North Devon School Pathfield secures partnership with Chroma for full Arts Therapies program

By Lucy Collings Pettit, Neurologic Music Therapist, Chroma

In September 2020, building upon successful existing music therapy provision, Pathfield School in North Devon introduced a full arts therapies service within their school in partnership with Chroma. The Chroma team consists of a neurologic music therapist, an art therapist and a drama therapist. This is the first partnership where Chroma has been fully commissioned to provide a full arts therapies program within a single school.

Pathfield is a special school for children aged between 3–19 years of age with a range of complex needs—including pupils with autism spectrum conditions, learning disabilities, social, emotional and mental health needs and neurological conditions—including brain tumours, epilepsy, cerebral palsy and Hypoxic Ischemic Encephalopathy (HIE), whereby children were starved of oxygen at birth.

This year has seen the introduction of neurologic music therapy techniques (NMT) within the school. NMT is concerned with neuroplasticity, therefore the specific techniques used within the school setting are used to maintain or improve skills for those pupils with a neurologic condition—typically speech and language, motor and cognitive skills.

The focus of NMT is to help these pupils acquire functional skills, usually for the first time. For pupils who suffered lack of oxygen at birth, they may have never known life any differently but, coming to terms with their condition is an important part of their rehabilitation. Rehab in this setting has a developmental focus—there are many barriers to learning to overcome and interventions are based on what will achieve the most functional and relevant educational outcomes.

There is huge potential for all three Chroma arts therapists to improve functional outcomes to those pupils who have neurological conditions and suffered a brain injury. 

Within this pupil population, the arts therapies as a whole are concerned with helping children come to terms with their condition—they may have difficulty communicating verbally or articulating their thoughts and feelings effectively, and arts therapists can help them to gain better insight into their conditions and express, explore and better manage their emotions—allowing them valuable opportunities to communicate and process their feelings and experiences. Arts therapies can provide children with a voice.

The fundamental role of the arts therapies in the school setting is to support pupils in achieving positive outcomes, including functional changes that ultimately enables children to overcome their significant challenges and barriers to learning.