Siblings get in sync

Anthea Skinner
Siblings in Sync is a music program. It is for children with disabilities and their brothers and sisters. Children are encouraged to make music together. Children are also encouraged to express how they feel. There are many different activities. Any needs the children have are discussed with parents before the program starts. The children had a great time at the session we attended. Parents were also pleased with the program.
Posted by: 
Anthea Skinner on 16/03/2011
two children stand facing each other playing adaptive musical instruments.  Behind them a screen shows colourful patterns in time with their music.
Siblings in sync

Encouraging families to make music

Siblings in Sync is a music therapy program for children with disabilities and their siblings. The program is run by the Digital Learning Hub at the Victorian Arts Centre. It encourages families to share in music making. 

Parents or carers are asked to accompany children to each session. The session DiVine recently attended was certainly a family affair. Participants included aunts, cousins and godparents in addition to the children.


Before beginning the program, music therapists telephone parents to discuss their children’s access needs and music preferences. This helps them to tailor their program to each family’s individual requirements.

Diane, a mother of two children with autism, says Siblings in Sync provided a level of accessibility she had not found in other programs. There are not a lot of things that are suited, says Diane. They say ‘Oh yes we accept people with disabilities.’ But then the child throws a tantrum or hits someone and then there’s a problem. 

The opportunity to participate in music making was appreciated by the children and carers alike. He just loves music, Vesna said of her godson Jared. It’s hard to keep him focussed. But every little thing that I do with him, he improves. He gets a bit better.   

Communication and decision making

One of the focuses of the program is using music to encourage children with disabilities to communicate and participate in decision making. Children are encouraged to express their opinions on music. They are also able to choose what music to listen to and play. Decisions are made as individuals, as siblings and in family groups. Parent Helen says I love the concept of them working together and making choices together.

Communication is encouraged via speech, signs and visual queues. The opportunity to participate in decision making was clearly relished by the children. They declared the activity Do You Like It? to be one of their favourites. Participants were eager to share their opinions of the different music. After hearing a particularly energetic song, young Eddie declared it’s the kind of music that jumps up and bites me

Other activities

Other popular activities at the session include playing drums and adaptive banana keyboards. There is also a relaxation game where the children lay under a colourful parachute listening to soft music. It was great to hear the children, many of whom have limited speech, singing into microphones.  Each family received a CD of the music made during the session to take home.

Have a Go

The Siblings in Sync program is suitable for children aged five to 15 and their families. The program consists of two, one hour sessions over two days. It costs $24 per family.

The next session begins on Wednesday 13 April.  Booking information is available from The Arts Centre website (opens new window).

Comment on this article