Music Therapy Addressing Unique Needs of Hospitalized Children with IDD: A Phenomenological Study

Thumbnail Image
Ney, Kristen
Master of Arts in Music Therapy
Children with intellectual and developmental disabilities(IDD)are admitted to pediatric hospitals more frequently, for lengthier admissions, and often have a more critical and severe admission than their typically developing peers. These children also have more co-morbidities, including high levels of baseline anxiety. Parents and family members often have to advocate for the best care for their child. Staff members, particularly nurses, have expressed higher anxiety when working with these patients. Persistent concerns about the child’s maintained and continued development, pain management, and abilities to communicate exacerbate the challenges that already exist when children are admitted to the hospital. Music therapy is a modality that has been shown to assist with similar concerns for children who are hospitalized and for children with IDD in other settings. However, no research has been conducted to investigate the impact of music therapy services on hospitalized children with IDD and their families. As such, what follows is a phenomenological study that investigates current music therapists’ practices, experiences, and opinions of this type of work. Five interviews were conducted with participants from five different AMTA regions. The interviews were coded and themes were extrapolated. Two major themes were identified: (1) these children should be seen at a greater frequency and(2) positive impacts can be seen in numerous goal areas, but particularly for coping, development, relaxation/de-escalation, socialization, sensory integration, procedural support, familial respite, and familial perception of their child’s care. Among the participants, there was a consensus that music therapy can have a tremendous impact on these patients, families, and staff, while also acknowledging a need for more training. The author then provides recommendations for clinical practice, education, and research in an effort to bridge the gap between the high need for these services and the practical reality of music therapists’ work.