Music therapy helps special needs students
For Michelle Feldhauser’s daughter, being in music therapy classes has turned her speech from a musical conversation into a real one.
Feldhauser’s daughter, Kristin Hufstedler, suffered from viral encephalitis as a baby and was nonverbal for many years, Feldhauser said. Now at age 25, her daughter has been in music therapy for the past seven years, she said.
“Since she’s been in music therapy — she can speak, her words are coming,” said Feldhauser, an East Lansing resident. “She’s continuing to progress.”
The MSU Community Music School recently received a $1,200 CVS Caremark Community Grant to support its music therapy programs, which mainly benefit individuals with special needs in Greater Lansing, said Cindy Edgerton, director of music therapy clinical services at the school.
The grant mainly will benefit financial aid for students who are not able to pay for music therapy services, she said. The music therapy major currently is in moratorium, — new students cannot sign up —but the programs at the Community Music School will continue, Edgerton said.
“We’ll probably grow from it because all the students who provided free music therapy as part of their practicum won’t be doing that anymore,” she said. “A lot of those individuals (in music therapy lessons) are going to need financial aid or they won’t be able to continue with therapy.”
The school offers music therapy programs ranging from rock ‘n’ roll combo groups to individual lessons, Edgerton said. Since music is processed through a different side of the brain than speaking, many people are able to sing who are not able to speak, and music therapy helps bridge the gap, she said.
“We use the singing so they can access their speech centers,” Edgerton said. “We’ve had many individuals who were not able to speak when they started music therapy and now are able to use words to communicate their speech.”
Feldhauser has seen more growth in her daughter from music therapy than the traditional speech therapy found in schools, Feldhauser said. Hufstedler takes individual lessons at the Community Music School, as well as playing in a “combo band,” Feldhauser said.
Feldhauser said she was upset she didn’t learn about the music therapy programs earlier, since her daughter had been singing in church for several years.
“It’s just been an amazing program,” she said. “It’s a darn shame more parents aren’t aware of it.”
Mary Opsommer, a Shaftsburg, Mich., resident, said her son, David Opsommer, is 20 years old and has been taking music therapy classes at the Community Music School for the past 15 years.
Mary Opsommer said her son, who has autism, has limited language skills. When he began music therapy classes at 5 years old, she never anticipated one day she would be watching him play the piano and harpsichord or performing in front of a large audience, she said.
While volunteering for the Autism Society of Lansing and Autism Society of Michigan, the school’s music therapy programs were one of the first things she would bring up when talking with other parents, she said.
“I just love the fact that it doesn’t age out,” Mary Opsommer said. “When David’s 30 or 40 or 50 — if he’s still enjoying it, he can still (have music therapy.)”