Benefits of music therapy: an old song

Like so many other people who have disabilities, our son Gus has always loved music. Gus doesn’t talk (at least not the way we do!) so he communicates by moving to whatever it is he needs. When he wants to hear music, for example, he scoots to the piano and taps (okay, sometimes he pounds) on the lid until I come to play for him. Gus laughs and sings with the tunes, and claps with delight whenever he gets an opportunity to hear music performed live.

A story in the Chicago Tribune quoted music experts saying something we parents have known for a long, long time:

Music is non-threatening, and it is all around us,” said Melaine Pohlman, a Geneva music therapist and president of the Illinois Association for Music Therapy. “We are all able to experience it on some level. Even folks who are severely impaired can experience music.”

The story also quoted Vinod Menon, associate professor of psychiatry, behavioral sciences and neurosciences at Stanford University. Menon said listening to music stimulates the brain in areas involved with paying attention, making predictions and updating memory.

These days parents are signing up children for music lessons who, years ago, might not have gotten the chance because of a disability.

In Hinsdale, for instance, Autumn Voakes, executive director of the American Music Institute said that more parents are seeking lessons for children with autism. She hired two teachers with special-education experience as a result and hopes to expand her programs to specialize in the area, she said.


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