Music therapy during an extended admission

This story was written for the bi-annual Grant Report.


Shaun is a 15 yr old Somali boy with intractable epilepsy and developmental delays. He was referred to music therapy services to maintain his developmental skills and have quality of life experiences during his extended admission.

When the music therapist first walked into Shaun’s room, he appeared drowsy and was passively reclined on his bed. Shaun’s eyes partially opened and his head moved some toward the music therapist once the transitional music began. Shaun is nonverbal, so the music therapist asked his dad for familiar or favorite songs.

When the music therapist played and sang Shaun’s preferred music, Shaun appeared at full attention. He gave lots of eye contact and attempted a smile.  The music therapist used Shaun’s favorite songs during movement exercises involving instrument playing.  Shaun reached, grasped, crossed his midline, and functionally played a variety of instruments.

Shaun’s dad was encouraging throughout by singing along and started a video call with Shaun’s mom, who is living out of the country, to show her what Shaun was doing. After about twenty minutes of active moving and focused attention, Shaun appeared fatigued.  Music therapy slowed down the tempo and volume of the music and helped Shaun fall asleep for a well-deserved rest.