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Heartsong's mission is to provide clinically-based therapeutic, educational and rehabilitative creative arts programs that seek to enhance the functioning level and quality of life of individuals with special needs.
Heartsong is a music and art therapy program that uses music and art therapy in its many forms and styles to help children with special needs express themselves regardless of their physical or mental abilities.
Our core program runs on Saturdays during the school year. The program provides 45 minute sessions of music and art therapy, socialization, skill development in a clinical and therapeutic atmosphere. Each session is led by a certified Music Therapist, and has the help of a music therapy assistant. In art therapy, a Registered Art Therapist leads the sessions with the help of an assistant therapist. Community volunteers provide vital assistance in both programs.
Volunteers are an integral part of the Heartsong program, as they not only contribute to the overall group spirit, but they also assist the children in a variety of ways. Movement to music, for example, is an important aspect of our music therapy program. Because of the volunteers, children who are physically challenged get to be as active as those who can get about more easily. Volunteers propel the wheelchairs in rhythm to the music being played while encouraging the children to move their bodies in any way they can "to the music." Sometimes, the volunteer will take the child out of the wheelchair (if applicable to the child’s condition) and physically help him/her to walk, run, skip, dance, "ice skate" or whatever the music calls for. In addition to movement to music, instrument playing is another essential aspect of the Heartsong program. Whether beating a drum, shaking a maraca or playing the cymbals, volunteers provide hand-over-hand assistance as needed. Not only does this assistance enable children to delight in the musical sound they create, it also aids the therapeutic process as it helps to improve their physical dexterity and coordination.
Art Therapy provides a means of personal expression for the children while enhancing social, communication and sensory skills. Volunteers assist the children in hand over hand assistance and help those who are tactile defensive to gain confidence in their expressive art form. Volunteers will help each child explore sensory art material to help them overcome tactile defensiveness.
It is not only physically challenged children who benefit from participation of the volunteers. If a child has emotional difficulties, the volunteer can be a source of nurturance and support, which enables the child to be part of the group process. If the child has low self-esteem, the attention she/he receives from their volunteer can go a long way toward boosting his/her self-confidence. If a child has cognitive delays, the volunteer can serve as a model and provide the one-to-one help needed to facilitate the activity for the child. If a child has speech and language deficits, having a special person to talk to can facilitate his/her expressive skills within the larger group setting. Our volunteers serve all of these basic needs in our children, and more.
The volunteers also contribute to the group dynamics in important ways. Their spirited participation in various activities (singing, playing instruments, moving to music, helping them to experiment with different art materials which will also enable them to explore their environment) adds momentum and playfulness to the music and art therapy process. Moreover, because they work so closely with their particular child, they are able to give important feedback to the music and therapists about how that child is doing, aspects the therapist might have missed while attending to the group at large. The volunteers are encouraged to make suggestions and express their own ideas so that they too have an important role in the creative process of the Heartsong program.
We hold a volunteer orientation session and pair our newer volunteers with a more experienced volunteer. We have several guidelines which we distribute to each new volunteer to further help the volunteer understand their role in the therapeutic setting. Each volunteer is paired up with a specific child, so that over the weeks they get to know each other and become an interactive team within the group process. This not only enables us to serve larger numbers of children in the groups than would otherwise be possible, but also creates intergenerational friendships which benefit both members of each unique pair of special people.
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