Emily’s Story

Emily was referred to Thomas’s Fund in 2014. She is 12 years old and has severe learning difficulties and visual impairment and spent weeks in intensive care due to sepsis and pneumonia. Her ill health and vulnerable state meant she continued to be isolated at home from her friends, teachers and activities at school. Emily was due to go back to school in the new term and yet due to further medical complications she needed further intensive treatment in hospital and periods of recuperation at home. Emily received weekly music therapy during these months and experienced a regular space in which to express herself freely and rebuild her physical strength and confidence in communication.

Emily spent the early sessions needing to sit on Mum’s lap on the sofa and often cuddling up to her and kissing her. She tentatively reached out to feel and sound different instruments such as the chimes and the shakers. She was intent on keeping gloves on her hands as she felt instruments. Over time she grew the confidence to vocalise more and to sing her own melodies as I accompanied. She often wriggled, danced, clapped and played the snare drum that had become her firm favourite instrument. She nodded her head to me to indicate she wanted me to continue playing and singing when I paused.

In one key turning point of independence, Emily chose to sit on the floor next to me for the whole session. From then on she sat independently of Mum and she engaged confidently and happily. She had by now no need of hand gloves and played steady beats on the snare drum and also the big gourd shaker and sung frequently, often playing and singing for a full 30 or 40 minutes. She continued to listen keenly, try new instruments and interact sociably, sometimes kissing instruments and blowing kisses to me. She continued to turn to Mum occasionally to acknowledge and appreciate her. After the sessions she was often more invigorated and happily went off to read some books, chatting away as she did so.

Emily is soon to return to school, fitter and stronger due to her treatment and convalescence and increasing in confidence and readiness to engage in school life. This is partly due to the consistent, affirming, creatively inspiring, encouraging, enabling and supportive role that Thomas’s Fund music therapy has provided. Emily’s mum has been an enduringly strong, devoted, comforting and essential presence for Emily throughout her ill health. Emily has both enjoyed this within the music therapy sessions and been able to gently become once again more independent over this period whilst keeping the special bond that they have.

Andy Stevens
Music Therapist, HCPC Reg: AS13775