“Music Takes The Child Out Of Himself”

There are several facts, which appear to prove themselves daily in Music Therapy with retarded or autistic children and their response to music of certain types. In his most primitive state man’s first response to music was to rhythm, while melody remained an accessory. And so it is with both the retarded and autistic child; rhythm has proven an opening wedge to gain his interest, to penetrate his secret world of fears and phantasies, to enter into his inmost personality.

The autistic child seems to be the most difficult to reach, and yet his response to music is instinctive. There are youngsters who have a block insofar as comprehension of words; but the world of music, being largely one of memory, of imagination and feeling, seems able to reach them and prove meaningful. In the midst of a humdrum world, with its constant pressure, music takes the child out of himself.

Italics and bold were added by me. The article/chapter itself is called “Music Therapy for Retarded and Autistic Children.” It was written by a music therapist by the name of “Louise E. Weir.” I put the name in quotations into Google and got back five hits. Five. And of those five, only three were in English. And of those three, one is an obituary (which may or may not be the same person’s husband), one is an article that mentions her name under the “Thoughtful Family Remembrances” section, and the third is a JSTOR article called “Music Therapy for the Speech-Handicapped” by Albert T. Murphy and Ruth Fitz Simons (The Elementary School Journal, Vol. 59, No. 1 (Oct., 1958), pp. 39-45). The article by Weir was referenced in this article.

So what’s the big deal? Other than the fact that this is a cool quote? 🙂

My library is giving away books this week. There are two sets of carts: the books on the blue carts are free, and the books on the white carts cost 25 cents each. I’ve found more than a couple of interesting books, but none compare to the one I laid my hands on last night.

The Weir article is found in a book calmly titled “Music Therapy.” Ah, but there’s more to it than that. This is what it reads on the first page:

Music Therapy 1952

Second Book of Proceedings of the National Association for Music Therapy

Founded 1950

Volume II

Papers from the Third Annual Convention, Topeka Kansas

Esther Goetz Gilliland, Editor

Lawrence, Kansas

Published by the National Association for Music Therapy


That Weir article is from 1953. This is an original printing. I looked this book up online. I only found it a couple of places. One of which was on Amazon, where it was listed as a used book by an independent seller. That’s it.

This book is a compilation of literature written by the people who started music therapy.  I learn about these folks in class every day:  Thayer E. Gaston, Don Michel, Ira M. Altshuler, Arthur Fultz, just to name a few.  What’s more is that Michel actually later taught at Texas Woman’s University (my grad school).  This is our history.

How many other articles written back in the 50s can you think of about autism?  Okay, now how many can you think of that were written like the quote above?

While you think on that, let me share with you a quote that I found in the second article:

Children respond best, experience shows, when musical activities are guided by teachers who accept the child as he is and take every care to give him the emotional surety of a classroom climate where understanding abounds.

I was described the other day by someone who knows me pretty well.  They told me that I “exuded acceptance.”  I think that’s a pretty nice compliment.  🙂

Music therapists are the kinds of people who are open to new possibilities.  They accept other people for who they are.  They approach their work with a belief that they are working to treat the whole person.  In music therapy, you are seen for who you are.  And if we as therapists have to search a bit for that person, then we do.  And that’s what it’s about.


~ by lastcrazyhorn on May 9, 2008.

3 Responses to ““Music Takes The Child Out Of Himself””

  1. What a great find, Val!! SO exciting.
    Love the quotes, too. Quotes from a time period where “refrigerator mothers” were blamed for their child’s autism and autistics were institutionalized without a second thought…thank goodness we know better now. These folks were ahead of their time!
    Cheers to the pioneers of Music Therapy!

  2. This is a toughy as most of the music therapists that we have encountered so far ‘require’ that the child wear a pair of headphones. I think this is a practical point because they’re usually conducting the session in a studio / rooms with other children and therapists around.

    If we could just get over the headset thingy!

    On the other hand, it’s probably a load of hocus pokus as that’s the only explanation I can think of, as to why mine scream whenever I sing, whistle or hum.

    Or just maybe… I may not have perfect pitch.
    Best wishes

  3. That’s complete bullshit. Are they MT-BCs? Have you checked them out according to the AMTA official website? – http://www.musictherapy.org.

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