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Teaching with all the right notes

Music therapist Pip Algie is moving back to Wairarapa. PHOTO/HAYDEN HOCKLEY

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Music therapist Pip Algie has witnessed a lot of special moments in her career – first steps, daring hellos and pupils starting to develop their fine motor skills.

It’s the way people innately connect with music that she draws upon to help children with special needs achieve their goals.

“Music can be quite a motivating thing, especially for children,” she said. “It’s fun.”

With support from Trust House, she has been teaching a handful of pupils at St Patrick’s School using music therapy.

During sessions, participants played instruments, sang and created music.

“I work a lot with people with special needs or learning disabilities, people that aren’t really neurotypical,” she said.

Even the smallest accomplishments she saw in her classes could make a huge difference.

“Even a child who says hello for the first time in a session can be quite amazing if you are working with a young child who might, for the majority of the time, be non-verbal,” she said.

“A child who gives you great eye contact in a session can be an amazing thing because you can see the child is developing an awareness of themselves and of other people as well.”

The learning was always goal-centred and music was used as a tool to encourage the development of language or motor skills.

For instance, putting a set of chimes higher up could encourage a child to reach up high.

“It’s basically using music to work on things that are essentially non-musical,” she said.

“It all depends on what the child is interested in and what the child is drawn to.”

Her love of music has spread throughout the school with an all-comers ukulele group held during lunchtime becoming popular.

“A lot of the kids really liked that structured activity at lunchtime as another option.”

There was one boy who came every week and was now eager to take up guitar next year, she said.

Ms Algie spends most of the working week in Wellington but will be relocating to the Wairarapa in the new year.

“For a lot of specialist support, people need to go over the hill, so it will be nice to be in the area and be able to offer that as well.”

Her background as a music therapist included working in early intervention, special education and in aged care settings.

She had worked in dementia homes where it was evident what a special tool music could be.

“They all seem to remember these songs from their 20s and 30s.”

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