Music Therapy at Ohio University

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Ohio University campus green.(Photo: eric81979)
Ohio University campus green.(Photo: eric81979)

From Christopher Purdy:

We’ve done two radio specials on the uses of Music Therapy in giving language and cognition to autistic kids. Louise Steele, professor of music at Ohio University in Athens, is the Ohio-based music therapy-guru. She and her colleague Kamille Geist train music therapists who use music as a “bridge” to areas of a child’s brain that may lack stimulus.

Kids are encouraged to sing, play, move, and make eye contact as the road to speech is unblocked. This is a long and painstaking process. Movement coordination and dance are also used-addressing the kinesthetic challenges often faced by the autistic.

In a small room loaded with musical instruments, kids are offered keyboards, blocks, sticks, bells, and horns, and are encouraged to make noise. Music is, after all, organized noise, and it is through music that misfiring brain synapses are hopefully corrected. We saw the student therapists working hard to maintain eye contact and to develop focus between their younger charges, themselves, the instruments and the world around them.

Painstaking? Yes, but fascinating, and hopeful as, quoting Professor Steele, “underused areas of the brain are stimulated, and the functions controlling language and cognition are strengthened and sometimes reassigned through music!

We visit a therapy session led by student therapist Sarah Paysack with 10-year-old Christian Brockert, and we meet Christian’s parents, John and Jana Brockert. They let us in on the world of raising an autistic child, and the role of music therapy as the work goes on to improve Christian’s life.

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