TEACHING kids to DJ isn’t what most people would think of when looking to improve the mental health of young people. However, Rebecca Highton, a Manchester-based occupational therapy trainee at the Together Trust, has found common ground between music and support for young people with autism and mental health needs.
Rebecca said: “DJing is my hobby, and one day my line manager and I thought it would be fantastic to use as a therapy intervention. There is a young man in one of the schools where I work who loves music. He has a severe learning disability and we wondered if we could try using DJing to support him.
“I had to think of a way to make it more accessible and adaptable because it’s quite a difficult skill to learn. So we ran a finance offer and found a starter pack online with a reasonably priced controller, headphones, and speakers. You can take it with you, and all you would need is a laptop to plug it in, and you’re set.
And just like that, Rebecca started holding weekly group or one-on-one sessions with the youth.
Students work to improve their motor skills using techniques such as midline crossing and sequencing skills. It also helps young people to develop their memory and concentration.
Rebecca shares that while DJing can be a tough job, one of the students picked it up so quickly that he managed to record his own 30-minute mix and ended up having his own minor DJ system. at home.
Rebecca said: “I worked with a student who had a real passion for music and had difficulty dealing with her anxiety. So I used music and DJing to build a therapeutic relationship with her, which ended up improving her school attendance. She learned beat-matching, which is a complicated skill to learn, but she just had an ear for it and understood it very well. After the DJ sessions, we were able to explore other coping strategies to support anxiety management.”
Rebecca is an occupational therapy apprentice with the Together Trust, a charity which supports children and adults with disabilities, children in care and experienced carers.