Malaysiakini Malaysians Kini

Embracing neurodiversity through music therapy

Koh Aun Qi  |  Published:  |  Modified:

MALAYSIANS KINI | It is easy to spot Low Ming Yuan when we first meet at Pulp cafe in Art Printing Works, Bangsar.

He stands out from the crowd with his striking blond hair, pastel pink shirt, and black earstud. Round glasses give him a studious air.

The look of a creative scholar befits Low, a music therapist working with autistic people who have been living and studying in the US for the past 14 years.

The 31-year-old is the only certified Malaysian practitioner of the Nordoff-Robbins approach to music therapy, which broke new ground when it was first established for its use of music to communicate and build relationships with a wide range of special-needs children.

“The two founders of the approach, Paul Nordoff and Clive Robbins, found that music could reach - and I’m using the words they used back then - ‘the most unreachable children’,” Low says.

He explains that the approach is “based on musical connection”.

“It’s not just the therapist playing music for the client; the client is also actively making music with the therapist,” he adds.

The Nordoff-Robbins approach to music therapy, which was first developed in the US and England in the late 1950s, has since become popular across the world.

Interestingly, Nordoff-Robbins therapists use an improvisational approach, drawing upon the behaviour and emotions of its clients to interact with them through music.

“In Nordoff-Robbins, we actually see the person as a musical portrait, a musical being. Anything the client is presenting, their affect, like moving their fingers, tapping their foot, walking, just sitting there - the energy that they bring in is all music to us.

“Our job is to make music that reflects that. It has to reach out to the client, saying, ‘We understand what’s going on with you. This music is trying to reach to you’, and if the client can understand that, it becomes the basis of our communication,” Low says....

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