Since Claire was about three months old, we have been attending the Early Childhood Development Program playgroup at a local state school. These playgroups are government-funded programs, for children aged from 0 to 3.5. Parents attend with their children and have the opportunity to meet other families. When Claire is 3 and a half, she will be eligible to attend the early intervention classes for two hours a day, two days a week, as she prepares for Prep.
We are VERY fortunate that we ended up at this particular playgroup. They have a very dedicated team of teachers and aides, including one teacher aide who bakes and prepares delicious treats each week. There is always a feast for the parents, usually including something that has been baking as we have enjoyed the formal part of the program. It is nice to go to such a happy and welcoming place each week.
Due to the dedication and persistence of the staff there and due to the generosity of the St George Foundation who fund the programs, these playgroup sessions include an hour of music therapy. They are facilitated by registered music therapist, Monica Zidar. During these sessions, Monica plays the guitar and we sing and sign with the children, giving them opportunities to develop their vocabulary of words and signs. The kids are also given opportunities to play instruments, to move to music and to make choices.
Claire loves Music with Monica. It is at these sessions that I first learnt many of the signs we use with Claire to help her communicate with our family. It is also during these sessions that the use of choice boards was introduced to Claire, allowing her to gain some independence. Claire is usually given a choice of two songs on laminated cards, stuck with Velcro to the board. She then chooses which song she would like to hear for her turn. We started with Claire learning to look at the cards and to choose with her eyes. Then we moved to her using her hands to point to the card for the song she would most like. On occasions, Claire has signed her choice (usually ‘frog’ for Der Glumph went the Little Green Frog’ – her favourite!). Claire enjoys the choices so much that we replicate the process at home with our own cards on a Velcro board and I have just started adding some song choices into her new iPad communication program, Proloquo2go.
We have met some lovely friends at music class. Claire loves to play the drum with the other kids. She also likes to place her face on it and to feel the vibrations! Often Claire will only play herself when everyone else has stopped! I think when the drum is moving, she is too involved in the sensory input of the vibrations to play along herself. She also enjoys playing the bells…and chewing on them.
I have seen such amazing progress with Claire during these music sessions, that this year, when Monica started her private business, Music with Monica, we jumped at the chance to sign on. We now go to music twice a week. It keeps us busy, but the development of Claire’s communication and her obvious enthusiasm for the lessons make it all worthwhile.
To top it off, Monica is a genuinely nice person who obviously cares a lot about our children. She has gone to great lengths to cater to their needs in her programs while also promoting inclusivity. The Music with Monica classes are for any children aged 0 to 5. I think it is great for Claire to attend these ‘mainstream’ classes. It is great for us, but it is also beneficial for the other parents and children who attend. I hope it will help to break down barriers and promote positive images of our special kids. If parents understand the importance of this, it can only rub off on their children who could potentially be Claire’s peers and classmates in the future. I know I have seen lots of amazed looks when my tiny baby signs effectively to communicate meaning…and I feel proud.
I am very grateful that Claire has been fortunate enough to meet yet another person who obviously cares for her a great deal. It is lovely to have another person to celebrate all of her little achievements, which really are BIG achievements to us! Thank you Monica 🙂
Join us for “Music with Monica”!
If you would like to check out Music with Monica, you should contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org or connect with Music with Monica on Facebook. She even offers a free trial lesson and great discounts for families with more than one child attending. Lesson times are available on her website.
Remember…these classes are great for any child aged 0 to 5, regardless of their level of development.
Helping “Music with Monica” to Help Others…
I know that Monica has plans to expand her private business, but I also know that she has a heart of gold and would love to be able to provide her sessions for free or at a lower price for children in need. I see the classes as great value considering the whole term’s fees for Callum and Claire equal around the cost of two of Claire’s speech therapy sessions! We are also very fortunate to have had such wonderful support through our fundraising efforts earlier this year and these costs are no longer such a challenge for our family. I am aware however that there are many families who could really benefit from her plans to subsidise costs. I am also aware that Monica has a husband and two hungry boys to feed!
I recently nominated Music with Monica for the Forming Circles Pay it Forward Initiative – a $5000 boost for a small business with under 200 likes on Facebook. She expanded on the nomination by sharing that she would like to use half of the money to begin to establish such a program and half to purchase instruments to sell, with the revenue from this going back into supporting her programs. I hope that she is successful in gaining the $5000 boost, but if she is not, perhaps you know a business or individual who might be interested in sponsoring the establishment of the program. Please spread the word. They could potentially be helping so many children!