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Exceptional Students Move to the Music Therapy

June 12, 2024
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​At a downstairs resource room at John Taylor Collegiate, students with exceptional needs and their Educational Assistants are bobbing to the rhythmic lyrics of Moana's “You're Welcome."

It's the final 30-minute music therapy session of the year for these neurodiverse students, and Music Therapist Breanna Uskiw gets in “the pocket" as she strums away on her acoustic guitar.

Besides “You're Welcome" the students grab percussion instruments to accompany “Better when I'm Dancing." Finally, Breanna lowers the lights to sing “Sweet Creature," a quiet ballad, while a handful of students raise pitch perfect voices to sing in unison with the therapist from Rockin' Remedies Music Therapy Services. 

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Jackie Ogloza is an SJASD Physiotherapist. She played a pivotal role in bringing Music Therapy to Division high schools.

“This is the first year of the program and it's been really well received by the high schools," she says. Next year, the program will expand to include Middle Schools, along with some guest sessions with a handful of Early Years schools.

“Music is such a powerful tool in learning for neurodiverse students," explains Jackie, adding that it provides students with an “opportunity to actively participate in a fun and meaningful activity at their own pace in a comfortable safe setting."

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Music therapy provides numerous benefits for students, including enhancing communication skills, fostering positive social interactions, assisting with emotional regulation, improving self-esteem, and allowing students to express themselves while improving motor skills and body awareness.

Jackie says the role of the Educational Assistants (EAs) is integral. “They work with their students to ensure they are providing the appropriate support to facilitate successful participation within the class."

At the June session at John Taylor, EAs Pam Rothwell, Penelope Hall, Noah Reimer, Albert Fearn, Sandra Pierce, and Julie Hawkes use a number of techniques to engage students, such as hand over hand prompting, verbal encouragement or demonstration, while Resource Support Teacher Antonia Hasey looks on.

20240611_151512597_iOS_cropped.jpg“The students love it. We feel very fortunate to be part of this in-person program this year," says Antonia. “Breanna is a talented musician who has developed a wonderful program that fits well with our older students' musical interests and abilities. I see so many lasting benefits from the sessions, one being that it allows the students to engage in an interactive way with a large group. The students are left feeling good about themselves and each other."

An average of 25 to 30 students participated in the program this year at John Taylor Collegiate, St. James Collegiate, Westwood Collegiate, and Collège Sturgeon Heights Collegiate. Funding for Music Therapy was provided by the Division's Educational Support Services, along with support from SJASD's Arts Coordinator, and Physical Education & Health Education Coordinator. ​

(First three pictures): Music Therapist Breanna Uskiw gets students moving, playing instruments and dancing.

(Last picture, from back left, clockwise): Najib N., Hugo G., Jeremy G., Mar H., Sydney F., Music Therapist Breanna Uskiw, and Trey W.

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Did you know that Mental Health and Wellness is one of five focus areas for teaching and learning in SJASD's Strategic Plan? Learn more about Mental Health and Wellness here.




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