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World music therapy day: what led me to this field

Happy world music therapy day! I am often asked "what brought you to this field?"

In 2006 I graduated from the University of New Hampshire and found a job in special education. I worked as a 1:1 aid with a young boy with autism and in those two years knew I had found my passion. In 2008 we moved to Portland, OR, where I worked in a pre-school for children with autism spectrum disorders. It was here that I become fascinated by music and the effect it had on building skills and on the school day overall. At the time I had never heard of music therapy and didn't understand exactly why music was helping in times of transition or when giving a direction, but it was and I was fascinated.

Although I observed music playing an important role in the education of so many of our students, it played a very big role in my relationship with one student in particular. I wrote my entry essay about her because of the impact music had on our relationship and on her (and my) education. She was five years old and at that time was pre-verbal. During our time together I observed her able to access speech while singing. I would leave a word out of a familiar song and pause and she would fill in that word. I can still hear her voice clearly filling in "you" when singing "Hello and how are _______". When we sang together she would smile and stare so intensely at my face like suddenly I was speaking her language.

Transitions were distressing for her and they happened constantly throughout the day (to the table for lunch, to a new workstation, to circle time, out to recess, etc). She would frequently fall to the floor and scream during these times. I began to make up little songs that indicated what was coming next and at the time it seemed like magic. She would take my hand and transition easily to the next activity. Of course this wasn't 100% of the time, but it was enough to continue my curiosity about music and how it belonged in education.

Throughout that year my curiosity increased and during an in-service I turned to a friend and said "I know what I'm going to do, I'm going to open a music program for children with autism." She responded that a program like that exists and it's called music therapy. This was the first time I had heard of this field. I immediately found a program to apply to and my journey began. I have been working in this field for five years now, utilizing the elements of music to support the growth and development of children with autism in schools and in-home.

I am passionate about this field, using music to support the growth and development of children with speech, motor, communication and/or sensory challenges and differences. I look forward to many years of serving New Hampshire and Southern Maine communities.

Happy world music therapy day!

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