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Bringing music therapy to the physically disabled
By N.Raymond Day
Article available online at: http://www.therapytimes.com/070510DaysWork
Of course, some physical challenges are uniquely our own. My wife is a water aerobics instructor and she loves choreographing exercises and leading them for her students. In our marriage this illustrates an incompatibility issue. As you can guess, my wife is very coordinated; I am not. Once she tried to instruct me to do an aquatic exercise. We got in the pool, and she said, “Move your legs like you are skiing.”
After a few minutes I kind of got the hang of it. Then she said, “Move your arms opposite the direction of your legs.” I tried it while mumbling to myself, “Left leg forward; left arm backward. Right leg forward; right arm backward.” I finally stopped because my arms and legs were flailing about directionless – only my brain was still working, doing its mumbling. “Why did you stop?” asked my wife. “Look,” I replied, “either legs or arms! You can’t have both.” I love and respect my wife’s coordination and teaching skills dearly, but there is no way I can do what she does.
Some people have physical challenges that vary on a continuum of somewhat extreme at one end to severely extreme at the other. Music therapists work with such people every day. Movements of all kinds vary by increasing degrees from what most of us take for granted. The challenges vary from one person to another but include fingers and hands, legs and feet, brain and body, arms, neck, lips, and more.
Bridges in music therapy are called adaptive aids. Regarding those aids, the staff at Queens University of Charlotte, N.C., says:
We are always looking for maximum client benefit in our treatment plans. Good, quality adaptive equipment opens new doors for our clients and for the treatment plan by making music even more accessible. The field benefits anytime a broader client base is reached. Examples of clients who can benefit from adaptive equipment include: clients with any kind of physical limitation due to stroke, birth defect, orthopedic injury, or impairment; clients with weakness in grasp strength or low muscle tone; clients with tactile defensiveness who have difficulty holding objects; and physically typical clients, such as someone with autism who might be working on decision making, organization, and creativity.
Creating and Supplying Bridges
Into this gap steps a woodworker – a woodworker who is not only constrained by choreography, but also has a musical deficit. The woodworker’s wife says, “He can’t find a beat, and he walks in circles when he tries to dance like he has one foot nailed to the floor.” What could this woodworker and music therapists possibly have in common? It certainly isn’t music. The answer is “the gap.”
In 1987, I received my first invitation to enter the world of music. A young lady came to my door with metal rods in her hand. It was Judy Pine, who is now director of National General Music and vice president at West Music, based in Coralville, Iowa. Judy and her husband Lou were coming to our home for dinner, but she also had another idea in mind. She said, “Ray I want you to make chime trees for West Music.” I replied, “But Judy, I don’t know a thing about music.”
“You don’t have to,” said Judy. “I know you do good woodworking and I want those skills applied to products we are carrying in our new catalogue.” Nervously I agreed, and more than 12,000 chime trees later, they are still in the West Music catalogue, along with several other products that Judy and I devised along the way.
MVP 2009 Winner:
Vertical Hand Drum/Tambourine Attachment
A music instrument attachment – made available through A Day's Work Music Education – designed for patients with restricted mobility, allowing wheelchair-bound to participate in music therapy without assistance.
"Music therapists constantly seek out products that facilitate adaptation, so that they can maximize client possibilities during sessions. Across populations, mobility and motor issues may require instrumental modifications. Musical interaction can only occur if music play is accessible. Motor skills can only progress through music play if current motor skills can be accommodated.
The Vertical Hand Drum/Tambourine Attachment attaches to a wheelchair/table clamp (also available from A Day's Work). A frame drum or tambourine is held securely in place. One version of the attachment comes with a spring that can hold a mallet. The Vertical Hand Drum/Tambourine Attachment is meticulously made, highly durable, and capable of taking intense use. It is highly portable and manipulable. At the same time, can be easily immobilized when you want it to stay in place.”
Lewisville Independent School District
Adjunct Lecturer, Texas Woman's University