Catherine Haining - Westfield Local Heroes 2020
Hitting a high note
Giant Steps Melbourne (GSM)
Compassionate. Selfless. Encouraging.
Music therapist Catherine Haining is an innovator when it comes to educating children with autism, combining songs and traditional learning to great effect.
She played a crucial role in establishing Giant Steps Melbourne (GSM), a school for children with moderate to severe autism and intellectual disabilities.
Catherine is Head of Therapy Services at the school and uses music to help the students to understand and retain numeracy and literacy skills.
The structure of music provides calm and reassurance for the students, who may live in a world of anxiety and uncertainty. Overlaying music with instructions for everyday tasks such as tying shoes and putting on sunscreen means they are more willing to try.
And music gives them a way to share how they feel when they can't find the words, Catherine says.
"In some instances, students who do not speak will sing."
Catherine says music is a way for students to connect with others. One student attended a regular music festival with carers and was elated to be able to dance alongside other attendees.
"I love working at GSM. I feel like I am making a difference but most of all I feel like I am part of something bigger than myself," Catherine says.
Westfield Local Heroes are nominated and voted for by their communities, with the three top finalists per Westfield centre each awarded a $10,000 grant for their affiliated organisation. Giant Steps Melbourne will use its grant to buy musical instruments and a laptop to produce music.
For further information on the Westfield Local Heroes program, click here