Wings Learning Center, Redwood City, California
On my first visit to Wings Learning Center on 6/26/13', I went in with an open mind with only the expectation to have the experience. I had never done music therapy before, but I was looking forward to trying something new with music and to help others in different ways. Upon entering the room, I was greeted with warm smiles and words. Beth, the therapist/instructor blew me away at her adeptness to work with the kids. She treated them as if they were her own friends, which I admired strongly - there was no ego in the way. Charissa first played some pieces on the violin, and then I played some improvisations on the piano. The kids seemed very engaged with the music, as they would make thoughtful remarks after. Upon reflection, after my first session, I've come to realize how simple music therapy can be and how uplifting it is to everyone. It is very touching to have everyone involved in the music. This has opened my eyes and heart, and to play music for the care of others.
Having now done 3 music therapy sessions at Wings Learning Center with my colleague Charissa Leung, I can say it as been a wonderful, awakening experience. Being at Wings has reconfirmed to me how music can have a great impact on people no matter what background. Though there are times when it seems like you can't reach through to these special need individuals, improvising original music with them, I believe, has a uniting affect in which everyone can feel a similar uplifting energy. It has been a valuable experience attending and working this program and I hope to continue having great musical collaborations with the kids there.
Charissa's first performance at Wings
Improvising a song based on a theme called enchanted castle given by the teens
A group work
Making music together
I had heard one of the autistic kids, (who I will call Johnny), was good at piano. Thus, on my July 3rd session, when I was preparing to play something on the piano, I decided to ask Johnny to play with me. He seemed reluctant at first, but he quickly started playing a riff on the piano, and I subsequently joined him with backup harmony and formed some chords. Before long, we were playing a nice sounding duet, and continued for several minutes. I felt a sense of connection between Johnny and I, as well as everyone else in the room. It was the one of those moments where music transcends the spoken language. There was no need for talking, just the experience of playing and listening to music together. I believe the experience was touching to both of us, and to everyone listening in the room. It was a simple moment, with simple music, but sometimes the simplest things can be the most beautiful.
Johnny and I making music
Gaby playing some Scottish tunes on violin
What a great summer it's been. Certainly eye-opening and learning for me. I had the opportunity to pursue a great endeavor through a connection with the CIN club. I became a project Leader with Wings Learning Center in Redwood City, working alongside Beth Robinson, a long time Music Therapist, who leads weekly session through the summer with autistic teens, many of which have been with her for years. Weekly, my CIN colleagues and I had the joy to work with this great group of teens. They were welcoming, happy and embracing of us. I wasn't' quite sure what to expect in the beginning but I was intrigued by the little I knew about Music Therapy. From the very first session, it was about the music and the use of music to connect. Through my spontaneous method of collaborative improvisation, I believe I was able to connect with them by using music to create a shared, uplifting experience. I can tell they enjoyed it because they wanted to hear and play alongside me more, which I was delighted to do.
Overall, it was a very humbling and enriching experience, trying to work with and understand special needs individuals through music. I realized that they love music as much as the rest of us do and how powerful music is. Music therapy is healing of the soul through music. Very simply, I'm grateful to have been introduced to MT and I hope the kids got as much out of these sessions as I did this summer. My experiences at Wings Learning Center are defining moments that make me happy to be a musician.
What is Autism?
According to AUTISM SPEAKS, autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and autism are both general terms for a group of complex disorders of brain development. These disorders are characterized, in varying degrees, by difficulties in social interaction, verbal and nonverbal communication and repetitive behaviors. Autism appears to have its roots in very early brain development. However, the most obvious signs of autism and symptoms of autism tend to emerge between 2 and 3 years of age.
What is the trend?
Why are ASDs increasing?
According to CDC, the reasons for the increase in the identified prevalence of ASDs are not understood completely. Some of the increase is due to the way children are identified, diagnosed, and served in their local communities. Also, it is likely that reported increases are explained partly by greater awareness by doctors, teachers, and parents.
However, according to Wall Street Journal (07/12/13) that a new paper published in Open Access, Scientific Reports has linked the autism epidemic to the epidemic of vaccine induced type 1 diabetes.
What is Music Therapy?
According to 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.
How does MT work?
According to American Music Therapy Association, music can promote relatedness, relaxation, learning, and self-expression. Music therapy addresses multiple developmental issues simultaneously. Music therapy can provide success-oriented opportunities for achievement and mastery. The structure and sensory input inherent in music help to establish response and role expectations, positive interactions, and organization.
What is the effect?
According to Science Daily, weekly music therapy sessions lasting just an hour have a positive effect on behaviors in children with autism, reports a paper in Pertanika Journal in February 2013. In a study of 41 children, improvements were seen particularly in inattentive behaviors over a ten month period.
Music Therapy Seminar for Club Members