The School of Music's traveling Music Therapy Clinic has been especially beneficial during the pandemic.
The School of Music's traveling Music Therapy Clinic has been especially beneficial during the pandemic.

When a 9-year-old boy with autism first began attending UofL’s Music Therapy Clinic, he was nonverbal, easily agitated and occasionally aggressive, despite trying various therapies since he was a toddler.

Staff at that School of Music program leveraged his natural love of music to help him learn to communicate. Now, as a 13-year-old, he can better process feelings and speak in sentences.

The clinic hopes to replicate such success stories by widening its reach and hitting the road. The WHAS Crusade for Children awarded the clinic a $30,000 grant last fall to purchase a van that will be retrofitted into a traveling clinic.

“Transportation can be a barrier to children coming to the clinic to receive individualized services. One way to address this is to bring the clinic to the children,” said Jess Rushing, assistant professor and clinic supervisor.

The clinic is an extension of the Music Therapy Program, which began in 2000 and is the only approved undergraduate music therapy program in Kentucky. Board-certified music therapists regularly see 20 clients in the clinic and two clients in their homes as well as offer services at seven community facilities. Clients range from newborns to seniors needing therapy for problems spanning developmental disabilities to Alzheimer’s disease. UofL music therapy students observe and participate in these sessions to help fulfill clinical training requirements.

Rushing said the van allows staff to transport equipment and provide on-site consultations, assessments and other activities anywhere in the community.

“It opens a lot of doors for how we can offer services,” Rushing said.

The Crusade has funded the clinic two other times as well, helping to renovate the clinic space and augment service expenses, as the clinic charges on a sliding scale based on a family’s ability to pay.

“The grants have been instrumental in increasing access to music therapy for children in our community,” Rushing said.

Chris Millett, coordinator of the Music Therapy Clinic, told the Louisville Cardinal that the van has been especially beneficial during the pandemic, as it provides the opportunity to continue providing in-person services in a safe way.