their particular progress goals.

With low-functioning special needs children, sometimes just a tiny bit of eye contact will be her cue that a child is responding positively. “I improvise one-on-one with children all day long.”

While Ms. Hanson sings and plays instruments with children, she mingles work with pleasure.   

For children with movement disorders such as dystonia, moving in time with the beat happens almost effortlessly when the right music is played. 

Even deaf children love and learn enthusiastically with music because they can feel the rhythm. 

However, such creative therapy does not happen by accident. “People ask me all the time what a music therapist does. Often they think you are just musical and good with people,” says Lisa. 

Actually, according to Ryan Judd, MT-BC, of Rhythm Tree, “Music therapy is an established healthcare profession that uses research-based interventions to help clients reach non-musical therapeuticals.”  

Seek the “real deal” — a certified music therapist.

“The field of music therapy is constantly evolving with scientific discoveries about the human body, neurology, and how we learn. I love learning and helping to bring hope and change for special needs children and their parents,” says Ms. Hanson.

For more resources or to find a board-certified music therapist in your area, Lisa Hanson recommends the American Music Therapy Association at https://www.musictherapy.org. 

About the author:

Lisa Hanson, MT-BC, kindly agreed to an interview with Julia Daniels, freelance writer for wellness providers and professional service firms. Julia loves to spotlight the positivity that professional service providers contribute to our communities.