MUSIC heals - man has known that for centuries. But modern research is helping scientists learn how it affects human emotion, mind and body and how it could be used to boost our general well-being. According to the National Association for Music Therapy (NAMT) in the United States, music could be used to restore, maintain and improve our mental and physical health. Since the establishment of the association in 1950, music therapy has been steadily developing and has been widely recognised by the medical and rehabilitation professions. Registered music therapist Paul Pang Ka Wah, director of Pang's Music Therapy and Development Centre for Exceptional Children, believes music's therapeutic and educational functions can boost the potential of children with special needs - and not just in music. 'Most significantly, music can minimise their condition of handicap, speed up their normal physical and psychological growth, thus helping them to integrate into the society.' Paul Pang graduated from Florida State University in 1983 majoring in music therapy. In 1984, he joined the NAMT. Special education has been his major area of service since returning to Hong Kong. Mr Pang said disabled children could naturally acquire communicative and social skills and also increase their ability to express themselves through music. 'I was amazed to see how music therapy treatment helped an autistic child recover only in a few years. 'Music did not only enhance his expressive ability, but also helped him develop his potential in piano. The eight-year-old boy can now play piano well. Music enriched his life.' For special children, music requires multi-sensory response. They are required to identify sounds of various musical instruments such as the piano, guitar, drum and omnichime. 'This improves their concentration and memory. 'Learning in a relaxed musical environment is the most enjoyable experience for special children. They can fully enjoy the experience that comes naturally through music,' said Mr Pang. How to become a music therapist: Education: Join an approved music therapy programme at one of the 70 undergraduate and graduate colleges and universities in the US. A bachelor's degree is the minimum requirement. Skills: Musical: Accomplished in piano, voice and guitar with knowledge of composition, music theory and history. Skilled in improvising, arranging and conducting. Flexible with a wide range of musical styles. Clinical: Knowledge of a variety of populations, unique needs and problems. Is there a particular profession you would like to know more about? Write to: Lifelines, Young Post, GPO Box 47, Hong Kong, or fax us on 811-1048.