Meet our Allied Health Team: Helena Olofsson

Image of Helena, sitting outside with trees in the background. She is smiling at the camera.

For someone who might not be familiar with music therapy, can you explain what this means?
Music Therapy is a research-based health care service that utilises music to actively support people with their health, functioning, and wellbeing. Registered Music Therapists are professionally trained to creatively adapt music to meet the physical, developmental, sensory, cognitive, emotional and social needs of people in all stages of life, and to facilitate meaningful experiences unhindered by illness or disability.

How is music important in paediatric palliative care and in a hospice setting?
Music is able to meaningfully provide children and their families ways of bonding together, sharing positive experiences, and holding space to explore emotional expression through creative means. Music enhances non-verbal and verbal communication, provides comfort, relieves distress, and provides opportunities for choice and control. A child’s wellbeing and quality of life can be enhanced as music can foster joy and happiness and music can also be adapted to support families to create a musical legacy of their child within end-of-life care.

What’s unique about your role?
The versatile nature of music and the differing ways in which people connect with music makes my role quite unique, in that I can therapeutically adapt musical interventions to meet different needs. Within a single day at Very Special Kids, I can collaborate and co-facilitate a music session with Leo (Occupational Therapist) and Belinda (Physiotherapist), focussing on physical needs such as trunk control and reaching forward, making choices and communicating with them, and of course having fun. Within the same day, I might also facilitate a music session for a family where I’m cultivating a safe space for parents and siblings to process grief and loss. Using music as a support tool that is motivating for engagement and emotionally meaningful is very special to my role.

Tell us a little bit about your background prior to joining Very Special Kids.
During my Masters, I became incredibly passionate about providing support for medically unwell children and their families, as well as vulnerable children affected by trauma and domestic violence. Some of my experiences as a music therapy student were so profound that I made it my mission, once graduated, to provide support for vulnerable children and their families. Since graduating, I have worked in the community as an NDIS provider, providing home based developmental and emotional support for children living with ASD and other disabilities. My career then took a different turn when I did some work at Monash in adult rehabilitation and geriatric evaluation and management. I am lucky enough to also currently work at The Royal Talbot Rehabilitation Centre, supporting adults with acquired brain injuries, spinal injuries and neurological injuries in their functional and emotional rehabilitation.

What is it that inspires you to get out of bed every day?
I feel very privileged to share in the children and their family’s journey, and in being able to provide opportunities for joy and happiness. I look forward to building rapport with the children, getting to know their likes and dislikes, making music and connecting with them through instrumental play, and seeing them blossom and smile within the musical space.

What are you hoping to achieve at Very Special Kids?
At Very Special Kids, I am hoping to create a safe space for expression, creativity, connection, communication, comfort, meaning and joy. I work within a child-centred and family-centred framework, and I continually look forward to working collaboratively with Belinda (Physiotherapist), Leo (Occupational Therapist), and Svet (Art Therapy), to provide holistic care to meet the therapeutic needs of children and adolescents, as well as their families. Wellbeing and enhanced quality of life are a basic human right, and my hope is that I will be able to provide meaningful support for every family and child that I work with.

Tell us a little bit about yourself.
I am originally from Sydney, and I spent my childhood immersed in playing the violin and in student orchestras, as well as doing the odd bit of netball, ballet, and hip hop dancing for fun on the side. My favourite part of playing the violin was playing with other people, collaborating and working together to perform amazing orchestral works, and the adrenaline rush at the end of a performance at what we had managed to create and express to the audience was always incredible. I’m in love with nature and I love camping and being surrounded by trees and reading a good book by the fire. I’m also in love with Europe, it’s architecture, it’s music, it’s history and it’s FOOD!! I’ve travelled to Germany, Austria, Hungary, Czech Republic, Ireland, England, Spain, Italy, France, Greece, have visited Sweden several times as part of my family live there. I plan on doing a lot more travelling as there are so many more places I would like to see. Last year I adopted a rescue kitty called Mina and we are kindred spirits. I’m slowly training her so that she can come on hikes with me and eventually I’m hoping that I can take her away on road trips.