I promised you from the beginning that we'd be learning together as we navigate down the path called life. Dad and I realized long ago that the many twists and turns along our journey were often filled with false hope and confusion. While there have been many "red herrings" we've never stopped having an open mind on new interventions. We have literally looked under every rock for things that could help you my dear! With that in mind, we recently tried something new called music therapy. In true Menzo fashion, we jumped in with both feet, and now are so happy we did...
Sweetie, let me start by giving you a little background.
There are a ton of therapies that claim to help give people with autism a better quality of life. I’m not saying that they're without merit, but what works for one person doesn't necessarily work for another. So, when I first learned about music therapy, I was less than optimistic. Since you have significant auditory sensory challenges, I was concerned that therapy along these lines could stress you out - but with an open mind, I decided to do some research.
According to 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.
Let me translate... basically, communication while interweaving specific strategies leveraging music can help the emotional, developmental, cognitive, social and even physical aspects of your life work better for you. Sounds good, right? Well, like everything in life, the proof will be when we try it for ourselves!
We were given the name of a great music therapist on multiple occasions from our dear friend Miss Lydia (or as you call her "Ydia".) Side note: Miss Lydia is a huge advocate for you, and loves you very much! After a few emails, we were all set and ready to do this!
On the first day of music therapy, you were coming off of a very bad week. Lots of crying, melt downs, and complete lack of language. Like zero.
I was naturally expecting the worst. I even may have said a prayer for Miss Emily, your music therapist, because I knew she would have her hands full!
But, we put on a brave face, held hands and went in. Despite your protesting to even get back into the music room, I snuck out and sat in the hallway to watch. Even having done all that research, I still wasn't 100% sure what to expect.
What happened next was amazing.
Within minutes, your temperament changed and you became focused on Miss Emily and the direction she was giving you. Impressive! I was so astonished, that I actually took out my phone and recorded a short video clip to show daddy later.
Then it happened...
You began to boil over with joy and happiness. You started jumping and down proclaiming "I smile, I smile!" - not only language, but appropriate language in context! And, I got it all on video!
You know what baby? I smiled too. And... cried. It was an incredible breakthrough.
Understandably, I was in awe and inspired, so after the session I did even more research to learn everything I could about music therapy. Here's what I found...
Music therapy started a waaaay long time ago in the early 1900s under pretty tough circumstances. During World War I & II musicians of all types (mostly amateur volunteers), would go to veterans hospitals to comfort to those suffering from physical and emotional trauma caused by the wars.
Soon, the doctors and nurses noticed that these patients were having a positive response to the music. This led to the hospitals hiring professional musicians, which eventually led to the need for a training program. In 1944, Michigan State University established the first formal program in music therapy.
Yes, Michigan State! Since mommy and daddy are from Michigan, I thought that was pretty cool (whoop, whoop - props to the mitten state!)
So, fast forward back to today, we know so much more....
Because music is processed in both hemispheres of your brain, it stimulates cognitive functioning that is important for speech and language skills. After each session, you tend to be more relaxed and able to focus on more functional language.
The rhythmic component of music is very organizing for the sensory systems, and we know how you love some organization! Side note: Speaking of organization and finding familiarity in melody...two of the most famous toddler songs, "Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star" and "ABC's" share the exact same melody and rhythm! (You just sang both of them in your head didn't you?! Pretty cool right?!) As a result, auditory processing and other sensory-motor, perceptual/motor, gross and fine motor skills can be improved through music therapy.
Music is also connected to physiological responses within the body, including heart rate. It can have a significant emotional impact on you as well. It's like when I work out. I choose music that keeps my mood high and maybe has a faster pace. And when I'm ready to hit the spa (haha), I prefer music with a slower tempo and take it down a few notches. It's also been said that when one engages in musical activity, music can help with the release of endorphins in the body assisting in pain relief! Well, that’s a pretty good thing!
So, as this is all still a fairly new adventure for us, we've seen a very positive difference, and you really, really enjoy it. We are beyond blessed that we found Miss Emily to join our journey and share her musical talents.
Keep following the music baby girl! You're doing great!
I love you.