Pacific Autism Family Network (PAFN)

 Richmond, BC


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“Music therapy helped Quino a great deal. The natural and relaxed interaction that Luke and then later Shandea gave Quino the opportunity to learn how to communicate better. He would use phrases and words that I know he picked up from Music Therapy. He would use “How about….” Or “Let’s try…..”I confirmed this because when the pandemic started and we switched to online platform, I was able to overhear their dynamics in class. I know he would come out of music therapy very happy because he would talk to us about the songs that they sang during session. Initiating conversation is very rare for him. I look forward to seeing how his personality, vocabulary and demeanor would mature as he continues to attend Music Therapy. Thank you for making Music Therapy accessible to Quino.”

Liza Saguin, Quino’s Mother

client at PAFN

The music therapy program at PAFN consists of individual sessions with children and adolescents with autism. Prior to the pandemic, all sessions were held at the PAFN centre location. During the pandemic, all sessions moved to online within 3 weeks.

Weekly sessions of one hour in length are held and they encourage a commitment of one semester to establish rapport, create a bond, and target consistent developmental progress with a client. Within the Pacific Autism Family Centre, a designated music therapy room provides the space for clients to explore, engage, and to create with a variety of instruments including drums, drum kit, harpsicord, piano, guitars, small percussive instruments, and recording equipment. The music therapy program at PAFN implements the MITM (Meet In The Music) curriculum, created by ET Music Therapy Director Esther Thane, which is utilized by registered, accredited music therapists around the globe.


Individuals on the Autism spectrum, along with their families

Individuals with autism often gravitate towards the music medium, and it is an excellent form of developmental treatment because interactive opportunities are met with more reception when they involve music. Integration of newly acquired skills is deeper when the child is approaching the learning from a place of curiosity and inner motivation. Autistic individuals often experience sensory dis-regulation, speech/language/communication deficits, motor praxis issues, fixations on a specific topic, and social difficulties. They can often struggle with understanding social cues & facial expressions. Autism can involve hyper/hypo reactive sensory systems, which can manifest as tactile or auditory defensiveness, underdeveloped proprioceptive and vestibular systems. Autistic individuals often have heightened abilities with memory, music (pitch & rhythm), organization, technology etc. They are highly individualistic people that given the opportunities, contribute to society in productive ways within a variety of workplace environments.

How does Music Therapy uniquely address the needs of clients at PAFN?

Because music is a highly engaging and motivating interest for individuals with autism, a variety of skills can be targeted using the medium of music, often in an effortless way. Music Therapy addresses social, cognitive, communication, physical and self identity goals through improvisation, and structured music interventions/activities.

Through music therapy, clients have been observed to want to participate in group sessions and explore being with their peers, built their vocabulary and conversation ability, began crossing the midline, gained self identity and self confidence, improved fine motor skills, improved strength in arms and hands, improved self regulation, increased attention and engagement.

How has COVID-19 impacted the program?

Suspension of our program for our Music Heals funded clients was only 3 weeks, during which time we set up the infrastructure for telehealth (obtaining a company Zoom account, training, staff meetings to discuss protocol, adaptations to therapy sessions/ interventions). Telehealth sessions began in April for all three Music Heals families receiving funding. Two of the three families have migrated back to in person sessions recently, the other has remained online.

Many families simply can not afford music therapy out of pocket. Their Autism Funding Unit monthly stipend does not sufficiently cover their treatment costs of even ABA, Speech, and OT. As a result, they are left without the means to participate in music therapy programs.

Your support quite literally adopts the families at PAFN so that they can receive free access to music therapy.

Nathan’s family sharing about his experience at PAFN 

“The ongoing consistency with music therapy provided through Music Heals funding makes such a difference for Nathan and our family. It helps set such a positive tone for the day for him and really changes the shape of the day for us as his parents helping him make the necessary transitions to more challenging activities throughout the rest of the day. Most importantly, it improves Nathan’s confidence and his ability to cope with his ongoing medical appointments and procedures.

Just recently, after a tough week with several medical appointments, Nathan finished his online session with his music therapist Luke in the late morning and then later had a great, positive outcome working on his IEP (Individualized Education Plan) goals for this coming school year with his teacher (and mostly independently). Normally he would be reluctant to participate with his teacher to talk about school and his goals he wants to set for himself! Accessing music therapy before school activities sets him up for the best outcomes possible. It shows the power of healing through music to lift him up to meet the activities of the day and for him to really have an ET Music Therapy session each week that he really looks forward to participating in.”

Esther Thane

Esther Thane, MTA, AVPT Executive Director, ET Music Therapy

Esther has specialized for over 20 years in the field of Autism and special needs. After 14 wonderful years on faculty at Capilano University, teaching in the Bachelor of Music Therapy Program, Esther continues to enjoy presenting at conferences, writing book reviews for published journals, & holding workshops for universities, local agencies and abroad. In 2014, Esther completed Dr. Diane Austin’s (Music Psychotherapy Center, NY) first international distance training program in Advanced Vocal Psychotherapy. Her publication in the book: Voicework in Music Therapy (Jessica Kingsley Publishers), focuses on her innovative method of Vocal-Led Relaxation for Children with Autism. Esther created Meet In The Music (MITM) music therapy curriculum for children with autism, which is utilized by music therapists throughout the United States and Canada. Esther is Executive Director of ET Music Therapy in Vancouver, British Columbia, where the team serve over 90 families in two studio locations, in schools, and in home, implementing the MITM program. In 2016, Esther was honored to receive an Iconic Women Creating a Better World For All award, presented by the Women Economic Forum in New Delhi, India.

You can help us reach more Canadians with the healing power of music. We invite you to give the gift of music to provide hope, strength, relief and encouragement to Canadians in need.

No contribution is too small!