Archive for the ‘Special Needs’ Category

I confess – I am a Facebook convert.  I enjoy checking in with old friends, former students, family members in far off places, etc.   I also enjoy seeing what other folks find interesting and worthwhile to read or watch.  This is  *definitely* one of those videos that you never forget.

As a parent of a special needs child, I will tell you that it deeply touched my heart and soul.  I thrilled to see what this young man accomplished even while feeling a slight bit of envy that my own son has not had a moment like this in his lifetime – *yet* – but it”s all about being determined and never giving up.

Be forewarned – you’ll need some kleenex.

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I’ve seen this kind of thing before.  I know how music can change a person’s life.  I’ve seen it up close and personal in our own family.  But it never fails to amaze me when I see it again – changing someone else’s life – especially in such a dramatic way.  Enjoy!

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Tonight I received an interesting article that I thought I’d share, entitled, ” ‘Mozart effect’ or not, music is beneficial” by Mike Saelee of the UCLA Daily Bruin. 

Saelee writes about research being done at  UCLA Semel Institute’s Tennenbaum Center for the Biology of Creativity, using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), to study brain activity while people listen to or create music.  The hope is that by applying the use of fMRI and music to study emotion processing in the brains of children with autism, a developmental disorder of the brain, researchers may learn more about the possible use of music as a tool to help autistic children with social engagement and communication, noted key areas of the disorder. 

“The study will examine how the brain processes emotion in children with autism by measuring blood flow while listening to pleasant and unpleasant music,” said Istvan Molnar-Szakacs, a neuroscientist at the UCLA Semel Institute’s Tennenbaum Center for the Biology of Creativity. 

The positive therapeutic effects of music are also being harnessed and used in hospitals and other types of health institutions, such as rehabilitation facilities and nursing homes.   Vanya Green, a music therapist at UCLA, is quoted as saying, “Music enables an emotional level to be reached that may not be done in other modalities.”   The type of music therapy used depends upon the assessment of the client’s specific needs  derived by the music therapist. 

The simple process of remembering and producing a familiar tune such as “Here comes the Bride” occurs because the centers of the brain that process music and sound evolved from processing sounds of danger and/or threat to human life.  Due to the importance of understanding and comprehending sounds for survival, sounds have a direct route to the limbic system, which is a set of brain structures involved in emotion processing and to areas important for processing reward.  This also explains why so many of us actively turn to music we enjoy, that gives us pleasure. 

Molnar-Szakacs of UCLA is quoted as saying, “These pathways are now used for processing all sounds, from a lion’s roar to a Beethoven symphony, allowing us to listen to music and feel incredibly moved.  There is music at the mall, music at the gym, music in the car, and music on our phone. We pretty much live with a permanent soundtrack.”

I don’t know about you, but I think my “permanent soundtrack” sometimes needs a good “shuffle” in it!  🙂


To read this article in its entirety, please visit the UCLA Daily Bruin here.

Thanks goes to Remy Moore, Media Projects Assistant at Simply Music.com, for providing this article to us.  Thanks, Remy!

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As a Kindermusik educator, I am blessed with the ability to come in contact with educators from literally around the world.  At my very first Kindermusik convention in July, 2005, in Nashville, Tennessee, I made a very good friend from Malaysia.  We have corresponded frequently since then and I hope to see her in person again one day at another convention.

I have also met, via our online group at Yahoogroups, Sarah Peel Li, a Kindermusik educator in Beijing, China.  We have participated together in continuing education webinars hosted and sponsored by Kindermusik International.  I greatly enjoy her expertise as an educator as well as her humor.

This morning, as I skimmed through the group’s posts, I read a new one from Sarah that put the China earthquake into a much more personal perspective.  I am reproducing it here.  If you feel led to participate, please do so.  The need is incredible. 

From Sarah Peel Li, Beijing, China:

As most of you are probably already aware there was a massive earthquake in the Sichuan region of China on Monday. It is a tragedy and many thousands of people have lost their lives. Those that survived in the hardest hit areas often have nothing, and the conditions are extremely difficult.

Kara Waddell, a Kindermusik parent here in Beijing, leads the NGO Operation Blessing here in China. She is now in Chengdu to coordinate relief efforts, and I hope our community of families and schools will be able to support the work she and her team are doing to assist children in the quake affected areas. Operation Blessing is partners with the China Charity Federation and China Foundation for collecting funds legally in China and for coordinating disaster relief activities. Collection of needed goods is also normal for this type of disaster, and Operation Blessing will be making arrangements for this type of aid to be sent in the coming days from partners here in Beijing.

As Kara put it in an e-mail I received, relief experts are right – give to whoever you trust, but cash in response scenarios really, really helps. If you would like to give, I know that supporting Operation Blessing’s work will make sure your funds reach those who need it most. They are extremely professional and have experience working with community partners in the hardest hit areas of Sichuan.  They are coordinating their work with the Red Cross and the China Social Work Association.

They are focused on relief for children and families, including an effort to reach and assist orphanages in the area. Their work is currently focused on: Mianyang City – where 3000 are being reported dead, 18,000 buried in rubble which could greatly increase the death toll; and  Dujiangyan City – they have a 2-year old friendship with the Red Cross from a district in this city. We are making local purchases of relief supplies and will help distribute with the Red Cross.
Domestic and international credit cards can be used. 100% of funds dedicated for use in China although funds collected in the U.S. All funds received this week online we’ll dedicate to this earthquake relief, recovery and development efforts. Thank you for reading this message, and your generous support of an organization that is making a real difference in the face of incredible suffering.
Sarah Peel Li
Beijing, China

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He didn’t know any better.  He was a self-taught musician whose creativity and technique was praised both by classically trained virtuoso Vladimir Horowitz and jazz giant Oscar Peterson.  He was remarkable in that he was blind in one eye and could only partially see out of the other one. 

Despite his physical limitations, he refused to give up his dream.  As a boy in the 1920’s, he idolized Fats Waller and wanted to play like him.  So, he listened to every possible source he could – both radio and phonograph. (Think very large, prehistoric CD) He taught himself to play using Braille and piano rolls.  He listened. He imitated. He copied. He practiced.  He improved. 

That’s where he started.  Where he ended up only demonstrates what can happen when you shed your self-imposed limitations and embrace your expectations.  I hope you enjoy Art Tatum.


The really amazing thing is that Art Tatum didn’t realize that sometimes, when he was listening to a recording, he was hearing two separate parts being played by two pianists.  He simply learned both parts and played them simultaneously.  He learned them so well that years later, when jazz artist Oscar Peterson heard Art playing, he thought there actually  were two people playing. 

Art Tatum found that dreams can come true in real life.  One night he visited a club to hear his idol, Fats Waller, perform live.  Upon hearing that Art was there, Fats told the crowd, “I just play the piano.  But God is in the house tonight.”

As parents, there are times that we limit our children in order to protect them from harm.  In some instances, however, limits, especially false ones, can hinder or even defeat us even before we get started.   What if Art Tatum had known that there were two people playing instead of just one?  Would that knowledge, that limitation, have kept him from developing into one of the most highly acclaimed jazz pianists of all time? 

This is why I believe that Kindermusik can be so important in a child’s life.  It is process-based, not performance-oriented.  It fosters and encourages a child’s creativity.  This is why I encourage parents to observe their children in class and follow their lead in instrument play or creative movement and to scaffold (or build) off of it with a slightly different twist to it.  By opening your eyes to the possibilities, you limit the limitations.

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Pumpkin Pie

(Count off on fingers, then hold out both hands face up)

Five little pumpkins sitting on the ground

The first one said, “I’m big, orange and round!”

The second one said, “I’m fresh off the vine!”

The third one said, “I taste divine!”

The fourth one said, “I’m ready to be tasted!”

The fifth one said, “Bake my seeds so they’re not wasted!”

Someone from the kitchen picked them up and we know why….

The five little pumpkins all became Pumpkin Pie!

Pumpkin Pie

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Discovering Music And Autism And The Connection They Share
by: Rachel Evans
 via Child-center.com

For the parents of a child with autism it can be a continuous process to search for new activities and stimulations that can prove to be a benefit their child. And the hardest part can be discerning the validity of the treatment in question, and the true long-term effects of implementation. But with music and autism, the experts agree that music is an invaluable tool for helping in the developmental process of an autistic child.

It is recognized that children with autism tend to have an impaired capacity to converse, learn efficiently, intermingle socially, and develop and acquire new skills. But due to the complex yet predictable structure of music, it can help with all of these problems. This predicable repetition provides a great learning tool for autistic children. It has also been shown to greatly improve an autistic child’s social skills as well as patience and tolerance.

Multiple Benefits

Not only can music be used to effectively treat autistic children; it can be a great diagnostic tool as well. For example, exposure to music can help to determine the strengths of the child which can be identified and weaknesses can be exposed.

Furthermore, studies have revealed that autistic children show a much higher desire to listen to music when compared to peers of their same age. So while listening to music can be a valuable teaching tool for a child with autism, it can also be a rewarding experience. This may be due to the fact that studies have shown children with autism have an increased ability to discern pitch from other children, making listening to music a more interactive experience.

Modes of Delivery

There are different methods for pairing together music and autism. Besides simply presenting a child with music, you can give them access to a story or lesson taught with musical additions or enhancements. And in many cases, these lessons are made with autistic children in mind, and come as part of a set or series. You can even pick one out based on age group or your child’s ability to learn.

Moreover, some teachings are offered that team up musical elements with activities that help a child to stimulate learning processes and capabilities by asking questions and stimulating memory.

The ultimate goal of these musical lessons is to increase the learning capacity of an autistic child. And while the benefits of doing this are numerous, widespread, and widely endorsed by experts, the greatest benefit of all might be the enjoyment offered to your child.

So we’ve learned that music and autism go hand in hand. It’s hard to know exactly what causes autistic children to become so engaged with musical elements. It could be due to their increased pitch sensitivity, or their willingness to anticipate chord progressions and melodic patterns. Either way, it amounts to a great way to reach children that can be hard to teach, and a tool parents and teachers should both utilize whenever possible.


It sounds like this author just described one of our Kindermusik classes!  I firmly, passionately believe that *all* children are profoundly musical, and all they need is some encouragement and creative freedom to explore and discover their musical gifts.  We invite you to bring your child to a *FREE* class, and explore and discover the magic of Kindermusik together!   

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I often share with my Kindermusik families that you can find Kindermusik classes literally around the world.  Last month, the president and CEO of Kindermusik International, Michael Dougherty, and the liasion for the Partnership of Kindermusik Educators, Jane Hendrix of Dunwoody, Georgia, travelled to South Africa for the Kindermusik Convention held there literally on the other side of the world from us here in Georgia. 

You will see below two videos from that trip – classes that meet in an orphanage there in South Africa.  You will notice that the children are all wearing knit hats.  While we are sweltering in the high 80’s and 90’s here, they are in the middle of the winter there.  Most of these children are orphans or HIV-positive, living in poverty.  Some of them aren’t even five years old yet, but considered a “head of household.”

Watch for yourself and see the beauty of these children and their Kindermusik classes. 



 “If it’s Irving Park or Soweto, Kindermusik has the same effect on every child.”

~Michael Dougherty, President and CEO, Kindermusik International~


Thank you, Molly!

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As a Kindermusik educator, I frequently come in contact with children who have special needs.  In recent years, I’ve seen more children with autism enrolled than ever before.  It is estimated that there are currently 10,000 children in Georgia alone, suffering from autism.  (Autism Speaks.com

Autistic child and therapist work together

Having seen how autism affects not only the individual child, but their families as well, I was moved to find this post on Julie Stewart’s blog, Kindermusik and Voice of Clayton, NC, about a fundraising effort by Autism Speaks, an organization for autistic families.  

Simply by watching a music video of the Five for Fighting song, “World”, which features images of autistic children and their families, you can help.  You can make a difference.


Because for each viewing of the video, Five for  Fighting very generously donates $0.49 to Autism Speaks; all funds going research to help find a cure.  They are aiming for 10,000 hits.  It’s only 2 minutes, 44 seconds long – not very long at all. 

Can you spare the time?

To view the video, click here.  

To learn more about autism and to support the Georgia Walk for Autism here in Atlanta, visit their website.  The Georgia Walk is set for Saturday, May 19th, at Atlantic Station near downtown Atlanta.  Funds raised from the Walk will go to Autism Speaks and the Marcus Institute here in Atlanta, thereby supporting both research and treatment. 

Thanks, Julie!

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