SOUTH WEST FLORIDA – Innovative therapy helps people with autism.
Music therapy has been miraculous in helping people walk after having a stroke.
Grammy-winning singer Ed Sheeran said he used Eminem’s songs to help him get rid of his stutter. Today, music therapy is used in a relatively new way.
Think back to when you learned the ABCs. The alphabet is taught through song.
“If you’re trying to just say your ABCs, that information doesn’t really stay in your brain the same way,” said Ana-Alicia Lopez, co-owner of The House of Music Therapy in Fort Myers.
The goal of singing the alphabet is not to have perfect tonality or harmony, or to really learn anything musical. The same is true for music therapy.
“A lot of times we get requests for maybe music lessons. There is a big difference between music therapy and music lessons, ”said Lopez.
Instead, music therapy involves working with a certified music therapist to support non-musical goals and the evidence shows that it works.
“We know the potential of music on the brain,” Lopez said. “For example, rhythm has an impact on our motor system and the way our body moves. We are naturally rhythmic beings. Sometimes you can see someone walking in rhythm or in rhythm and it’s almost instantaneous.
Lopez and his team use these connections to help people overcome a variety of challenges.
“We can play the drums, we can play the piano, we can sing, we can dance,” said Mikelia Wallace, therapist at The House of Music Therapy.
Like Sofia Martinez, some of their clients have autism.
“Music is fascinating in the world of autism,” said Chris Howard, co-owner of The House of Music Therapy.
They used music, something Sofia adores, to help her learn to speak.
“Back in the days when it was completely non-verbal, or vocal, we used signs. Sometimes to teach her new signs we would use music, ”said Sofia’s mother Yashira Martinez.
Martinez was fully preparing to never hear a word from his daughter’s mouth, but Sofia beats the odds.
“Her neurologist told me that she wouldn’t speak, that she would stick to sign language and I was okay, I have no problem sticking to sign language. ”Said Martinez. “And she speaks so much better. Now we come to the pronunciation.
Sofia also works with other specialists, including a speech therapist. Music is linked to some of these other treatments.
“She loves Lady Gaga Poker Face and just recently she was like ‘Oh, do you want to listen to Poker Face?’ Our goal is the p sound, ”Martinez said.
Besides struggling to speak, Martinez said Sofia was also facing major meltdowns.
“Sofia can get very excessive. Everything has to be perfect, ”she said.
Music can help manage these types of behavior problems.
“Typical developing brains may ignore information that is not needed, but brains with autism have a really hard time doing it. Music can help organize all of these connections, ”Lopez said.
It is because the music is soothing. It has structure and it is predictable.
“For her, it’s not therapy. It’s not school, it’s fun, ”Martinez said.
Saying certain sounds and regulating yourself might sound simple – as easy as learning the ABCs. But for Sofia, these are big obstacles. These are leaps worth celebrating.
“When you focus only on the challenges, you tend to forget all that they can do. There is no limit to what she can do. Don’t put that bar on for your kid, just help them out, ”Martinez said.
Lopez and Howard said music therapy is covered by most insurance plans. For more information on the House of Music Therapy, visit their website.