Music therapy program could aid DV special needs students

Riya Mehta and Helen Kang

In order to help special needs students focus and retain information, the Dougherty Valley special needs department is trying to implement music therapy into their curriculum.

Music therapy is designed to manage stress, alleviate pain, express feelings, enhance memory, improve communication and promote physical wellness. It is shown to treat autism, dementia and depression by addressing physical, cognitive, emotional and social needs.

Music therapists have special training enabling them to use music to help people with healing and symptom alleviation. Music therapy sessions can involve both groups and individuals, depending on the program. DV special needs teachers are considering integrating music therapy into the everyday lifestyle of their students.

Ms. Mindy Castro, who teaches Special Day Class (SDC), gained experience with music therapy when she worked with students in her previous district in Castro Valley. She is open to starting this form of therapy at Dougherty.

“Being able to touch the instrument, hear the instrument, play the instrument, gives them more stimulation and engagement than if someone was just sitting and talking to them”, Castro said.

Castro has seen the impact of this form of therapy on students in her previous district, noticing a change in less than a week.

“Students with visual impairments tend to do a lot of movement to try to do some stimulation, and we saw less of that. The movements trying to seek sensory engagement went down,” she said.

Similar to Castro, Mr. DJ Frommoethelydo teaches moderate/severe special day class and believes that music therapy is beneficial.

“It’s one thing to say the alphabet, and it’s another thing to sing the alphabet. Because the way the cadence gets stuck in your head; it’s repetitive … I like to incorporate songs into my lesson plans because the melodies in the cadences get stuck in their heads,” he said.

Music therapy can also help special needs students emotionally.

Sophomore Emily Bargas shared the experience of music therapy with her brother, who has mild autism.

“My brother listens to music a lot when he’s angry. When he’s upset, he’ll go to the computer to play classical music to calm himself down,” she said.

Currently, the special needs department is trying to focus on implementing therapeutic practices through art and music to take the students’ minds off of school work and hopefully break down barriers between students at Dougherty.

“Music is universal. No matter who you are, whatever your background is, you’re going to be exposed to music,” Frommoethelydo said.