Bronwyn Tosh lets the music do the talking

Music is very powerful, and through it we can literally give people a voice

Bronwyn Tosh
Bronwyn Tosh

I work with a range of people, from children with autism to young carers and adults with learning disabilities. With music therapy, people do not need to be able to speak or put their feelings into words, which is expected from verbal methods such as counselling or cognitive behaviour therapy – they can talk through the music instead.

I often work at a specialist school for children with autism. A typical session lasts for about 30 minutes, depending on the child's ability to focus. We begin with a hello song or activity and end with a goodbye one. What happens in between is guided by the child's interests. We usually explore the piano or the drums, and I give them the opportunity to sing. We also have fun on iPads, DJing and creating dubstep tracks to rap over or dance to. I let the music speak for itself, rather than discuss things.

I had an amazing experience a couple of months ago when I started working with a young boy with autism and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. His behaviour in class was unmanageable, but when I started singing in our session he made eye contact, approached me and wanted to be with me. The teaching assistant and I had never seen him behave this way. It was a powerful moment for us.

I love my work, but it can be tough dealing with people who have challenging behaviour. I've had people spit at me, pull my hair and bite me. Working with looked-after children can also be emotionally draining because of their often terrible backgrounds.

I work with a group of young carers. They spend most of their time looking after parents or siblings, so it's great to give them a chance to have fun. We learn songs by groups such as Clean Bandit and Little Mix; we give them time to be children. I love dancing, street and hip-hop, and playing the saxophone, and I can introduce these into my sessions. I'm lucky – not many people can use their hobbies in their work.

Bronwyn Tosh is a music therapist at Nordoff Robbins, a music therapy charity that works with vulnerable children and adults

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