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October 6, 2022

Grant amount: £90,000

The Children’s Trust

  • Grant programme: Trustees' Discretion
  • Region: South East

Towards the cost of music therapy – transforming the lives of children with brain injury or neurodisability through music

About the organisation

The Children’s Trust is the UK’s leading charity for children with brain injury and neurodisability.

Every year we help thousands of children and families right across the UK.

We provide:

  • Expert rehabilitation and support at our national specialist centre in Tadworth, Surrey and online in the community across the UK, helping children make the best recovery possible after a serious accident or illness.
  • specialist education to those with more complex needs so children with neurodisability can live the best life possible at our “Outstanding” School.
  • Information and advice on Concussion and Brian Injury online through our Bumps Happen Information resource Learning to spot when a bump is a concussion and Brain Injury Hub

The Children’s Trust has an ambition that all children with brain injury and neurodisability will have the opportunity to live the best life possible.

We aim to ensure that every child with a brain injury or neurodisability has access to the information, education, advice, support, care – and even simple reassurance – to improve their life chances. Ultimately, we want every single child and family who needs help to get it.

Organisation’s objectives

We believe that all children have the right to be children. They have the right to play, to laugh and to learn. They have the right to make connections with each other, with their families and with the world around them.  Regardless of health conditions, physical challenges or life circumstances, all children have the right to be children.

The Children’s Trust exists to create these opportunities specifically for children with neurodisability and brain injury – helping them to live the best life possible.

An injury to the brain, whether it is before or during birth or because of an illness, accident, or traumatic event, can be life changing for both the child and the whole family. Yet currently, many thousands of children do not get the support that they need to regain skills after an accident or illness or to live the best life possible with a neurodisability.  Our mission is to ensure that every child and family who needs our help can get it – ensuring that they thrive – through childhood and beyond.

About the project

The Power of Music –  transforming the lives of children with brain injury or neurodisability through music.

Music Therapy is a vital, core part of the range of therapies we provide at our National Specialist Centre in Tadworth and the Children’s Trust School and we are thankful to the trustees of The Peter Harrison Foundation for supporting this life changing programme to continue. Just as physiotherapy supports mobility through exercises, music can promote brain development because it activates memory, taps into emotions, and links into the areas of the brain that control movement and sensory processing.

Many of the children we see have suffered significant trauma and can suffer from poor mental health. Music Therapy is a psychologically supportive therapy. It can support self-expression and exploration of a child or young person’s changed identity following their brain injury.

Music makes difficult tasks, like restoring movement, much more exciting and motivating. Practicing co-ordination and movement by playing the drums is more fun than stand-alone physiotherapy exercises. Music can make everything feel ok, even if just for a moment. It helps to reduce anxiety, depression, blood pressure and pain; it can improve sleep quality, mood and memory; it also increases cognitive function, enhancing concentration and learning as it stimulates the entire brain.

Music Therapy has scientifically proven health benefits for children with brain injuries. Research indicates that the rhythms of music can physically grow brain matter. Because music simultaneously activates multiple areas of the brain, it can bypass damaged connections and develop new ones – enabling children to rebuild movement and communication.

Impact of PHF’s support

Making a difference

Last year, our registered Music Therapy practitioners supported around 160 children, helping every child to achieve their potential. Thank you, Peter Harrison Foundation, for your grant which enables us to continue to change young lives for the better.

Our music therapists work across multi-disciplinary teams to ensure that each session is specific to each child’s needs.  Sessions use music and sounds to develop a relationship with the child. As a connection grows, the therapist identifies developmental and emotional needs and tailors their therapy accordingly.

Individual sessions offer a variety of experiences that give children and young people the chance to interact and express themselves. They use interventions such as musical improvisation, instrument exploration, familiar songs, song writing, music technology and music listening among others.  The instruments are also accessible, and no previous musical skill is needed to access the sessions.

The techniques vary, depending on each child’s specific goals, but may include:

  • Increasing independence by controlling musical instruments with assistive technology
  • Developing social skills through ‘call and response’ to replicate conversation turn taking
  • Encouraging movement by dancing or plucking guitar strings to improve finger control
  • Improving communication through humming, making sounds, and singing
  • Promoting memory recall by playing familiar songs and learning lyrics
  • Reducing anxiety through bespoke songs that explain medical procedures

In addition, group therapy sessions are social and give children the opportunity to interact and make music together. This fosters a sense of teamwork, achievement and belonging.

Music is really important for young people who are not verbal communicators. It can be something very simple. We might mimic a sound the young person has made with our instruments – the young person might sigh, and we make a sighing sound back – and eventually they realise we are having a conversation. This is a way they can talk to the world.” Music Therapist at The Children’s Trust

Moving to Music: Millie’s story

Millie was a chatty three-year-old when she had a stroke which left her with a brain injury. After spending nearly two months in hospital, Millie arrived at The Children’s Trust to help her learn to walk and talk again.

At first Millie could only sit up with support and was making very few sounds. A personalised 16-week programme focused on Millie’s love of music and hobbies. Intensive support combined music therapy with speech and language therapy, physiotherapy and hydrotherapy. Songs were used in sessions to encourage Millie to move to the beat and make sounds.

Through a lot of hard work, Millie started regaining skills that she had lost as a result of the brain injury. Vocalisations to songs helped Millie to practice sounds that led onto words and finding her voice again.

Millie’s mother, Alice, explains the joy of seeing her daughter transform. She said: “Hearing Millie say Mummy and Daddy again was truly special.”

How does the organisation exemplify PHF’s values?

Excellence – Supporting and implementing best practice

Delivering quality services for the children, young people and their families we support are at the heart of everything we do. Achieving this remains our key objective. Our outstanding and good ratings for Ofsted education and Ofsted care following inspections in September 2023 demonstrate that we do.

Entrepreneurship – Operating with ambition, inspiration and determination

Located just south of London in Tadworth, Surrey, our national specialist centre is home to the UK’s largest rehabilitation service for children with acquired brain injury. Widely recognised as a leading centre of excellence, our service is one of the only services outside of an acute hospital setting which can provide the most complex paediatric brain injury rehabilitation in the UK. We can provide this support as the largest and only specialised service in the UK delivering education, health, therapy and care to children with acquired brain injury and neurodisability on one site.

Some children may be able to regain lost skills and where this is possible, we can support their physical, emotional and behavioural recovery.

For children whose lives are affected by the most severe brain injuries or neurodisabilities, we are experts in helping them and their families adapt and learn alternative skills.

Regardless of their individual needs and circumstances, we help all our children and young people to live the best life possible by offering ongoing education, health, therapy and care.

Integrity – Acting responsibly, respectfully, reflectively and transparently

We put the child at the centre of everything that we do: We have a strong focus on participation – giving full involvement to the child in setting their own goals for rehabilitation or learning. This means not just aiming to ‘be able to walk’ but focusing on participation – the ‘why’, for instance ‘walking to meet a friend’.

We have also introduced outcome measure which asks how well children can do things – such as getting dressed or being able to show or tell us what they want. We measure children’s abilities when they arrive with us and just before they leave.

Typically, children who come to us for rehabilitation will have a reduced level of complexity in their rehabilitation needs by the time they leave us. This means they need less intensive nursing and therapy care after being with us.

We also have clear safeguarding policy and whistleblowing process. We aim to be an open organisation and this is reflected in our value which we call ‘Promises’. When we were developing our values we consulted with children and young people and they reflected that our values were in fact our Promises – and so we now call them our Promises.

These are: Child First, Aim High, Care Deeply, Be Open and Own It.

You can read and hear more about these here: Our Promises

Sustainability – Empowering stakeholders to deliver a legacy

What we do for the children and young people we support is unique. We are doing everything in our power to be here for every child with a brain injury and neurodisability – now and in the future.