TEACHING children to DJ isn’t what most people would think of when looking to improve young people’s mental health. However, Rebecca Highton, a Manchester-based occupational therapy apprentice at the Together Trust, has found common ground between music and supporting young people with autism and mental health needs.
Rebecca said: “My hobby is being a DJ, and one day, my line manager and I thought it would be fantastic to use as a therapeutic intervention. There is a young man in one of the schools I work in who absolutely loves music. He has a severe learning disability, and we wondered if we could try and use DJing to support him.
“I had to think of a way to make it more accessible and adaptable because it is a quite difficult skill to learn. So, we put in a fundraising bid and found a starting bundle online with a controller, headphones and speakers for a reasonable price. You can take it around with you, and all you would need is a laptop to hook it up to, and you are ready.”
And just like that, Rebecca started to hold weekly group or one-to-one sessions with the young people.
Students work to improve their motor skills using techniques such as crossing the midline and sequencing skills. It also supports young people to develop their memory and concentration.
Rebecca shares that even though DJing can be a challenging task to pick up, one of the students learned it so fast that they managed to record their own 30-minute mix and ended up getting their own minor DJ system at home.
Rebecca said: “I worked with one student who had a real passion for music and had difficulties managing her anxiety. So, I used music and DJing to build a therapeutic relationship with her which ended up improving her school attendance. She learned how to beat-match, which is a complicated skill to learn, but she just had an ear for it and picked it up very well. Following the DJ sessions, we were able to explore further coping strategies to support anxiety management”.
Rebecca is an occupational therapy apprentice at the Together Trust, a charity that supports disabled children and adults, looked-after children and care-experienced people.