Music – language of the emotions

  • Music is a language of the emotions, tapping directly into brain regions including the amygdala, the nucleus accumbens and the hippocampus.
  • Emotional responses to music have two sources: the nature of the sounds themselves and the relationships we perceive between them, and the memories associated with particular pieces.
  • Both these forms of response can keep working even when other brain functions including speech and other cognitive abilities are lost.
  • So encourage families to use music throughout their child’s developmental journey as a consistent source of pleasure and comfort.

Help families to make playlists to serve the child now and later

  • Support families in making playlists for their child, using technology that they can access if possible.
  • Consider having lists for particular types of activity: for example, for relaxation before bedtime, stimulation in the morning, entertainment while travelling and comfort during medical procedures.
  • Encourage parents to make playlists associated with particular experiences such as a family holiday, so that the feelings related to them can be rekindled in the future.
  • Suggest particular pieces of music to parents that they can use to help their child regulate their emotions at different times.

Helping a child to express their feelings through music

  • Whatever their level of development or disability, children should be given opportunities to express their feelings through singing or playing, or vocalising or making musical sounds.
  • Help the child to convey their emotions by improvising pieces with them with a particular ‘feel’.
  • For children and young people who have the capacity and the interest, you could facilitate song writing to help them express their emotions that may be beyond the capacity of words alone to convey.
  • Encourage parents to record the songs for future reference and enjoyment.