Today and on the 25th of every month of 2012 I have invited 12 of the most influential people in my life to share a blog post with you!  Each has influenced me both professionally and personally. My hope is that the knowledge, kindness, creativity, and compassion they have shared with me will reflect through their post in a way that YOU will be encouraged, entertained, challenged and strengthened to continue to strive for excellence as a professional and as a person.  

The Magic of Music — From the perspective of a mother with a special needs child.

Music’s magical ability to transcend all barriers, be they race, religion, socio-economic, or disability, is the precious gift of sound. Sound that can soothe you or make you sad or happy. The effects of music to the soul are profound for most of us so why would they be any less for a child with special needs? Maybe even more profound for the select chosen who lack the gift of voice or ability to communicate.

My daughter is one such child and from birth, music was a language she could understand. Born with down syndrome and some complications, her first month of life was spent in the hospital. Little did we know then the profound magic sound would be in all our lives. Her father and I would sing “Summertime” to her and it brought her joy. She was calmed by the sound of the words, the sway and melody and to this day (13 years later) it still resonates with her and comforts her in times of stress.

At age 4 she was diagnosed with leukemia and for the next 2 ½ years she underwent daily chemotherapy. That is when God sent us our musical angel, Bonnie. Bonnie became a member of our household helping with our newborn son and with our daughter as well. Music became a source of oxygen for us all. It provided my daughter an outlet that she so desperately needed. The effects of which were instrumental in helping her cope with a madness she could not understand at such a young age.

Part of the process of bringing music into our lives required all of us to throw our agenda out the window. My daughter had an agenda and we needed to learn what that was. Bonnie’s agenda or my agenda as it related to music became secondary to the sounds that spoke to my daughter. To this day we have 2 keyboards, a guitar, violin, cello, recorders, harmonicas, drums, tambourines, maracas, and the list goes on. Most recently, my daughter has developed a fondness for Andre Reiu and will play her violin along with him as he plays. She watches his concerts with much enthusiasm, never mind the fact he speaks in German. She doesn’t seem to mind; she actually enjoys it!! She also loves her Spanish lullabies that I had translated to make sure we weren’t singing anything inappropriate, not that it mattered!!

My point is we needed to be patient and allow her to show us what moved her. This provided her with a voice. I believe she learned to speak because of music, she was singing Barney before ever actually talking!  We needed to be patient, work with her sensory issues, learn to let go of expectations, and find the pure joy in music. She plays all the instruments, but on her terms. She does not take lessons nor could she. But she doesn’t need lessons, in order for music to be beneficial and/or meaningful to her.

All children, special needs or not, should be so lucky to discover the beauty and profound benefits of the free gift of music.