Sunday, January 24, 2010
Awww, music melts the hearts of many...
not to mention brings a smile to so many faces.
Musical melodies mingle their way throughout
our spirit leaving lifetime imprints on our
soul and brain.
My child, Matthew, has complete Agenesis
of the Corpus Callosum. Matthew loves music!!
Many children who have ACC can benefit from
Music has the ability to speak to us on a level
that words alone cannot penetrate. It has the
potential to open the door to a whole new world
of learning through gentle rhythmic persuasion
and captivating creations that invitingly inspire
a child or adult to explore many things that they
may not otherwise do.
There have been many studies and research done
on music and the brain. In addition, there have
also been books written on the subject. One book
in particular is written by a Neurologist:
Musicophilia by Oliver Sacks, M.D.
It's much more fun to 'learn' your ABCs while
Music has the potential to help a child in very
specific areas where perhaps no other method is
helping. Some of these areas may include:
achieve goals in school
overcome a sensory issue
calm and soothe
learn body parts
and so much more.
Most kids from the time they are very young
adore music, songs, singing, toys that
play music, dancing, and musical instruments.
The diagnosis of Agenesis of the Corpus Callosum
has a very broad range of effects. While there
are some similarities seen in people who have ACC,
each person can be affected very differently.
Many kids who have ACC require A LOT of repetition
to learn something.
Over and above the impact that ACC may have on a
person's life, a key note and of utmost importance
is that each person is first and foremost a unique
When a child has Agenesis of the Corpus Callosum,
it is common that some kids may be sensitive
to some sounds and loud noises. Kids who have
ACC may also have sensory issues.
While putting this article together I became
aware that there are some kids who have ACC
who are not so fond of music, who react in a
negative way to music and who don't like certain
songs or types of music and anyone singing.
Mom to 6 year old with hypoplasia of the corpus
callosum, cerebral palsy, optic nerve hypoplasia
"Luke has never liked slow music, some lullaby's,
or hymns at church. In fact, we don't go to
church on a regular basis because of this. I
know we need to keep trying, but it can be
really stressful. He hasn't gotten through a
school Christmas program w/ out crying either.
Even in pre-school he didn't like when they
played things like, London bridges falling down,
or musical chairs. He likes up beat music and
playing w/ musical instruments. Loud noises
bother/scare him too. I'm sure it's a
In response, the Dad to 18 year old with ACC
"Matt couldn't take fireworks, now he loves them though
he still gets startled at the first one. We used ear
protection for him and it made it much better. It's
funny how he hated anyone singing when little
and now is in chorus at school and choir at church."
This same Dad goes on to say:
"Matt never got to sleep easily. We bought a battery
powered tape player that had really really calming
lullabies on it. He would listen to that every night.
My wife was really into music (trumpet player in the
marching band, piano, guitar, chorus). She found Raffi
and discovered the kids liked it also. Soon, Matt
would go to sleep with nothing but Raffi. He would
watch/listen to any songs with well defined words.
Unfortunately Matt still finds it difficult to go to
sleep without music playing! In elementary school
about (4th grade) my wife got him playing the trumpet
and he hasn't stopped yet. Dizzy Gilespie he isn't,
but he's not too shabby. At church he thought it
would be great fun to join the teen choir, so he did,
and he likes it. In his junior year at high school
we signed him up for chorus and he likes that. He
likes any music that he can sing to, even Phantom!
Well he is a senior now, and when high school is over,
he wants to learn the piano! "Why not.", I say."
Raffi video clip: "Banana Phone" song
In a recent online discussion with parents who
have a child with Agenesis of the Corpus Callosum:
Mom to 6 year old with hypoplasia of the corpus
callosum, cerebral palsy, optic nerve hypoplasia
"Is there an instrument you would recommend over
another for someone that can mainly use one hand?
Luke is affected by Cerebral Palsy on his right side,
he uses his right hand as an assist. Fine motor
skills are really tough for him. He needs assistance
dressing, toileting, opening things, and cutting,
1st Mom writes:
"He could learn quite a bit on the piano one-handed;
there have even been one-handed professional pianists.
Harmonicas are good for anyone who has breath control--
no fine motor required.
When my kids were young, I got them rhythm instruments
and Native-American-style drums."
2nd Mom writes:
"How about a tamborine?
Maybe a harmonica?
Cabassa or bones?? Shakers??"
Mom to 6 year old who asked the instrument question
replies to 2nd Mom's suggestion:
"Those things he does play and tolerates fine.
The harmonica is a little tougher for him bc of
the lack of breath support - but he can blow it
a few times before tiring. It's actually good
therapy for him. That's the thing, he actually
likes playing musical instruments - more in a
"play" like setting. So maybe as he gets older
he'll be able to participate in a lesson, or group
type format?? I'm also wondering if once he's on
proper medication (he has recently been diagnosed
w/ADHD), if that will also help with some of his
In addition to music helping a child learn,
there is also the option of music therapy.
What is Music Therapy?
The American Music Therapy Association
website definition states:
"Music Therapy is the clinical and evidence-
based use of music interventions to accomplish
individualized goals within a therapeutic
relationship by a credentialed professional
who has completed an approved music therapy
It is my experience through my child's
endeavors with music therapy that it is a
fun-filled, creative, playful interaction
with music that happens to include some
awesome learning experiences and amazing
achievements right before your very eyes.
Each child's experience with music therapy
will be as unique as that child. There is
no typical music therapy session.
A music therapy session may be explorative play
with instruments for one child, adaptive music
lessons for another child. It may be very specific
goals to help yet another child achieve or overcome
something in particular by using music. Music
therapy is definitely not limited to these
particular descriptions. Truly, these scenarios
don't begin to touch the surface for the many
possibilites through which music therapy can
play an orchestrated part in a child's life.
When you search for a Music Therapist, it is
important to choose a trained Music Therapist
who is board-certified. The credentials
MM, MT-BC will appear after their name.
MM, MT-BC stands for Master of Music,
Music Therapist-Board Certified.
Take your time and try a few different Music
Therapists with your child to find a musical match
that is harmonious for everyone.
Some Music Therapists offer a complimentary,
short music therapy session. This allows you to
get an idea of what it's all about and a feel
for the experience as well as an ability to
observe the interaction taking place between
the Music Therapist and your child.
How to Find a Music Therapist
Is your child, who has ACC, struggling with
conventional music lessons for piano, violin
or other instruments?
Do you wish that your child could take music lessons
and want to explore the possibility of your child
learning how to play a musical instrument but have
concerns due to their cognitive skills, attention
span, behavior issues, physical challenges, sensory
issues or developmental delays?
You may want to consider the option of seeking a Music
Therapist. Music Therapists typically have more
experience working with these types of situations in
children who have special needs and they may be able
to offer alternative ways to help a child learn to play
the piano, violin or other instrument.
Learning to play a musical instrument can help build
a child's confidence and self-esteem.
I take my child, Matthew, who has Agenesis of the
Corpus Callosum to music therapy.
Matthew is 16 years old. He is significantly
developmentally delayed in all areas and
functions at the level of a very young child.
We tried a couple different music therapists before
we found Matthew's Music Therapist, Marion. She is
truly a blessing. She opens her musical heart and
meets Matthew in many ways...welcoming him as a
unique individual. She is always observing, always
ever so patient, gentle to nudge, very respectful
and she provides him with a variety of sounds, songs
and instruments to explore. Some of the instruments
Matthew has been able to experience hands on are:
djembe - pronounced: jim-bay (African drum)
several other types of drums
clapping rhythms set to a song
lyres (stringed instrument)
chrotta (cello-like instrument)
tone bells and other bells
Matthew really likes playing the djembe drum and
other drums. The sounds and rhythms that come
from a djembe are quite a moving experience. In
fact, a couple of times his Music Therapist
spontaneously included Mom and Dad to join in on
the drumming along with her and Matthew. All I can
say is...Wow! I loved it and Matthew's energy level
went through the roof as he came alive with excitement!!!
djembe video clip sample:
When we began music therapy with Matthew I chose
not to set specific goals but rather to leave
the door open for a natural rhythm and flow to
take place and see what may come. I am truly
glad I made this choice because, as a result,
I have seen some very beautiful musical magic
Some of Matthew's musical accomplishments include:
1. Playing the cello. I snapped pictures galore
hardly believing what I was seeing; my child sitting
in a chair, holding a cello like the member of an
orchestra, and making beautiful cello music. With
one finger Matthew explores the different cello
strings and sounds they make. He also strums the
strings in quick motions using all of his fingers
at once. He experiments with his own creative,
musical rhythms and sounds. His Music Therapist
will often sit across from Matthew with her cello.
She strums along while she sings a song. She lets
Matthew lead and copies what he plays. She also
encourages him to copy a simple rhythm she plays.
Mimicking is something Matthew is learning through
music. At this time he prefers to take the lead but
he is making progress and will sometimes mimic what
his Music Therapist plays on the djembe drum and
other drums. Matthew will continue to work on
mimicking on the cello and other instruments. He
is learning to use a bow to make music on the
cello. Holding the bow with precise finger
placement coupled with keeping the bow moving
across the cello strings is difficult for Matthew.
He must not mind though because he keeps trying.
His Music Therapist is patient. She helps him
hold the bow properly, gives elbow support and
guides his hand when needed and she ever so
gently repositions his fingers as often as needed.
Playing cello with a bow helps strengthen Matthew's
fingers and improves his fine motor skills and
coordination while he's busy having fun. This is
truly a treat and one that allows much opportunity
for a variety of learning to take place.
2. He played guitar! Typically Matthew's Music
Therapist puts the guitar on his lap to allow him
to strum the strings with his fingers. She sings
a song while Matthew is strumming and she will often
strum it as well. Recently, she gently placed the
guitar and strap over Matthew's head so he could
hold it in a natural guitar playing position. At
first, he wasn't too sure if he would tolerate this
newfangled way to play but the next thing I saw was
my child turn into a young man sitting there holding
a guitar and strumming it with his fingers. With
hand-over-hand help from his Music Therapist, he
strummed using his thumb. Then he strummed the guitar
with his thumb a few times all by himself. He also
experimented with making sounds on the guitar in
some of his own explorative ways. He held the guitar
for the first time just like a natural and nearly
brought tears to my eyes. I had a burst of many
happy emotions all at once. It was a moment that
I will cherish.
3. Wooden Flute - HUGE accomplishment!!
Let me back up and tell a little story behind
the scenes that led to this marvelous Matthew
accomplishment. Matthew's Music Therapist
invited us to her housewarming party. It was
a musical gala and people were asked to bring
something musical to share. We were blessed
to attend this party from the moment we
stepped foot in the door. There was so much
talent inside the walls of her brand new home
and they were being christened with one melodious
surprise after another. Djembe drums were
chanting; the booming rhythms bouncing through
your being, beautiful cello music, young girls
singing catchy tunes in the key of acapella.
Another very young boy played a guitar solo
and sang (a song he wrote himself), Marimbas
playing marvelous melodies right before our
eyes--encore, encore! (Matthew loved marimbas)
Marimba sample video clip: (not from the party)
We were thrilled to be privileged to witness this
spectacular happening. It was a sensational show
for our senses; one we will always remember and
did not want to end. Matthew was mesmerized by
each and every single performance and loved every
minute. One in particular spoke to his soul as
he watched intently and listened to the man who
played a Shakuhachi (Japanese) flute. At Matthew's
next music therapy session his Music Therapist,
Marion, remembered his fascination with the
Shakuhachi flute and she already sat out some small
wooden flutes for Matthew to try. My first thought
was to cringe (and I did) because Matthew has huge
aversions to foreign things going in his mouth.
If it's not a spoon, his typical soft foods, a
hard plastic chewy or his fingers then he will make
known immediately the fact that it will not come
near his mouth. I quickly tried to tell his Music
Therapist that he doesn't like things going in his
mouth...and one, two three....I watched her lovely
wooden flute fly high above her head in the air and
land on the floor behind her. Embarrassing! And
then...we tried it again!?! We did? It took a team
effort of Marion, Mommy and Daddy to encourage
Matthew and the second time the flute came gently
to his lips he blew...and made a sound on the flute!!!
He only recently learned how to blow when he was
fourteen. I couldn't believe my eyes seeing him
actually allowing a foreign object to his mouth
and then blowing on the flute and waiting to hear
the music. At the next music therapy session he
did even better. His Music Therapist sits off to
his side and plays her own wooden flute. She stops.
It's Matthew's turn. The first couple times I
brought the flute to Matthew's mouth and he would
blow while I used my index finger to move quickly
up, down, up, down, covering and uncovering
the one hole in the flute allowing a bird-like
musical sound to escape. Soon I was able to
gently touch the flute to Matthew's hand in his
lap. He reached for the flute then quickly closed
his hand around the flute holding it with a closed
fist grasp. I helped him bring it to his mouth to
blow and play the flute. From then on he held
the flute AND brought it to his mouth when it was
his turn to play. Perhaps the third time will be
a charm and Matthew will use his own finger to move
it up and down on the hole while he blows? I strongly
believe that this enormous, gigantic accomplishment
for Matthew came about as a result of seeing the
flute player and the motivational music factor it
had on him. I am very excited to try using a wooden
interval flute with him at home and explore the
possibilities of a recorder, kazoo-(he loves the sound)
and harmonica with him. My hope is that this ability
to bring musical instruments to his mouth will carry
over into his feeding/oral issues and help open up
the possibility to explore and try other things to
Shakuhacki (Japanese) flute video: (not from party)
4. Piano - Matthew has a very light touch with
his fingers. When he first began going to music
therapy he barely made a sound when touching the
piano keys. He has already improved his finger
strength and has learned he needs to strike the
keys more firmly to make sounds. He is also using
both hands to play sometimes. Recently he used
all of his fingers with a more firm all at once
flat down on the keys position instead of striking
the keys with his pointer finger(s). He uses the
reflection of himself in the black, shiny piano as
additional input. He watches his pointer fingers as
they climb up slowly like a roller coaster then he
points them on their downward descent toward the
keys for a beautiful, striking musical finale. It
is hardly the end for Matthew's piano fingers
though because he moves right on to a new musical
masterpiece. He is experimenting and learning each
time he plays the piano.
Matthew is learning very valuable lessons that
musically meet his developmental level and particular
abilities. The door is open to infinite possibilities.
With gentle nudging, encouragement and the freedom
to explore on his own he is making progress. Plus, he
is learning so much and having so much fun learning.
I will always keep the door open to what he can do...
Through the help of a terrific Music Therapist
that I found online, Rachel Rambach, creator of
Listen and Learn Music and her generosity to
freely share her songs with kids, Matthew is
learning even more using music as a teaching tool:
1. Sunny Day - This song helped him learn to say
"a ya ya ya ya". We are working on him
learning the "L" sound so he can say
"la la la la la". When singing this song with
Matthew he listens and knows exactly where to
begin singing to the "la la la la la" part in
Sunny Day by: Rachel Rambach
2. Ugga Bugga Boo -This song helped him learn to
say "boo" and with much practice and encouragement
he will sometimes say "boo boo boo". Matthew is
Ugga Bugga Boo! by: Rachel Rambach
Songs help teach a child. A song can create a
musical pathway to learning that brings alive the
When you combine a song with a musical instrument,
you are heightening the learning experience and
opening the door for a wide variety of teaching
possibilities that can be very specific to your
child's needs. Plus, they are having fun and are
engaged in the learning process because it's fun.
We have a few musical instruments at home and
have gained a few more once I began homeschooling
Matthew. They include:
Casio keyboard - light up keys to teach a song
Remo kids percussion drum
mini tambourines - Jingle Joe song
castanets - great to develop fine motor control
rhythm sticks - Tap Tap Your Rhythm Sticks song
toys that play music
I sing simple made-up songs or say rhymes to help
teach my child, Matthew, something he is working on
learning. He catches on more easily if he hears the
lesson in a song/rhyme. Once he has mastered learning
something through a simple song or rhyme, he is
then able to recall it by simply hearing the word.
If he does forget then I will simply begin
to sing the song that first taught him and he
recalls it usually fairly quickly. He may require
a quick hand-over-hand reminder.
Learn Body Parts: A rhyme/song I used
that helped him learn "nose":
tickle your tummy
tickle your toes
wiggle your ears
and beep your...nose.
I used this rhyme with Matthew when he was younger
to help teach him "nose". I used the rhyme in
conjunction with hands-on tickling Matthew's tummy,
his toes, wiggling his ears and then would beep
his nose. Eventually, I was able to move on to
saying "touch your nose" or "where is your
nose?" and he would touch his nose. Even today
if I say the rhyme, he remembers. He will wait
until I say "and beep your......" (I pause)
and without the word...he is touching his nose.
Song I made up that helped him learn "knees"
knees knees knees
if you please
can you, can you
I used hand-over-hand to help Matthew learn
knees with this song. He has not mastered it
completely yet. But now instead of singing
it everytime I have been able to move on to
asking him: "where are your knees?" He still
forgets "knees" sometimes but all I do is begin
to sing this song, it triggers his memory and
when I sing "touch your....knees" he may need
one time of my hands bringing his hands to
his knees but then the next time I sing the
song or I ask him, he will touch his knees.
There are many wonderful, musical learning avenues and
adventures to explore when it comes to incorporating
music into your child's life and it does not necessarily
have to cost a lot of money. In fact, there are methods
that cost nothing but your time and creativity.
One simple, quite effective method is to borrow children's
music CDs and other musical selections from your local
Another one of my favorites is to make up your own simple
rhymes/songs tailored specifically to your child's needs
to teach them, through music, what you are working
on learning. It can be as silly or serious as you like.
What if music could help your child learn:
new sounds: Singing Sounds by Cathy Bollinger
counting: chicken count by: Jack Hartmann
using both hands while drumming or playing piano
fine motor skills
listening, memory and mimicking skills
social skills: Friendly Words by: Rachel Rambach
a variety of things through:
Tunes That Teach by Cathy Bollinger
and so much more...
Is music motivational in your child's life?
Let's take a musical journey and explore the
ways that music plays a positive part in the
lives of some children who have Agenesis of
the Corpus Callosum.
Mum to 4 year old with ACC writes:
"Lorenzo loves music. He changes completely when he
is listening to music he prefers. He has got some
language problems but when he listens to music he
starts to sing perfectly. He even knows the exact
lyric at the exact time. If he listens to just a small
part of the song, he knows what the song is. Is amazing.
He doesn't speak English or understand it, but he sings
in ENGLISH!!!! He loves Michael Jackson, he sees his
videos all the time. He loves Grease too and he watches
the entire film in English and understands it. He has
been in a music environment since he was born and it
has been great. He is doing Music Therapy. He dances
excellent too. I think music can help children with
disorders of the corpus callosum (DCC) to reach many
This same Mum goes on to write:
"Sometimes when he listens to classical music he
creates some lyrics!!! (I can't understand what kind
of words he is saying but I'm sure they are lyrics he
invented to that melody). It happens when he is watching
Baby Einstein videos."
A Teacher and Mom to a young adult
who has partial ACC writes:
"I taught school for 35 years, and often
recommended music lessons for students, for any
and all children, but especially kids who were
gifted or had learning issues. It is an area
where a child can always be challenged (either
a lot or gently, whatever the need), and
where s/he is not being compared to others.
Learning to play music has been shown to improve
academic skills, concentration, and memory. In
addition, it offers unique social opportunities.
And it has many additional benefits for people
with midline anomalies, as it often involves
two hands doing very different things at the same
time (piano, violin), as well as adding the
reading and listening components.
If you can find the right teacher, a child can
pursue individual tastes, and maybe even expand
them. There are all kinds of methods, like playing
by ear, sight reading, and different ways to learn
This same Teacher and Mom goes on to write:
"Some children need to be encouraged, pushed, or
gently prodded to learn, while others need to be
held back a bit to ensure mastery. You can play
for perfection or just for fun. The right kind
of teacher can meet any of these needs.
You can play music alone or in groups. Group
playing adds another layer of complexity to the
learning, as students have to listen to others as
well as themselves in order to make music.
There can be an element of competition in learning
music, and that's good for some kids. But with
individual lessons, a child can be compared to no
one but him/herself, and that can be a great
advantage as well.
Music lessons can really broaden a child's knowledge
and appreciation for many types of music, which they
might not ordinarily be exposed to. My kids recognize
and like many kinds of music, and I think that alone
was worth all the money we spent on instruments and
Curiously, playing with others was a real strength for
my child with ACC. Her violin and piano teachers
provided lots of experience playing with others, in
duets, ensembles, and accompanying others. Her piano
teacher, especially, also found lots of places to play
in public for both community service and confidence
building. She was the perfect teacher for her. When
she found that she could not memorize even the simplest
of songs, she always let her perform with her music.
If you don't find a good match the first time, you can
search until you do. There are a lot of creative music
teachers, just like academic teachers, who enjoy the
challenge of working with students who have unusual
strengths and weaknesses."
Mom to 12 year old with ACC writes:
"Celeste loves music. Always has. Classical, kids, rock...
you name it. She has always required music to sleep.
She sleeps usually with Mozart or Beethoven. I never
thought she would be able to play music. Mostly because
neither her father or I have any musical ability
whatsoever! She showed in interest in piano last fall
and we jumped on the opportunity. I have been amazed
at her ability to play! She is a little slower learning
mostly because she stresses so much about not doing
When I inquired if ACC has an impact on Celeste,
her Mom replied:
"As for Celeste, well, we just recently discovered
her ACC. She has been slow to learn to read, to learn
to tie her shoes, to learn to do almost everything.
And to tackle something like music....well the thought
of it intimidates me! Celeste is very unsure of herself.
She rarely tries anything new and quits most everything
she tries. I was amazed she even wanted to take piano
lessons. Discovering her ACC was tough at first but it
did make so many things make sense. I no longer was
frustrated that she struggled so desperately to
accomplish what her sisters do in a day...literally.
"Also, it took a while to find a piano teacher who
would be patient and go at Celeste's pace. To listen to
her sit and play is truly music to my ears!"
Mother of 12 year old with ACC writes:
"We have used music with Azeez since he was
born. We always carried musical toys or had
music playing in the background. It was the
one thing that calm him and motivate him.
When he had his sensory issues music played
a large part in helping him get over them.
We would sing nursery rhymes and also have
his musical toys with him to distract him
from the things that would bother him.
Azeez listens to all kinds of music english,
hindi, arabic etc. Later we started using
music to motivate him to learn skills that
were hard for him. Even now when he is in
pain or is not feeling good I put some music
on and it helps him deal with the situation.
The school has put him in as many music
classes as possible so that he can practice
drumming and playing instruments.
About 3 years ago I started looking for a
music therapist because of Azeez's love for
music. This has created some amazing
opportunities for him. He started off banging
the drum. It has helped deal with his weak
motor skills in his hands. Now Azeez is able
to control the movements of his hands. Through
the therapies we also found that Azeez would be
humming at the same pitch as the song and when
the therapist would change the pitch of the song
Azeez would change to the pitch the therapist
is using. We also find Azeez is more vocal
after each music session. When he comes home
he has so much to say (in his babbling way).
I wish I had found the music therapist earlier
because it has made such a difference in
I hope that the information shared here will
provide insight and inspire you to explore how
music may strike a chord and open the door to
help your child who has Agenesis of the Corpus
Callosum learn in a positively flowing endless
variety of ways.
Music & Music Therapy Links:
American Music Therapy Association
How to Find a Music Therapist
Songs for Teaching
Chicken Count song lyrics & info
Singing Sounds CD by Cathy Bollinger
Cathy Bollinger-Rivanna Music-song clips
Octave Music Therapy, Marion Van Namen, MM, MT-BC
Listen and Learn Music, Rachel Rambach, MM, MT-BC
I invite you to comment and share the ways
that music has helped your child and I very
much welcome any input from music therapists
teachers or music teachers as well.
If you would like to receive a hard copy
of this article please E-mail me.
Note: Agenesis of the Corpus Callosum is a congenital defect. A child who has ACC (or a corpus callosum disorder) is born with it. Agenesis = missing or absent. Therefore, a child who has ACC is completely missing their corpus callosum. The corpus callosum is the largest commissural pathway in the brain consisting of over 200 million nerve fibers and allows for communication between the two hemispheres of the brain. Agenesis of the Corpus Callosum has a very broad range of how it can affect a person.
A very special thank you to each one of you who gave permission for me to quote you in this document and for your willingness to share information about your child who has Agenesis of the Corpus Callosum.
A heartfelt Thank You to Matthew's Music Therapist, Marion, for your incredible patience, perceptiveness, your gentle touch, your very beautiful musical abilities and for so graciously sharing your incredible variety of musical instruments with Matthew.
Another heartfelt Thank You to Music Therapist, Rachel Rambach, creator of Listen and Learn Music for your beautiful gift of music and for freely sharing your songs with Matthew and so many kids, for the ideas I get from your blog and for the wonderful custom CDs and personalized songs you make for my child, Matthew.