Over the course of my 2 week stay in Jamaica, I completed 5 days and 36 hours of clinical music therapy treatment. This was one of the most incredible experiences that I have ever had, so I’m going to try to collect my thoughts about it in this blog!
Jamaica is split into 14 parishes, sort of like the states we have at home. In each parish, there is one School of Hope, which is a special education school that serves any students who are atypically functioning from that parish, this includes a very wide range of diagnoses. I spent my first two days of clinic here! My first session was a young group of 7 to probably 11 year olds who had varying severities of ADHD, autism, and mild intellectual disability. They were incredibly difficult to control, even with a client:therapist ratio of 6:7. The second group was a little bit older. They had more severe intellectual disability, and some Down’s Syndrome. They were a very musical group and were much more responsive to the interventions we planned! The last session was by far my favorite! They were all hearing impaired, mostly profoundly deaf. They gave each of us name signs and we were able to use a lot of vibrotactile stimulation and they really enjoyed the session!
My third day of clinic was in a homeless shelter. They called it a “reintegration center” because in order to live there you had to be clean. So many of them would go to a normal homeless shelter or rehabilitation center to get clean, and then move here to get reintegrated into society. This setting was a little different because it was really therapeutic music, not music therapy. We just lead a drum circle with them, which they all really enjoyed. We sang a lot of traditional Jamaican folk tunes and gospel melodies with them.
My last two days were spent at the infirmary. Much like the School of Hope, there is one infirmary per parish in Jamaica. In their culture, it is tradition that children take care of their parents in old age, not like here where it is common to send elders to live in a home. Therefore, the only people who live in these infirmaries are people who have no family to take care of them, whose families won’t take care of them, or who have severe mental/physical disabilities. These living conditions were incredibly difficult to see, but the joy our music brought to them cannot be put into words. This again was mostly therapeutic music, but it was one of my favorite placements simply because the happiness they were feeling was almost tangible in the room. These people are seen as untouchables in Jamaican society, so when the Jamaica Field Service Project students come in once a year, it is really the only social stimulation they ever get.
My time in these three placements was some of the best clinical experience I have ever had, and I sincerely hope to return on the trip in future years and continue serving the people of Portland Parish!