Everything goes back to the way we define “success.” As a parent, what does “success” for your child mean to you?

Each child is unique. Each child is walking, rolling, staring, smiling, or singing their way throughout his or her own individual journey. Since each child faces his or her own path, success cannot be measured by the comparison of journeys. Success can only be achieved by the celebration of continued growth.

Due to the distorted view of success (i.e., comparison), I sometimes come across parents who are concerned about what their child will be able to do in our sessions. Someone, somewhere, down the line told these parents that their child is “difficult,” “limited,” or “unable to do much.” I know parents are sometimes told this, because others professionals have told me those same phrases when we have a mutual client/patient. Additionally, when I am interviewed, I often get asked the question of how I have handled “difficult” children.

First off, children are not difficult. They may have a complicated diagnosis or demonstrate inappropriate behaviors, but they themselves are not difficult. The right treatment will gradually help them to manage the diagnosis and behaviors, so that they can have the freedom to be themselves.

Parents, please, know that your child is not a “difficult child.” If I am experiencing difficulty, it is due to my own weakness, not because of your child. In those cases, I need to go back to the drawing board and figure out another way to make the session work. And I can always make it work because I am trained to know how to use music in all of its capacities. That’s what separates a music therapist from a therapist who uses music. I can mold the music to fit the strengths and needs of each child.

Therefore, do not be concerned if your child’s music therapy session looks different from what you expected or from what you have heard or seen with others. Music with each child is always new. Like the music therapist, Suzanne B. Hanser, wrote, “It is always a new experience, a new connection, a new dynamic. The music is always different…something new.” Basically, each session is incomparable and completely unique, just like the child. As long as you see steady growth in your child’s abilities, then keep up what you’re doing and celebrate your child’s success!

For a closer look on what music therapy treatment looks like, check out the book, “The New Music Therapist’s Handbook,” by Suzanne B. Hanser.