Music For Brain Health

Using Music For Brain Health
and to Unlock Kids’ Inner Rock Stars

Using Music For Brain Health

Music’s ability to engage the brain is profound and well-documented, from delighting small infants to sparking long-forgotten memories in seniors. For children and youth with disabilities – particularly those with autism spectrum disorder – music therapy can uncover brilliant smiles, surprising senses of humour, and once hidden personalities.

Heather Keating is team leader of music and arts at Holland Bloorview who has seen the effects of our music therapy programs firsthand. “I’ve seen kids who are extremely shy make eye contact, kids who shy away from physical contact suddenly want to give high-fives, kids who struggle with conversation happily and proudly sing the lyrics to an entire song,” she says. “It’s absolutely inspiring and incredible.”

Music is an important part of the hospital’s care and has been for 70 years. Holland Bloorview offers several programs for in-patients and out-patients, in both individual and group sessions. Traditional instruments, voice, and our Virtual Music Instrument (developed by our Bloorview Research Institute) are used to encourage the development of social, motor, communication, and sensory functions.

Music therapy also provides respite from busy and structured schedules filled with appointments and treatments. Heather says that one of the most magical things about it is that the kids enjoy themselves so much, they don’t even realize it’s a treatment unto itself.

“When the music starts, they are in charge, they are in control,” says Heather. “They can just be who they want to be. Music gives them that permission to just be themselves.”

She has also witnessed remarkable transformations at Holland Bloorview Rocks – the hospital’s annual rock concert that gives kids with disabilities the chance to showcase musical talents, and tap into their inner-rock stars by performing live on stage in front of family, friends and fellow musicians.

“I’ve seen kids who feel their identity is defined by their disability, transform into identifying themselves as musicians and having this talent and skill set that they can explore and share with others,” says Heather.

“They all start as individuals making music, but when they come together and see how the music sounds as a group, they feel that they’re part of something bigger…it’s a sense of community that’s so meaningful to them.”

 

 

“When the music starts, they are in charge, they are in control. They can just be who they want to be. Music gives them that permission to just be themselves.”

“When the music starts, they are in charge, they are in control. They can just be who they want to be. Music gives them that permission to just be themselves.”

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