Music Speaks –The music therapy experience is often unheard. Accent Music Therapy promises to share personal stories of those touched by the beat of music.
Our first story is of Jack, an energetic three-year-old who has been pulling at the heart strings of AMT’s music therapist Bill Murray for the past year.
Jack’s mother, Kerri, took a few minutes to talk to us about Jack.
Tell us about Jack.
“Jack is three years old and was recently diagnosed with Autism. From the age of four months to one year, Jack suffered from infantile spasms, which then developed into cluster seizures. When he was one years old, Jack had 30 to 40 seizures per day. With medication, we have been able to stop his seizure activity and he has now been weaned off of his medication. He has been med and seizure free since July 2012, but has gross developmental delays. Jack is non-verbal and has very little, if any, language comprehension. Cognitively, he has been recently assessed as functioning between nine and 12 months.”
Why did you consider Music Therapy?
“Our biggest challenge with Jack is lack of communication. Our speech pathologist suggested that music therapy might be a good avenue to pursue for Jack to help better his communication, and we were introduced to Bill.”
What were your expectations of Music Therapy before you got started?
“To be honest, I had no expectations. Because of Jack’s lack of communication and lack of language comprehension, we were experiencing troubling behaviour –screaming, hitting, scratching, etc. – almost 100% due to his frustration. I have always been open to exploring all avenues to help Jack, but didn’t see how a guy with a guitar was going to make a huge difference.”
What outcomes have you seen as a result of his MT treatment?
“Wow what a difference!! From Jack’s very first visit with Bill things started to change. When he is in a therapy session he never screams and is never physical. He laughs; he has fun; he dances around. So, from a behaviour standpoint it has been invaluable, and music is a tool we can use at home as well. If Jack is on his way to a meltdown, dancing around while singing one of his favourite songs almost always calms him down. This gives us an opportunity to try to figure out what set him off and address the issue.
From a communication standpoint, it has been even more exciting to see. Although Jack still does not have any words per se, he has begun to communicate back and forth with Bill during sessions, and at home with our family, via the “music games” that Bill has introduced him to. He will “play” interactively with us via the songs being sung, which is absolutely unheard of in Jack’s world. Each time that we have a session with Bill, he tries harder and harder to communicate with u. Jack is now babbling non-stop, making amazing eye contact, trying out different sounds, trying to imitate the sounds we make, etc.”
What has your experience been like with Accent Music Therapy?
“It has been an incredible experience. It’s been so emotionally-charged to see our little boy willingly try to step out of his inner world and communicate with us when he is with Bill. Hands down, this has been the most effective tool in our arsenal of different therapies that Jack participates in. In just one year, the changes in Jack’s behavioural, social abilities, and verbal communications has completely exceeded any expectations that I had walking in.
Bill is a very special person – patient, kind, gentle and an abundance of positivity. Not only does he help parents believe, but Bill truly believes in the unlimited potential of your child.”