Music therapy is putting people with disabilities in the driving seat

November 22, 2017

A musician with a lifelong dream of helping others is transforming lives after setting up her own music therapy service. Staff journalist HOLLY HARRISON speaks to therapist Amelia Clapham about what music therapy offers people with disabilities


“Music is so accessible. Everybody has a favourite song, and everyone remembers where they were the first time they heard it.
“It stores so many memories and emotions - it’s just so powerful, which is why it works so well.”
People across South East England are being offered a fantastic new form of therapy as a brand new organisation gets off the ground.
Ace Music Therapy is a new service based in the London and South East area, delivering top-quality, professional music therapy to people with disabilities.
Founded by 27-year-old Amelia Clapham, Ace Music Therapy is the product of a life-long dream, which began when Amelia was just a young girl.
“This has been my dream job since I was about 10-years-old,” Amelia explains.
“I met an autistic child and made friends, and just sat with him. His mum was really surprised and said that he never really lets strangers near him.
“I felt as though I had connected with him on some level, and from that point on, I always wanted to work with people with special needs. It feels like a calling.”
The classically-trained musician remained focused on this dream thoughout the following years, securing a music and German degree before embarking on a masters in music therapy.

In 2015, Amelia qualified as a music therapist and started to build up her freelance work.Music therapy is putting people with disabilities in the driving seat
Earlier this year, Ace Music Therapy was born and Amelia finally began realising her dream of “transforming lives through music.”
She says: “I do home visits, school visits, and long-term music therapy work but also workshops.
“It’s about developing people’s communication through vocal interaction and musical interaction.
“It helps with developing decision-making skills by pointing at things; they can do things like choosing betweeen instruments, and it can help with improving eye contact, and emotional expression.”

Entirely client led, music therapy is a fantastic way of encouraging people to regain a sense of independence as it allows them to make decisions and take control of the situation in hand.
Amelia explains: “Children with disabilities often struggle to express how they are feeling, but they can do that through music. I try to tune myself into how the child is feeling and reflect that. It’s about social interaction - building on social skills and developing friendships.”
The relationship Amelia forms with her clients is a key part of the therapy, as she learns how to react to a range of visual and verbal signals to create the music in her client’s mind.
“I work with a young adult there who was 16 when I started, but is 18 now. He suffered a brain injury from falling off his bike. Music therapy was the one thing he got something from. “They were really small things like the flickering of his eyes, or a small movement in his hand, but I really felt I could help him communicate through these movements.”
This sense of control and the act of making decisions is a powerful tool that allows her clients to experience new things, communicate better, and improve cognitive development.
Amelia says: “Children who are severely disabled live in a world where everything is done for them but music therapy is entirely child led.

“As much as I have got my own aims, I am working with what the child presents; they are able to control my music. I work with whatever they give me. They are completely in control.”
 In a world where communication might be limited, music offers people a new sense of freedom, as they can use a range of instruments to communicate different thoughts and feelings, as well as enjoying more playful interaction.
Amelia says: “It’s musical interaction. They would communicate something then I would match it and reflect it back to them.”
“Quite often they can’t interact with their peers because they’re just not able to, but if you give them an instrument that’s easily accessible - like the chimes where they can just brush their hand against it - they are able to have a musical conversation with eachother, it helps them build relationships and interact.”
However, in addition to the emotional and psychological benefits of the therapy, Amelia has found that it has had a truly transformational impact on her clients in a more physical way.
She explains: “I have managed to help a child talk before. He’d had a tracheotomy and he came to music therapy because his mum just wanted him to have some access to music because he’d always liked it.
“Because of his tracheotomy he couldn’t make a sound, but he came to music therapy and that’s where he made his first sound.  He was then given a speech valve because we could prove he could make a sound.
“Having mum in the sessions helped because she was able to take some of the activities I did with him home and build up what were were doing in the sessions.
“She was over the moon.”

Encouraging family members, friends, or carers to take part in the sessions is something Amelia firmly believes in, as it enables her clients to have more access to music and therapy, and develop even more quickly.
She says: “I do a lot of work with groups and families, which is so beneficial.
“Some people say “I can’t do what you can do”, but it’s not about being musical, it’s about using music in a way to help people develop and access music on their level.”
Having seen clients completely transform under the treatment, Amelia is determined to encourage more people to try out the powerful effect of music therapy for themselves.
Whether clients are just looking for some one-on-one time to improve social interaction, or are looking for an effective form of therapy, music has something to offer everyone.
Amelia says: “Music therapy works for everyone, and everybody always gets something out of the sessions, even if it’s just that one-on-one time.
“However, there is a big difference between what I do and someone just coming in and playing music to someone. The way I do it directly responds to what the client wants - they are the ones in control.”

For more information about Ace Music Therapy visit:


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