During her birth Laura lost 20 minutes of oxygen and had to be resuscitated immediately. She had no brainwave activity seen on the two EEG tests and little hope except in her parents’ heart. When Laura’s mother finally saw her baby, Laura’s little lungs breathed with a respirator. Her mother began to sing “Where Did You Go My Lovely” a song she remembered from her own childhood. She arranged to have lullabies played continually near Laura’s bed. Soon Laura began to breathe on her own.
Music has always been an important influence in children’s lives. From their first lullaby to songs in games, children are educated, entertained and moved to creativity through music. Music therapists springboard off these early experiences and introduce new melodies, tones and sounds that will add to a child’s positive memory development to promote communication and other non-music goals.
When Laura turned four her parents witnessed her use her hands independently and unsupported for the first time – to strum the music therapist’s guitar. Now in private music therapy sessions, Laura began to use her hands consistently. Other professionals insisted that Laura would have to “use her head” to push a switch or “eye gaze” to make choices. Today she uses her hands for both tasks. In music therapy, Laura reaches to strum the guitar with both hands and will alternate one hand then the other slowly and with intention.
The stimulation and pleasure children receive from specifically designed music therapy interventions make it a motivating form of learning for the child. Songs can be adapted to every child’s ability and provide a healthy and appropriate outlet for self expression and creativity. Different tones from different instruments will attract a child in different ways. The same melody on the guitar will be responded to different when played on a flute, violin or voice. The music therapist will seek out the best combination of tones (the notes) and timbre (the sound of the instrument) that will motivate the child.
As Laura grew many non-musical goals had been achieved however Laura, like many, became passionate about the music itself – for music’s sake. The music therapist suggested to Laura’s family that opera music be played in the home. When singing, Laura used her voice to produce long, dramatic tones, moving her lips to manipulate her voice very much like that of an opera singer. Laura’s response to opera was evident the moment it first played. She began to cry and smile at the same time. Her parents claim it is the “style of music that makes her feel the most alive”.
Each of us have a song or a special genre of music that taps into our core. As soon as we hear it, it is almost indescribable. It warms us. It makes us feel at home.
Laura is now a pre-teen, still attending music therapy and back in a group music therapy setting with her peers. Music Therapy is an opportunity for her developed skills to shine. Laura’s parents feel music therapy will continue to enhance her daughter’s life – social and emotional. “It will be used as a guide to new learning opportunities and will touch her spirit as it did the first time I sang to her,” her mom says. “I feel the music helped Laura to survive – and now it is helping her grow.”
Jennifer Buchanan is the happy owner of JB Music Therapy, celebrating its 20th anniversary in 2011. Our “Music Speaks” Blog: 50 Musical Motivators for 2011 (MMs) aims to Help you Relax, Reflect and Remember what you Value Most