How Can Music Therapy Help Those Who Are Blind and Visually Impaired?

It was always interesting to participate in discussions about music therapy for adults with disabilities in my master’s program, because even as I thought about how I could be of assistance to that population, I had to recognize that I could actually be considered a part of that population. What could music therapy do, or have done, for me as a blind person? 

 

Early intervention 

 

For children who are born blind, or lose their sight at an early age, music therapy can be a powerful tool for teaching valuable skills and redirecting negative behaviors before they become ingrained.

Common “blindisms”, such as eye-pressing or rocking, may be reduced. Social skills, such as directing one’s gaze, learning to hear body language, and developing one’s own gestural communication can be improved. It may also aid blind or visually impaired children in developing motor skills, learning to identify and discriminate between sounds, and learning to use auditory cues for orientation and navigation. 

 

Social Engagement 

 

Blindness can often be associated with isolation and social exclusion. In addition to teaching essential social cues, music therapy provides an opportunity for quality social interaction. This is true regardless of age or ability level.

 

Confidence building 

 

Whether working with a child at 7, or an adult of 50, confidence in one’s skills as a blind person is hugely important, and could be the difference between a fulfilling, independent life, and an empty existence trapped at home. Participation in music therapy has been shown to develop confidence in other populations, and could certainly be applied in this context as well.

 

Creativity and adaptability 

 

Disability in general always brings challenges, but it’s the way that one responds to those challenges that makes all the difference. An ability to problem solve, find new ways to do old things is an invaluable skill. Musical improvisation and collaboration may be one way to improve in this.

 

Coping with grief, depression, and anxiety as the result of vision loss 

 

Losing one’s sight is traumatic in and of itself, and depending on the cause of vision loss, can also be associated with other traumas that need to be addressed. Music therapy offers an opportunity for creative self-expression and a healthy option for working through difficult emotions in a safe space.

 

Looking back, I know I could have benefited greatly from music therapy in the ways I’ve mentioned. Indeed, I think I have benefited in some of those ways even just from participating in music therapy as a student and practitioner.

 

If you or your child are blind or visually impaired and would like to explore music therapy further, feel free to get in touch by emailing:

Contact.OpportunityUnleashed@gmail.com

Visiting our facebook page, or contacting another music therapist in your area.

Also check out:

Why We Love Music Therapy for Our Blind Son

How Can Music Therapy Help Those with PTSD?

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a psychological condition that results from long-lasting symptoms associated with a traumatic event. These symptoms may include anxiety, irritability, flashbacks, intrusive and unwanted thoughts, paranoia, night terrors or other problems with sleep, physical pain, nausea, shaking, or sweating, emotional numbing, and avoidance of possible triggers. Untreated PTSD can make daily functioning difficult or impossible for those affected by it. While medication may be helpful, it can be associated with negative side-effects. Music therapy is one treatment option that may be beneficial in addition to or in stead of chemical interventions.

 

The modern music therapy profession was born in the early to mid-1900’s as musicians began serving veterans suffering from the lingering trauma of war. Music therapists continue to serve in that capacity, catering not only to the needs of veterans, but also to victims of abuse, violent crimes, accidents, natural disasters, or any other event that has resulted in chronic mental distress. Here are a few ways music therapy may help those with PTSD.

 

Expressing Emotion 

 

As with other therapies, a music therapy session is a safe place for clients to express whatever thoughts or feelings that they need to. Music therapy is unique to some other types of treatment, however, in that the client can express these things both verbally, through speech or song, and non-verbally, through instrumental improvisation or music listening. Sometimes words are hard to find, and in music therapy, that’s A-okay.

 

Developing Coping Methods

 

A music therapy session will likely only be once or twice a week, so it may be important for the client and therapist to identify and work on some strategies to ease symptoms and improve functioning during the rest of the week. This may include breathing techniques, selecting music to sing or listen to at difficult moments, music-lead meditation, or prompts for music making or song writing at home.

 

Promoting Community 

 

Some studies demonstrate that people with PTSD can benefit from being part of a music therapy group. This may involve musical improvisations, singing, group story-telling or song writing that focusses on sharing and working through the experiences of group members. Since PTSD can involve social withdrawal or feelings of isolation, group music therapy may be an effective and unthreatening way to connect with others.

 

If you think you or someone you know could benefit from music therapy, feel free to get in touch by emailing:

Contact.OpportunityUnleashed@gmail.com 

or sending a message through our facebook page..Learn more about PTSD here, or find out more about how music therapy can help those with PTSD here.

Songs with Significance, Spring 2020

Spring 2020 brought some sudden, and quite extreme, changes to the whole world. I think we all reacted to said changes in different ways, depending on our unique personality or circumstances. I did not like the changes one bit, nor those that quickly followed in my personal life, and found it very difficult to adjust to them. There were times in that period when I tried to handle things in my own strength. They were the worst days, but there were other times when the Lord enabled me to lean on him instead. When I felt alone, I knew he was with me. When I was despairing, I could find hope in him. When I had no energy to do school work, he gave me the motivation to keep going. Sometimes he accomplished this through his word, sometimes through prayer, and frequently through music. Some of these are the songs that he used to speak to me during that month and a half. Others were ones that reminded me of loved ones I was missing. Some are just songs that I thought were interesting or fun. I hope you’ll enjoy them, too.

Abide with Me, Indelible Grace Music 

April, Come She Will, Simon and Garfunkel 

Pass Me Not, Fernando Ortega 

How Firm a Foundation, Fernando Ortega 

I Will Wait for You (Psalm 130), Shane & Shane/Keith & Kristyn Getty

He Will Hold Me Fast, Keith & Kristyn Getty 

Though you Slay Me, Shane & Shane

Good to Me, Audrey Assad 

North Star Lover, Fionn Regan 

The Lakes of Pontchartrain, Paul Brady 

And I Love You So, Perry Como 

Dark Hollow, the Grateful Dead 

Moon River, Audrey Hepburn 

Siúl a Rún, John Spillane 

In the Palm of Your Hand, Alison Krauss 

Baby Mine, Alison Krauss 

I put together a playlist for my friend’s baby shower, and ran across this song. I’d never heard it before and thought it was so sweet! Here are a couple more songs from that playlist. 

Everything Changes, Sara Bareilles

Return to Poo Corner, Kenny Loggins 

That was a long list, but I honestly had a hard time narrowing it down that far! Music is such a gift, and I’m grateful to have had it during this season.

April Showers

This is a story I wrote down a year ago that I never got the chance to post. I figured since it’s April again, it would be an appropriate springy thing to share.

 

I can’t drive, and I don’t have buckets of money to pay for Lyfts everywhere I go, so generally whatever the weather is, my guide dog and I are out in it, getting where we need to go.  That is why, one April Saturday, Prim and I ventured out into the pouring rain to head to a friend’s recital at my old university.  Neither of us were excessively pleased about the damp; I shivered, and Prim did her best to avoid puddles as we set out on the mile walk.

We were standing at a street corner waiting for the light to change.  I was listening to the traffic on my right to know when it was safe to cross when, suddenly, a car approached quickly from my left and a massive wave of water struck us.  I squeaked and leapt back, shocked by the cold and completely soaked waist down.  Prim shook it off and we stepped back up to the curb to wait once more.

Not thirty seconds later, a truck came barreling through the intersection.  Before I could react, I was engulfed from head to toe in a six foot high tsunami of street water.  The frigid liquid left me breathless, and poor Prim was completely disgruntled.  I laughed ruefully and turned to go home, blinking away the water dripping into my eyes.  There was absolutely no way I could walk into a recital looking like I’d just fallen into a pool.

“Ma’am!” a voice called from a car at the gas station behind me.  I paused, glancing in his direction.

“Ma’am do you need help? I have a towel.” He approached and pushed a towel into my hands.

“Thank you.” I said, surprised.  I took the towel and mopped my face.  I was just going to believe it was a clean towel, and not something this friendly samaritan had just used to clean greasy hands after working on his engine or something.  I vainly tried to dry my clothes with the towel too, but only semi-successfully.  I was at least grateful to have dry face and arms.  As per my request, the man kindly helped me across the street.  I’ve probably asked someone to do that a grand total of two or three times in my life.  Contrary to popular belief, I don’t normally need help to cross the street, dog or no dog, but I was not in the mood to be hit by yet a third surge of rainwater.

Upon reaching the other side of the street, I expressed my appreciation to my benefactor, then was promptly dragged by my indignant dog to the nearest door.  I was planning on walking the rest of the way to the recital, but clearly Prim had other ideas, and she wasn’t afraid to tell me.  She absolutely refused to leave the shelter of the overhang in front of the business.  I was trying to reason with her when another voice called from a car in the street.

“Shea!”

It was a friend from college.  He offered a ride to our destination, and Prim and I gladly accepted.  We arrived just in time for the performance.  I sat through the whole thing shaking in my soaked clothes, and winced at the strong smell of wet dog radiating from my poor unhappy pup, but man am I glad we made it, and honestly, it was kind of an exhilarating experience.  Who says Nashville doesn’t have a good waterpark?

Songs with Significance — Winter 2018/19

In the fall, I decided to start a 

seasonal series on the significant songs in my life. This is the list I have compiled for winter 2018/19.

Lost Sparks (Canyon City)

Firework (Canyon City)

I know all the words to this song.

Agape (Bear’s Den)

Above the Clouds of Pompeii (Bear’s Den)

Isaac (Bear’s Den)

Come Thou Long Expected Jesus

My favorite Christmas song this last Christmas season and one I had the opportunity to sing at our candle-lit service.

Be Alright (Dean Lewis)

Because unrequited love is a bear.

Ocean Side (the Decemberists)

Because requited love means you need songs to listen to while you are separated over the holiday break.

The Upswing (Bel X1)

We got to see them in concert with the strings in February and it was a great show!

Some Surprise (Lisa Hannigan and Paul Noonan)

I’m still somewhat surprised.

When You Were Sweet Sixteen (The Fureys)

This song will forever remind me of my clients at my first music therapy placement.

Oh Love that Will Not Let Me Go

Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing

This has been a refrain for me in so many prayers over the last few months, and I think will continue to be.

As before, it is so profound to listen to all these songs in the same sitting, and relive some of the  experiences they are attached to. Some of it is painful to relive, some joyous, some simply peaceful. It’s amazing how music can evoke so much, even just in the listening. I look forward to doing it again in the Spring!

 

A Safety-Conscious Canine

A little story I wrote for a blog I contributed to. The blog is no longer running so I decided to republish it here. Enjoy.

Prim has consistently been rather stubborn about going to church. When I asked my trainer about it, she suggested that perhaps Prim simply wasn’t religious. I laughed at that, but it wasn’t a sufficient explanation, especially when I realized that Prim was somewhat unwilling to walk the route from church, as well as to church. Today I figured out why. 

Our walk to church includes traversing several sets of steps, the top level of a parking garage, and a long, side-walkless driveway, one that is consistently populated by church-goers’ vehicles leaving and entering our parking lot. Because there is no sidewalk, we are forced to stick as close as we can to the edge of the road. Prim is trained to do this. It’s a technique called “shore-lining”, but she is still not satisfied. She often stops in the parking lot or veers to the grass when she sees an idoling car, as I think she recognizes it as a threat. Well, one day on our way out of church, Prim decided to take matters into her own paws. Despite my direction to walk straight, across the parking lot and along the driveway, Prim insisted upon turning left. Curious, I trusted her and followed.

“Let’s go home.” 

I said, hopefully, even though I didn’t actually know whether we could get back to our appartment this way. She led me along a brief strip of parkinglot, then pulled me strongly to the right to step onto a sidewalk. I couldn’t help but laugh. We stuck to the sidewalk, made a right, then walked another good distance, until Prim pulled right again and I recognized the slant of our leasing office parking lot beneath my feet, and a minute later reached out to feel the gate that would take us into our complex. 

We had never walked that route before, but somehow Prim knew we could get home that way, and knew it was safer with side walks. She won’t let us walk any other way now. I love my safety conscious canine.

The Symbiosis of the Guide Dog Team

I am often asked questions about the nature of my relationship with my guide dog.  A topic we frequently touch on is the interdependence of it.  I like to point this out to people, because no one is surprised that I depend on my guide dog.  After all, she is my eyes, in a sense… but they usually don’t think  about the fact that my dog depends on me, too.

My guide dog does have a lot of responsibility, especially for a dog.  Prim protects me.  She keeps me from walking into traffic, or stepping off the edge of a platform or stage.  She navigates me smoothly around things in our path, and shows me when there is an obstacle like a parked car or construction barrier obstructing our way entirely.  Prim provides for me.  She helps me find landmarks like doors, steps, trashcans, and chairs, and is a source of ever-present laughter and comfort besides.

But like with any other dog, I have a great deal of responsibility as Prim’s partner and handler.  I protect Prim.  I make intelligent decisions about when to cross the street, and think about Prim’s physical and emotional safety in any given environment.  There are some places I simply do not take my guide dog due to risk of injury or discomfort.  Crowded bars and loud concerts are just two examples of places where paws could be too easily trampled and ears too easily overwhelmed.  There have also been situations where I had to physically protect my guide dog when she was in danger of being attacked by another canine.  I provide for Prim.  I feed her, groom her, take her outside, take her to the vet for medical care, and of course have the enormous pleasure of being her primary playmate and cuddle buddy.

It’s a relationship of giving, not 50/50, but 100/100.  Of course, we both fail, but the beauty is that not only do we both provide and protect, but we also persevere.  There are days I am convinced I have a two-year-old child on a leash, and there are days that Prim is convinced she will starve to death because we get home late and I forgot to throw her dinner in my backpack, but I keep loving her even after she throws tantrums about not being able to eat the cat, and she keeps loving me after I feed her an hour or two later than our schedule dictates.  In that way, it is undoubtedly a symbiosis of sorts, but not a symbiosis of chance, rather one of choice.  Primie, I’m so glad I get to choose you.

Staying Still for Colin

It’s my little brother’s birthday today.  I cannot believe how old and tall he is!  Isn’t it a funny moment when your cute little brother suddenly becomes your very hansom, tall brother?  Seriously, he’s like a foot taller than me now… maybe more.

Anyway, these are my reflections on memories from 20 years ago when my baby brother was born.  I miss and love you lots, Colin!  Happy birthday!

I’m wearing my favorite dress… well, one of them.  It’s the button up, with the pockets and the wide collar that looks like a slice of watermelon.  I am glad I’m dressed up, because I’m a big sister now.  I’m going to see my little brother.  Being a big sister is an important job, and I want to look the part… especially because I want Mom to let me hold him.  Only big, responsible girls get to hold baby brothers.

Grandmother says that we’re almost there.  I see huge buildings and a parking lot filled with cars.  There’s an apple on the seat next to me… the one my big brother refused to eat.  He doesn’t like apples.  I wonder if my little brother will like apples… he probably won’t be able to eat them until he’s three like me though.

We walk down a long hallway.  It’s white tile and bright lights, and there are windows to our right.  I see babies through the windows, in little boxes.  Is he in there?  I peer through the windows as we pass.  There’s a dark-skinned baby… Is that him?  I see a baby that looks a lot more like me, blonde and white-skinned, but then we’re turning into a room, and there’s my brother.

He’s curled in my Mom’s arms, wrapped in blankets.  All I can see is his little pink face.  Mom smiles at us.  My big brother and I run to her bedside.  Mom takes my hand and lets me touch his head, urging me to “be gentle.’

I am… I can’t imagine being anything else.  My fingers brush over feathery baby fuzz, and I can’t believe he’s real.  He’s just like my baby doll, Elizabeth, only warm, and breathing, and a boy.

I’m jumping up and down and asking if I can hold him.  I can’t help it.  I’ve been waiting for this moment forever!  Mom says if I sit on the bed next to her and stay very still, I can hold him.  I clamber on the bed and sit very still on top of the blankets.  He’s in my arms, warm and heavy and full of sleep.

I’m a big sister, and I can’t stop smiling.

The Soundtrack to my First Six Weeks in Ireland | Songs with Significance, Autumn 2018

There is an assignment this semester for one of my classes that asks us to create a musical tapestry, that is, a collection of songs that reflect different stages or elements of our lives.  For the assignment, we are also supposed to involve various music therapy concepts and research, but it gave me the idea of preserving the music that is meaningful to me now, so that I can look back on it in the future.

I think perhaps I will organize this by month, or maybe season, so here are some of the most significant songs for me this fall.

“Leaving on a Jet Plane”, John Denver 

Because I did, you know, leave on a jet plane, and left everyone in my country behind… I was thrilled to be going, but there is that piece of you that does “hate to go” even so.

“The Parting Glass”, Ed Sheeran 

There are many variations of this song, and this is not the first one I heard, but it was playing in the airport just as I was about to board the plane for Ireland, which I thought was cool, given it’s an Irish song as far as I know.

“Gold”, from Once 

Again, the Irish connection, but actually I just love this song in general, and have been listening to it pretty regularly for a while.

“My Heart Is Filled With Thankfulness”, Keith & Kristyn Getty

I love Ghetty hymns, but this one has been particularly relevant lately because my heart IS SO FILLED with thankfulness to the Lord for his provision in recent times.  A year ago, I never would have thought I would be in another country 12 months on from then.  I wanted a job, not more education.  I certainly wasn’t crazy enough to actually think an international move was in my future, but God had other plans, and he’s been so faithful with every question mark and concern in the process.

“Empty”, Ray LaMontagne 

Just such a nice sound, and reminds me a bit of Tennessee and Virginia.

“Let it be Me”, Ray LaMontagne 

“Boston”, Mick Flannery 

Such a sweet song.  I saw Mick Flannery in concert at my university a couple of weeks ago, and this was one of the only songs I really loved.

“No Name”, Ryan O’Shaughnessy 

Granted, I’ve always adored this song.

“Eve, The Apple of My Eye”, Bell X1 

Good song.

Okay, if you don’t like Damien Rice, stop here, because every other song is one of his from here on out hahaha.  A friend and fellow musician here introduced me officially to Irish song writer Damien Rice, and I’m kind of in love with a lot of his songs.  I tried to narrow it down to a couple for this, but I just couldn’t!

“Older Chests”, Damien Rice 

Just really pretty 

““Volcano”, Damien Rice 

I like duets.

“The Blower’s Daughter/Elephant”,“, Damien Rice 

My first favorite. ❤ 

“Colour Me In”, Damien Rice 

My second first favorite! Ah I can’t even it’s just so good!

Wow, that was more extensive than I thought it would be, but kind of cool to see all the songs I have been listening to on repeat for the last few weeks all laid out in a list.  I didn’t realize how many Irish song writers and singers were on this list until now haha.  Irish people just write good music… what can I say?

Thankful for a Compelling Savior

One thing our culture hates about God is that he is uncompromising.  He demands certain behaviors of us, and condemns others, and there are consequences if we do not respond.  We see that here.  The master of the house invites several people to come in and be a part of his banquet, but each refuses, citing some excuse.  Thus, the master says that none of those who were invited and denied his invitation will taste anything of the feast he has prepared.  So uncompromising? Yes.

But he is also a God who compels.

“16 Jesus replied: “A certain man was preparing a great banquet and invited many guests.

17 At the time of the banquet he sent his servant to tell those who had been invited, ‘Come, for everything is now ready.

18 “But they all alike began to make excuses. The first said, ‘I have just bought a field, and I must go and see it. Please excuse me.”

19 “Another said, ‘I have just bought five yoke of oxen, and I’m on my way to try them out. Please excuse me.’

20 “Still another said, ‘I just got married, so I can’t come.’

21 “The servant came back and reported this to his master. Then the owner of the house became angry and ordered his servant, ‘Go out quickly into the streets and alleys of the town and bring in the poor, the crippled, the blind and the lame.”

22 “‘Sir,’ the servant said, ‘what you ordered has been done, but there is still room.’

23 “Then the master told his servant, ‘Go out to the roads and country lanes and compel them to come in, so that my house will be full.

24 I tell you, not one of those who were invited will get a taste of my banquet.’” (Luke 14:16-24)

Though some refused him, he sends out someone to compel others to attend the feast.  Someone, like Jesus himself.  Yes, God has standards, the highest ones imaginable, but God knows that we are broken, and in his great love for us he does not abandon us to our brokenness.  We are poor.  We have nothing to offer the God of the universe, and yet he does not simply leave us to suffer in our poverty.  We are blind, but we are not condemned to darkness.  We are lame, but we are not resigned to a life of immobility.  Jesus moves us through his sacrifice, which demonstrated his love for us and atoned for our sin.  He compels us through the Holy Spirit, who moves in our hearts that we might be able to hear and respond to the master’s call.

“If today you hear God’s voice, do not harden your hearts.”  If we feel convicted over our sin, we should not be angry that the righteous creator God has called us out.  Instead, we should recognize that such conviction is a mercy.  It’s a call to come in and enjoy the feast of grace that God has prepared for all who are willing to partake.