Shopping to Sing About!

We’ve all heard Poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s famous quote: “Music is the universal language of all mankind.” Since Longfellow wrote those words, many others have echoed his sentiments. Take blind musician and superstar Stevie Wonder who famously sang these lyrics: “Music is a world within itself, with a language we all understand. …” Or the late folksinger Pete Seeger who used music to motivate social justice: “Songs are funny things. They can slip across borders. Proliferate in prisons. Penetrate hard shells. I always believed that the right song at the right moment could change history.” Reggae music giant Bob Marley had this to say about the therapeutic effects of music: “One good thing about music, when it hits you, you feel no pain.” And pop music star Billy Joel’s opinion? “I think music in itself is healing,” said Joel. “It’s an explosive expression of humanity. It’s something we are all touched by. No matter what culture we’re from, everyone loves music.”

In other words, music is immensely powerful, and all human beings, regardless of their abilities have the capacity to experience its healing effects. In fact, studies have shown that music and music therapy provide enormous benefits for people with a range of disabilities.

According to the American Music Therapy Association “Research supports connections between speech and singing, rhythm and motor behavior, memory for song and memory for academic material, and overall ability of preferred music to enhance mood, attention, and behavior to optimize the student’s ability to learn and interact. Rhythmic movement helps develop gross motor skills (mobility, agility, balance, coordination) as well as respiration patterns and muscular relaxation. Because music is reinforcing,” says the AMTA, “it can be used to motivate movements or structure exercises that are prescribed in physical rehabilitation.” Furthermore, musical activities can distract from the “pain, discomfort, and anxiety often associated with some physical disabilities.”

This holiday season, why not give the gift of music? Enabling Devices’ wide selection of adapted musical instruments make great gifts for friends and family members, students or music therapy clients. And this week (Wednesday December 6 to Tuesday December 12), we’ve slashed prices on our adapted Bongo Drums, Tambourine, Ring Around Bells, Drumbourine and My First Music Player. Who knows? The next Ray Charles, Ludwig von Beethoven or Django Reinhardt may be one of your children, a client or a student in your class! Give him or her their big musical break by shopping our newly designed, state-of-the-art website and checking out our musical instruments and toys.

Happy holiday shopping!

Musical Musings

Music gives a soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination
and life to everything.”
― Plato

The power of music and its significant healing properties are well-known.  According to psychologist David M. Greenberg, writing for Psychology Today, “Music is much more than mere entertainment. It has been a feature of every known human society—anthropologists and sociologists have yet to find a single culture throughout the course of human history that has not had music. In fact, many evolutionary psychologists today make the argument that music predated language. Primitive tribes and religious practices have used music to reach enlightened states for thousands of years, and Pythagoras used music to heal different psychological and physical ailments. Currently, cutting-edge scientific research has shown the effect that music has on the brain, the individual, and society.”

Like their non-disabled peers, people with physical and developmental disabilities can benefit tremendously from interactions with music. While listening to music improves quality of life for just about everyone, some people with disabilities can also experience profoundly positive effects from taking part in adapted music lessons and/or music therapy. While these terms are sometimes used interchangeably, they are not the same. In this week’s post, we outline the differences between these two modalities and note the benefits of each.

What are adapted music lessons?

Adapted music lessons have the same goal as conventional music lessons: to teach the musical skills necessary to play an instrument. Yet adapted lessons are taught by teachers or music therapists skilled in providing an especially individualized approach to learning. Trained to evaluate the learning needs and styles of each student, adapted music teachers can tailor their lessons to the strengths and weaknesses of their students. They utilize a variety of strategies to help students to accomplish their goals.

According to Jennifer Hezoucky, a therapist at Life Song Therapy, adaptations for music students with physical disabilities may include: “Color-coding or large-print/chord music; learning songs using color or number codes; over-sized guitar picks; alternate tunings for guitar; adapted equipment for specific needs (such as switch-adapted instruments available through enablingdevices.com).

Adaptations for students with developmental or intellectual disabilities may include the use of “visual aids to structure the lesson and reduce frustration; non-verbal communication; a focus on preferred songs and music genres; communication devices; [the incorporation of] music games, rhythm instruments, movement and singing to maintain and maximize learning,” says Hezoucky.

What is music therapy?

In music therapy, music proficiency isn’t the goal. Rather, music is a means to achieving other goals. According the American Music Therapy Association “Music Therapy is the clinical and evidence-based use of music interventions to accomplish individualized goals within a therapeutic relationship by a credentialed professional who has completed an approved music therapy program. Music Therapy is an established health profession in which music is used within a therapeutic relationship to address physical, emotional, cognitive, and social needs of individuals.”

For example, notes music therapist Geoffrey Keith of Success Music Studio, “a music therapist may teach a student a song to help him to remember how to tie his shoes, or sing a song with him so he can work on saying a particular consonant that he struggles to say more clearly, or to help get out strong feelings attached to a traumatic experience.”

For more information about music therapy, visit musictherapy.org.

For more information about adapted music lessons, visit successmusicstudio.com.

 

 

 

Drum Therapy: The Many Benefits of Drumming

Photo of boy playing with adaptive drum set

Music is widely recognized for its universal healing properties. Arguably, its benefits are even more profound for those who face cognitive, physical, behavioral and psychological challenges. Jordan Goodman, a musician, mental health counselor and founder of Beatwell, a company that brings therapeutic drumming to children and adults with and without disabilities, has seen music’s magic in action over and over again.

A musician from childhood, Goodman developed an interest in psychology while attending college. He went on to earn a master’s degree in clinical psychology while continuing to play and teach music. In his work with drum students, Goodman couldn’t help but notice that they all appeared less anxious and more confident when they drummed. He began to suspect that drumming had significant healing and therapeutic properties.

Curious about his observation, Goodman decided to focus his graduate studies on the physiological and psychological effects of drumming. His discovery of the work of neurologist Barry Bittman confirmed his instincts. Bittman’s 2001 study showed that drumming increases the number of T-cells in the blood, helping the body to fight off viruses, while a 2005 study the neurologist co-authored found that “recreational music making, particularly, drumming, can reverse 19 genetic responses to stress.” Other research by Bittman showed that drumming improves mood, reduces burnout rates, enhances creativity and builds community.

A 2011 article in Psychology Today reported that drumming helps children with special needs develop better “motor strength and control, speech and communication, social skills, emotional expression, and cognition.”

Book cover for "The Healing Power of the Drum"And, when interviewed by the Daily Beast in 2014, Robert Friedman, a N.Y. psychotherapist and author of “The Healing Power of the Drum” reported on the success he has had using drumming to help those with Alzheimer’s Syndrome and autism. “It helps with attention and focus,” Friedman noted. “We’ve also explored therapy with Parkinson’s patients. When a patient listens to the beat, they are able to walk, helping them on a fundamental level.”

Goodman, who is trained in the evidence-based HealthRHYTHMS drumming protocol created by Bittman, has used therapeutic drumming with groups and individuals with Down syndrome, autism, Alzheimer’s disease, traumatic brain injury, addiction and psychiatric illness with great effects.

“When I go into a setting with a population that is new to me, I’m un-fazed, because I believe that we all share more in common than not,” says Goodman. “I did a workshop at a school for children on the autism spectrum with 25 kids from kindergarten through 8th grade. Afterward, the teachers were shocked. They had never seen the whole group stay on task for an entire hour. I find that with people with developmental disabilities, the tactile properties of drumming are very soothing. They feel grounded in the experience and it creates a safe and supportive atmosphere where people can express themselves, take chances and try new things.”

Although children with autism, ADHD and other developmental disabilities may struggle when it comes to forming emotional connections with other people and understanding social cues, Goodman has found that when they are part of drum circles, these difficulties are minimized and they experience the benefits of community.

“It’s too bad that many children get their first exposure to music education in classrooms where there’s this expectation for them to perform in a particular way,” says Goodman. “If they don’t do exactly what they’re told to do then they’re wrong. That’s not fun. When they’re on the playground doing what feels good there isn’t that sort of pressure. That’s what music should be. Just doing what feels good. Just playing. ”