Music used as health aid for disabled children
East Lansing resident Joe DeRogatis-Frilingos, 9, holds up shaker instruments as Christmas music plays in the background during the Together…Let’s Jam! community pop-up concert on Wednesday, Dec. 5, 2012, at the MSU Community Music School. The MSU Community Music School hosts these meetings once a month that are sponsored by the Capital Area Down Syndrome Association. Katie Stiefel/ State News
The realm of children with special needs has its limits — but within the four walls of the Music Therapy Room of the MSU Community Music School, anything is possible.
Amid dozens of maracas, bells and a multi-colored parachute, there is a second chance at learning, said Cindy Edgarton, the school’s music therapist.
“For many of (the children), their lives are focused on their disabilities,” she said. “Here, we focus on their abilities.”
As a part of the school’s music therapy program, the Capital Area Down Syndrome Association, or CADSA, sponsors a special music session, called Together…Let’s Jam!, from 7:30 to 8:30 p.m. one Wednesday every month.
According to communications coordinator for the MSU Community Music School Amanda Darche, music plays a huge role in the psychological growth of special needs children.
“We’ve seen a number of people in our community make significant gains through music over the years,” Darche said. “We’ve seen people say their first words and take their first steps.”
The program, which includes instrumentals and singing together as a group, gives children with Down syndrome and other special needs the opportunity to improve their verbal communication skills through music.
“A lot of times, people with special needs don’t have the opportunity to interact in a social setting,” Darche said. “(The program is) designed to be fully inclusive and allow each person to participate to the best of his or her ability.”
For 16-year-old Jacob Underwood, Together…Let’s Jam! is something to look forward to each month.
“I don’t tell him (where we’re going) until about five minutes before we leave, or he’ll be banging on the door,” Paula Nichols, Underwood’s caregiver said. “He loves it. He’s always looking to learn and he loves to be challenged.”
Rosanne Tersigni, CADSA’s executive director, said she’d only like to see the program expand into other ventures for the kids.
“We know (MSU) is just a great resource for our children, and we want to be able to expand as many opportunities as we can for them,” she said.
At the end of the day, Edgarton said sometimes she is the one receiving the lesson from the kids.
“(They teach me) how to be grateful for what we have,” she said. “There’s so much love and thankfulness coming from them. I think they see more of the beauty in life.”