In 2002, I saw "music therapy" pop up in my Google search results for "careers in music," and thought ~WOW, I'll do that! My parents aren't gonna like that at ALL!
Here I am 14 years after that spark of rebellion, and to say that my parents wouldn't have approved was a bit unfair. They are actually incredibly supportive.
My journey as a board-certified music therapist has been very rewarding. I've been fortunate to facilitate a drum circle with the US Surgeon General. I've had dinner with Ben Folds and some of my favorite colleagues! I've facilitated drumming experiences with teams at Fortune 500 companies. I founded a company dedicated to showing the world that music therapists are leaders in healthcare.
But the work that I really love is learning about my colleagues and the brilliant impact they make on their communities every day.
That's why in this post, I'm featuring Mary Altom, MT-BC. Mary runs a thriving private practice in Texas called Sound Starts Music. She also provides online resources for parents and educators through Music Therapy Kids.
I'm so proud of my colleagues, and I have tremendous respect for therapists like Mary. Here's the story of Jonah, one of Mary's clients.
The biggest takeaway is this: Before music therapy, Jonah could not read Braille letters or words. Without music therapy, he has a low tolerance for difficult tasks.
Here's what Mary has to say about her client Jonah:
Jonah is completely blind - born without eyes. He was a preemie born at 21 weeks and adopted by his family. Jonah has had a natural inclination to music for his entire life. He has been able to acquire much of his speech through song. Jonah has perfect pitch and can play songs from memory on the piano. I have worked with him since fall 2007 - initially in the school setting and then privately.
We have spent much of our time together learning to read Braille letters and words.
Jonah has made tremendous progress with learning the Braille letters using music therapy strategies. He can also read words and sentences.
In the beginning we worked on counting, following directions, singing 1-2 word phrases in a song. This evolved into Braille letters and words, identifying coins and counting money. Jonah now uses 2-3 word spontaneous phrases to comment or request.
Most recently we have been working on shoe tying. Jonah has low tolerance for frustration. When his other therapists work on this concept, he may get angry or just not respond. They have tried many methods.
Adding music is the key to getting Jonah to practice this skill and repeat multiple times.
Click play to watch Jonah and learn about the power of music therapy:
Special thanks goes to Jonah, Jonah's mom and dad, and Mary Altom for permission in sharing this story.
This post was written in conjunction with #MTAdvocacy, a collaborative effort by the American Music Therapy Association and the Certification Board for Music Therapists. You can learn more about music therapy advocacy here.