I had an interesting conversation the other day with a mom in a similar boat as I. We both have older children in their mid to late teens and younger children as young as five. Her older boys were diagnosed with ADHD. My older boys are undiagnosed but with ADD/ADHD symptoms.
Her boys began playing musical instruments when they were in about 3rd grade. At around the same time, we got our one son involved in musical theatre.
This insightful mom posed the question, “Did you notice your son ‘even out’ once he had the music to sink his teeth into?”. YES! I had not really thought about it until the question was asked, but yes…I did notice that once my son had this creative outlet, his focus improved, his grades improved, and teachers finally began to see his strengths.
My younger son, age 5 struggles with sensory processing (SPD) and auditory processing disorder (APD) and as the neurodevelopmental pediatrician put it, “he has the seeds for ADHD”.
Our 5 year old has taken to music like fish to water. When he was just a wee tot, he was involved with Music Together. While all the other kids were dancing the steps guided by the music teacher, my son was over at the speakers fascinated with feeling the beat. He now loves to listen to his older brother’s recordings of his “singing voice”. He will listen to his brother sing the same song over and over, each time learning how to appropriately sing the same song. Ever since he was that wee tot, he would gently place his fingers on the piano and create lovely sounds, of which is atypical. Most kids would simply bang on the piano. He would do the same with a harmonica, playing a beautiful collection of sounds.
Everyday interpersonal interaction automatically uses recognition, processing and organizing. Many children with SPD or APD may have trouble with the recognition, processing and organizing. Many may demonstrate motor planning difficulties, may not be able to discriminate sound or may not be able to process three step commands without a great deal of effort and struggle. Music integrated through our sense of hearing effortlessly and automatically helps train the brain to recognize, process and organize.
Music offers rhythmic patterns that provide the brain with mental calisthenics, exercising the brain’s processing and organizing department. Some say that music by Mozart is a therapeutic medium because a lot of the compositions offer tempos of 60 beats per minute. This is said to be the “Mozart Effect”.
Music therapists will recommend very specific types of music for creating targeted results. Ever have a day at the spa? They play soft natural sounds in the background to help facilitate a soothing mood. You would never see them blare heavy metal music as it would not create the same effect. Our younger boys will fall asleep to soothing background music found in many of the Baby Einstein DVD’s.
To demonstrate the therapeutic value of music, take a look at this challenge. Getting a child with SPD dressed in the morning for the day can be a monstrous challenge. Many occupational therapists suggest music with a steady beat as an intervention. Some successful parental suggestions of tunes include:
Thunder and Broken Sorrow from Nuttin’ But Stringz
Gen Jereb’s CDs
Life is a Highway (My son loves this one)
Rhythm is an excellent therapeutic tool. Rhythmic music helps children connect the natural rhythmic movement to something external. Think about the “Clean Up” song. This simple song gets kids up, moving and cleaning up to the natural rhythm of the song. Our younger boys will sing to wash their hands and clean their room.
So, why wait until the third grade to introduce music to our son? We will be looking into a variety of options to foster his innate love of music and perhaps, he will “even out” sooner.