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  • Sierra Verity-Beasley

Engaging without speech - Music therapy with non-speaking children

Updated: Apr 30, 2023

As a music therapist who works with families, I understand the importance of embracing and accepting children who are non-speaking. While communication may look different for every child, it is essential to recognise that all children have a voice, and we need to create ways to hear them. Here are some tips to help engage with non-speaking children without the expectation of speech:

Create a safe and supportive environment

It's important to create a safe and supportive environment that allows the child to feel comfortable and relaxed. You can use music to help create this environment, as it can help regulate emotions and provide a sense of familiarity and comfort.

Use non-verbal communication

Non-speaking children may not be able to communicate verbally, but they can still communicate through gestures, facial expressions, and body language. Pay attention to these non-verbal cues, and respond to them accordingly. For example, if a child reaches out for a hug, respond with a warm embrace. If they reach for your bag, it might be because there was something inside a while ago that they feel they need (like a snack, or a soother, or a favourite toy!)

Incorporate sensory activities

This is so important. Many non-speaking children have sensory processing differences, and incorporating sensory activities can help them engage and communicate. Music therapists can use various sensory activities, such as drumming or using vibrating instruments, to help engage the child and provide a way for them to express themselves. As a parent, you can help your child by incorporating music into their daily routines. Singing songs, playing musical instruments, and listening to music together can be enjoyable and meaningful experiences that foster communication, emotional expression, and social interaction.

Be patient and persistent

It's important to be patient and persistent when supporting non-speaking children. As with all kids, repetition is key! But more than that, building an understanding of their needs takes time, and it's essential to focus on the child's strengths and interests rather than their challenging behaviours. Keep trying different ways to communicate, and remember that progress may be slow, but it is still progress.

Use assistive technology, and a lot of visual supports

Assistive technology, choice cards or even using relevant toys and colours can provide non-speaking children with ways to communicate, such as using communication boards or electronic devices. Music therapists can incorporate assistive technology into sessions and help parents and caregivers learn how to use these tools at home.

By creating a safe and supportive environment, using non-verbal communication, incorporating sensory activities, being patient and persistent we can help children communicate and express themselves in their own unique way.


What is music therapy and how can I help my child?

Music therapy is a clinical and evidence-based practice that uses music to achieve therapeutic goals. A music therapist is a trained professional who uses music interventions to address physical, emotional, cognitive, and social needs of individuals.

If you are interested in exploring music therapy as a treatment option for your child, it is important to find a qualified music therapist who has experience working with non-speaking children. A music therapist can assess your child's needs and create a personalised treatment plan that incorporates their musical preferences and strengths.

By incorporating music into your child's life and seeking the guidance of a music therapist, you can help them thrive and reach their full potential.

- Sierra Verity-Beasley, Registered Music Therapy


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