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Music as therapy

Music has been a mainstay in our home for years. My husband and I met over music--choir and musicals in high school. My dad has a PhD in music education and my husband, Leigh, pursued some music education in college, even being recruited to the President's band at one point.

When our oldest started wanting to play violin at 5, we weren't surprised. We followed suit with the rest of the kids too. Then my niece and nephew caught the bu from us and picked up their own instruments.

We have two violinists (7 and 14), a percussionist (12), a saxophonist (11), a guitarist (10), and a trumpet player (5). My other nephew (6) wants to play guitar too and will when he's ready. While their musical endeavors began as simply music lessons and instrument familiarity, they began to be therapeutic as well. Rory often tinkers on an instrument while they are feeling stressed. Or they do art. The steady math of percussion feeds Will's brain too and helps him regulate. Mack cruises through guitar concepts (previously played cello) and enjoys the combination of reading music, playing notes, and chords. Kae works hard on trumpet (or coronet) and focusing on metronome, notes, and playing helps her focus, math, and reading skills.

Music therapy has long been a way to calm and focus people's brains. It helps them feel centered and even explore their own feelings. Recently, my niece, was despondent during practices and we couldn't figure out why she was struggling. I suggested today that she might be bored and she corroborated. I offered to have her ask Rory to show her a tougher song to mix it up and challenge her a bit. She lit up! That was the medicine she needed to get her juices flowing again and let her do the repetition she needs to to work on her songs from her instructor. Like Rory at about the same age, she needed a challenge for her fast brain to not grow too bored. Rory had a similar feelings around 7-8 and their teacher gave them challenge pieces to keep them engaged.

Using music as therapy helps our neurodivergent kids stay engaged and helps their brains develop more thoroughly. Reading music is a skill that young kids can learn before they read and it can help strengthen their reading abilities. Kae's recall on reading books has improved since learning to read music. Sawyer, who has dyslexia, doesn't struggle with reading music, and I feel it has improved his word recognition while reading books too. He recently decided to stop relying so heavily on audiobooks while reading for school. And he is doing wonderfully. Will turns to his drums when he is dis-regulated and they help him feel better.

I know some really great instructors who match students where they are and encourage them along to better musicianship at the student's pace. They are flexible, wonderful, encouraging teachers who are patient with my neurodivergent people. If you need a recommendation for your kids or would like more tips on using music for therapy (along with other things), let me know!

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