Music therapy students to conduct undergraduate research

Music Therapy students work with children in the Preschool Language Lab
Music Therapy students work with children in the Preschool Language Lab

Two undergraduates in the College of Visual and Performing Arts (CVPA) are conducting a 10-week research project under the mentorship of Associate Professor and Coordinator of the Graduate Music Program, Patricia Winter.

The two music therapy students will work with and observe children of 18 months to 6 years of age with speech-language disorders in the Preschool Language Lab (PLL) located in Waldron Hall on Radford University’s campus.

David Blanco, a transfer student from Tidewater Community College and U.S. Navy veteran, is a senior at Radford from Falls Church.

Blanco will use music therapy as a tool to support the needs of clients with diagnoses that include speech and language disorders. Blanco will work directly with the children through music interventions such as music interaction, action songs and oral motor exercises in the PLL.

Blanco will study the impact of caregivers’ social supports through observation of caregiver-to-caregiver interactions, caregiver-to-clinician interactions, and opportunities for caregivers to observe interprofessional speech/language and music therapy sessions.

While examining how caregivers of children with speech-language disorders connect with the children through music therapy, Blanco will also observe the perceived stress levels of those caregivers.

Blanco’s research will determine if having a support group of fellow caregivers will assist in reducing their levels of stress.

“I look forward to interacting with the speech language pathologists and working with them to provide services to the children,” Blanco said. “The interdisciplinary aspect of our career fields certainly shines a light on the different options the services provide for groups and individuals.”

As Blanco works with the children and monitors caregivers’ interactions, the caregivers will also learn how to interact with the children through music therapy at home. “I would like to grow as a therapist in training and expand my horizons by working with the children and other professionals,” Blanco said of the experience.

After graduation, Blanco plans to become a Board-Certified Music Therapist (MT-BC), attend graduate school for music therapy and work with veterans in the country.

Skyler Cumbia is also a senior at Radford and originally from Hanover. Cumbia volunteered overseas before transferring to Radford in fall 2016 from Reynolds Community College.

The purpose of Cumbia’s project is to evaluate the relationship between student music therapists (SMTs) and speech language pathologists (SLPs) who co-treat together in the PLL. SMTs and SLPs will work under the supervision of a SLP and MT-BC while treating the needs of the children through the implantation of the music therapy and speech/language interventions.

Cumbia’s project allows the SMTs to examine the amount of prior knowledge the students have about discipline’s scope of practice and how the collaborative experience could impact the development of interventions, session planning and the clinical style of the students involved.

“The result of the research increases the professional understanding of the environment of co-treatment, the context in which both professions are situated, the unique and/or overlapping benefits that both professions bring to the treatment setting and the healthcare culture that is created through this mode of service delivery,” Cumbia said.

Cumbia will present a poster of her work during her four-week intensive experience of working at the PLL. She plans to pursue the opportunity to further present her findings at regional and national music therapy conferences during the year following her research.

“My hope is that this experience will expand my clinical and research capabilities and enable me to become a better advocate for the field of music therapy,” Cumbia said. “I look forward to getting to know and working with the clients and the SLPs throughout the program and to do what I love every day this summer.”

After becoming a MT-BC, Cumbia plans to either immediately attend graduate school for music therapy or practice for a year before continuing on as a graduate student.

Both students were granted $500 each from the 2018 Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowships (SURF). The grants will provide supplies and tools for the projects, such as musical instruments for the children or books for sessions to demonstrate the proper tools required to practice as a music therapist.

In order to complete this research, Blanco and Cumbia were required to complete the Collaborative Institutional Training Initiative (CITI) training program for human subjects research, and a semester of clinical observation and clinical practicum.

Winter said that the music department builds upon these type of projects for the future by following prior research. New research will be will asking new and follow-up questions that weren’t asked before to discover new and additional explanations.

“The students will learn that they have a voice in this field and are assisting in evidence for the profession,” Winter said as she explained that the experience is not only to gain experience and build resumes but to know that they hold responsibility. “I want them to engage and become passionate in research and music therapy now so they will continue to in the future.”

Jun 6, 2018
Emily Lewis