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Music Therapy for Handicapped Children

Therapy in Music for Handicapped Children​​ by Paul Nordoff and Clive Robbins. This is a description of the work of Nordoff and Robbins from their own perspective. This book was first published in 1971 and still stands as a pioneering and inspirational text.​

Therapy in Music for Handicapped Children​

​by Paul Nordoff and Clive Robbins

This is a description of the work of Nordoff and Robbins from their own perspective

This book was first published in 1971 and still stands as a pioneering and inspirational text.​

Although dated in its terminology by today’s standards, it nevertheless effectively describes the journey taken by 2 exceptional musicians forging a path into music therapy.​

As the late composer Benjamin Britten noted in his foreword, ‘I can recommend this book wholeheartedly not only to humanitarian readers, but also to my musical colleagues as well. We can all learn from it.’

Therapy in Music for Handicapped Children

In introducing Nordoff Robbins Music Therapy, we set out to explore what it is about music that enables it to work effectively as our therapeutic tool.

In this book, the founders of this approach to music therapy, Paul Nordoff and Clive Robbins state that:

Music is a universal means of communication. It has been called a non-verbal language. What has yet to be more clearly recognised is the range of expression that is possible in this “language”. The variety of human expression that can be communicated through music is highly diversified and virtually unlimited. Because of this, music becomes vitally important as therapy for exceptional children. (pg 49)​
Within exceptional children live some of the deepest needs of humanity, needs that call for a clearer recognition. In some degree they live in all children but in the exceptional they are less obscured by the more superficial needs of everyday life. To understand and meet these needs we must widen our concepts of therapy – and hence our concepts of man. The approach to therapy is narrowed by thoughts that compare the exceptional to the normal; it is widened beyond measure by considerations that invest the individual in the universal. Universal humanity is far greater than any transitory norm. A therapy which has as a goal the freeing and development of the individual within universal human principles is more effective than one that aims merely to normalise. Universal values transcend the limited values of any one nationality or culture. Universal values can live in music. That is why music can become so important in the lives of exceptional children. (pg 56)​ ​

‘Exceptional Children’

In today’s language, we would replace ‘exceptional children’ with any person, adult or child who has additional support needs. These needs might include disability, illness or life circumstance.​


From your own experience, perhaps as a listener of music, performer of music, or writer of music, how might you respond to the statement that ‘universal values can live in music’?​

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An Introduction to the Nordoff Robbins approach to Music Therapy

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