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When you’re prescribed a song: Part II
08 March 2015

When you’re prescribed a song: Part II

Last issue, we found out more about music therapy from music intervention trainer Serena Lo. This week, one of our Star PALS mums shares her family’s experience.

Twelve-year-old Esther, who has been living with arthrogryposis since birth, depends heavily on her parents and domestic helper. Although her condition prevents her from speaking or moving, the bubbly girl communicates with heart-melting smiles and giggles.

Children under our paediatric programme, Star PALS, are given the opportunity to try music therapy with Serena, music intervention trainer. Esther and her family have gone through the sessions, and are enjoying it thoroughly.

We caught up with Mdm Chng, Esther’s mother and primary caregiver, to find out more.

HCA: How did you first get to know about music therapy?

Nurse Serene Wong is our primary nurse, and she noticed that Esther tended to smile and laugh when the nurses sang to her. She thought that Esther might benefit from the music therapy sessions with Serena.

HCA: What made you decide to proceed with the session?

Basically, in a parent’s heart, we always hope to do our best for our children. Honestly, we would try anything if we knew it has a chance of helping her.

Besides this, we’ve always known that Esther responds well to things she can hear, laughing when she listens to music and even conversations. I’ve also heard from her teachers in the Rainbow Centre that she enjoys music there as well.

HCA: What happened during the session?

I didn’t know what to expect at first. Then I saw how professional and systematic Serena was, unpacking all the things she had with her – the keyboard, and all the percussion instruments – I immediately began to record the session.

She started with a greeting song, where we sang ‘Say Hello’. She then introduced us to the all the different instruments she brought along, letting us hear the different sounds they produced.

Serena didn’t just play the instruments for Esther, but helped Esther feel the instrument, and “play” the instrument by holding her hand and moving it to use the instruments.

Throughout, Serena asked us to play along to the music and help Esther with the playing too so she could join in. We sang many different songs, and nearing the end Serena taught us to do the simple massage and Esther’s usual exercises to the music.

HCA: Were there any parts of the session that was specially planned for Esther?

Definitely! She asked us what Esther likes. When she found out that Esther laughs at repetitive sounds, she included songs like ‘Old Macdonald’, which Esther really enjoyed. She learned that Esther took a taxi to school, and changed the lyrics in ‘The Wheels of the Bus Goes Round and Round’ to ‘Esther Sits In A Yellow Taxi’. When she sang, ‘Weah! Weah! Weah!’ like a crying baby as part of the song, Esther really loved it!

HCA: How did Esther respond?

We were so surprised at how happy she was during the session! We had never seen her so stimulated and responsive. She was laughing and smiling throughout the session.

I felt so glad that I recorded the sessions. Sometimes, I play back the tape recording, or show Esther the video, and she gets as excited as she did during the session.

HCA: Was there a difference between letting Esther listen to normal music, and the music therapy process?

Yes. She was definitely a lot more stimulated during the session. I think the difference is that she usually listens passively, but Serena got her to take an active role this time by playing the instruments with us, and making the actions like us kissing her, or even her kissing us. I could see her thinking and processing the lyrics in the song.

HCA: How do you see music therapy factoring into Esther’s care moving forward?

Personally, I’m hoping to see more responses from Esther, and hoping it can even affect her range of motion. We’re looking forward to the next session already!

Read Part I of the music therapy report in the previous issue of HCA Connect, where we interviewed Serena to find out more about music therapy. Star PALS (Paediatric Advanced Life Support) is a paediatric palliative care service dedicated to improving the quality of life for children with life-threatening or life-limiting conditions, in the comfort of their homes. For more information, visit our webpage at www.starpals.sg.