I don't know about you, but I've been periodically following the recovery of Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords with some interest. I obviously wish her the very best and pray for her full recovery.
And I had to smile when reports told that one of the first words she spoke was a request for toast with her breakfast. While I think my first word might be something along the lines of chocolate, I am 100% sure her husband will never look at toast in the same way. It will remain a beautiful word for him from now on.
When she started her rehabilitation program, I noticed that music therapy was included. This is something I've been considering for Lily.
While Lily does not suffer from a physical brain injury, I believe that autism has a neurological component to it and the brain needs "training".
And music might just be the ticket.
How exactly does music play a role in learning to speak - or speak again, in some cases?
Kimberly Sena Moore is a board-certified music therapist. She also maintains a blog called "Your Musical Self" and she explains in this excerpt below how music can be used to learn, heal, and live.
Does music therapy really work?
Well, yes! Here's how...
The Role of Music Therapy in Rehabilitation
It's not uncommon these days to find music therapists in a rehab setting working along-side other treatment professionals, such as physical therapists, occupational therapists, and speech-language pathologists. Music therapy is cropping up on rehab teams all over the world. And why is that? Because music therapy works.
If you've been reading this blog for a while, you'll have read that music engages and changes our brain. This is especially useful in rehab because of the concept of "shared networks" in our brain. There are neural networks that process both musical and non-musical information. For example, there is some overlap in the networks involved in processing singing words and speaking words.
Board-certified music therapists can use music and music-based experiences to help activate impaired brain networks. The client then "re-learns" and practices those skills through music, thus strengthening them. To continue with our example above, when working with someone who has expressive aphasia, a music therapist can use singing techniques to help that patient re-learn how to speak.
Music Therapy Treatment Areas
In addition to speaking, what other types of "non-musical skills" am I referring to? Although specific treatment goals depend on the type of damage, examples include:
- Fine motor skills --- using your hands and fingers
- Gross motor skills --- reaching with your arms or re-learning how to walk
- Speech production skills --- forming meaningful words and sentences
- Communication skills --- using nonverbal "body language" or comprehending speech
- Learning and memory skills --- remembering the alphabet or strengthening short-term memory
- Attention skills -- improving focus of attention and strengthening ability to multi-task
Music therapists can use music in various ways to help target the above goal areas. Sample interventions include: instrument playing, singing, moving to music (as when walking to a beat), listening to music, and composing music.
That may have been more information than you ever wanted to know about music therapy but I find it very exciting to think that something as simple as songs from our childhood can do so much good in our brains.
Lily loves music and it's always been a pretty large part of life around the Rush home. Ryan and Reagan both play the guitar and sing. Ryley sings and can plunk a little on the piano. And I remember all the lyrics that everyone else forgets!
I like the idea of engaging Lily in something that she sees as enjoyable but at the same time, it's doing all kinds of good stuff in her noggin.
So we're going to give music therapy a go.
And I'll keep you posted on any progress - I promise!