Virtual music therapy program at Wildwood School helping students cope with pandemic


(NEWS10) — These are tough and difficult times and for those with learning disabilities, they may find it even more challenging. When it comes to learning and staying focused at home, it can be difficult, but it can work, too.

The Wildwood School in Schenectady serves students on the autism spectrum with neurological impairments or with complex learning disabilities. Their musical therapy program has gone virtual, they’re utilizing online programs to find not only the perfect pitch to stay in tune with their students, but to keep the rhythm going.

With weekly sessions, teachers are creating not just overall sound, but songs to help deal with everyday issues and how they can stay healthy to avoid germs and getting sick. Teachers say while it’s been a learning process for them all, students have adapted to the technology and the healing power of music is attainable no matter where they are.

“We’re coping with the reality of COVID, so we have songs about proper ways to sneeze, or about germs and I’m making one now about making a mask,” Music therapist, Mark Ahola said. “So we’re creating our own and that’s part of another experience students love, contributing to those songs and creating themselves.”

Ahola said they primarily use Google Meet and that it’s not always efficient for music due to lag, but knows any communication is important right now. The creation of music helps students deal with what’s going on, while teaching important life lessons.

“We have the belief that everyone is creative and everyone has the ability and right to create music and put it into a song,” Ahola said. “We do a lot of lyric-line completion where I sing a song and they put the next word in, so we try to keep stimulating them through music so we keep getting that connection.”

He also says it’s beneficial to parents, too. They get to see the incredible work that’s being done and how calming and important music therapy is.

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