Getting to “No” You
When Nonspeaking Autistic People Refuse Music Therapy
Nonspeaking autistic people frequently begin music therapy at the request of others. Typically, family or care systems are tasked with making decisions on their behalf and have decided this service will be of benefit. Consequently, music therapy is a given rather than a choice. For this paper I have used my own evolving understanding to explore the complexities and power dynamics related to nonspeaking people being able to say “no” to music therapy. Elements in this discussion include: (a) the ability, and safety, to say “no” in the context of a culture of compliance, (b) the complicated relationship between music therapists and the systems within which they work, and how this affects the therapy relationship, and (c) the role of music therapy practice standards. I advocate the following: (1) presume competence, (2) enter the therapy space with curiosity and openness, (3) be willing to “get to know,” (4) coping skills or communication attempts are not “behavior” in need of correction, and (5) learn how each nonspeaking person communicates “no.” Actively encouraging and respecting treatment refusal goes a long way toward building a respectful music therapy practice/relationship.
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Copyright (c) 2022 Roia Rafieyan
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