Music therapy making a difference for Rongotai College students
For George Livingstone, a 17 year old obsessed with the Back to the Future series, singing is something that comes naturally.
George has been working on improving his speech, because sometimes the words he wants to use don't come out.
But when he sings, he always hits the right notes.
"When I heard him singing I just went wow, look what he can do," music therapist Megan Berentson-Glass said.
"We heard him hold that low part, and thought, wow he has skill here."
Livingstone is one of 16 students at the Tamatoa, Learning Support Unit at Rongotai College who do music therapy each week.
Music therapy is the planned use of music to assist with people with identified emotional, intellectual, physical or social needs.
Berentson-Glass said that in George she found someone with a natural talent, who not only grew more confident with the sessions, but could also hold a tune.
"Sometimes you get someone who is really musical."
George said his favourite part of the sessions was the "mouth closure" which required you to "sing as loud as you possibly can".
Berentson-Glass has been holding two-hour music therapy sessions at the school since 2005.
"It is a really positive thing to be involved in," she said.
As some of the students don't have speech, the music is a way for them to communicate.
Through singing, drumming, and other exercises, the students become more relaxed, engaged and get to express themselves, Berentson-Glass said.
Over the years she has seen music therapy bring out big changes in the students.
"It is a safe space for people to come here, and express themselves."
For many students the sessions are a favourite time of the week, said Sue Osborne, teacher in charge of Tamatoa, Learning Support Unit.
Music therapy improves students attention, engagement and participation across school life.
Through an online portal, the students can also record their voice work, music and creations and share it with their friends and family - and also look back on it themselves.
* New Zealand celebrates its second music therapy week July 1 - 9, the theme is "Find Your Voice". For more info visit musictherapy.org.nz