Each time I attend a live musical performance, I am always awed by the soul-piercing effect of music on the audience, be it jazz, blues, gospel, rock, or classical. I witness how music moves the listener spurring relief, joy, play, or an escape into imagination.
Earlier this summer, I visited the Nordoff-Robbins Center for Music Therapy and spoke with director,
Dr. Alan Turry, on the healing aspects of music and the unique treatment approach of the center.
“Pull on a single thread in nature, and you will find it
attached to everything in the universe,” says the naturalist John Muir. These words came to mind when I recently discovered the cinematic artwork of mouth painter, Moses Hamilton, 37, who lives in Kauai, Hawaii.
Capturing subjects ranging from the mundane to the transcendent, Hamilton’s paintings draw the viewer into the breathtaking landscapes of Hawaii and tell a moving visual story of the island’s people.
Mindfulness, the practice of bringing our attention purposefully to the present moment, is taught widely in healthcare treatment as a tool to aid in stress relief and coping.
I recently spoke with Ashley Mask, Manager of Visitor Experience and Access Programs at the Rubin Museum of Art in New York about Mindful Connections, a guided monthly 90-minute art tour of the museum for persons with dementia and their caregivers.
Spit it Out, an award-winning documentary codirected by Jeff Shames and Jonathan Skurnik, follows the poignant journey of Jeff Shames in his efforts to find self-acceptance as a stutterer.
In one of the delightful opening scenes, Shames is attending a workshop at a conference held by Friends, a support organization for children who stutter and their families. The children are outdoors ready with their speech monsters in hand, an art exercise depicting their struggles with stuttering. “We need to show them who is the boss of our talking!” says the group leader. “Put your speech monster inside the rocket!” The kids crumple up their speech monsters, dump them into a rocket, and blast it off into space, giving back the power to the children.
Are you a sensation seeker, or do you prefer a low key evening with quiet music playing in the background? Decoding our sensory style is the subject of a fascinating book, Living Sensationally: Understanding Your Senses, by Dr. Winnie Dunn, Chair and Professor of Occupational Therapy at University of Kansas Medical Center. Dunn's research on sensory processing disorders indicates that people fall into four categories of sensory styles: seekers, sensors, by-standers, and avoiders. In a recent conversation, I spoke with Dr. Dunn about the broad applications of her work.
“People with sensory processing disorders may be more sensitive to sensory input, but we are all wired to have idiosyncratic reactions to sensory experiences - sound, touch, taste or smell,” notes Dunn. In families, finding creative ways to respond to such needs of children can alleviate unneeded emotional suffering. Dunn provides the following example, “At a family gathering, a child with autism may want some time away from the group due to over-stimulation of social energy. Guests present can understand this as a sensory need versus another thing wrong with the child," she advises.
Each day, we humans participate in a common activity—the ancient craft of storytelling. Reading the daily paper, watching movies, or catching up with friends—sharing or listening to stories is at the heart of our nature. But can telling your story have benefits for your health? “Yes, most definitely,” says Paul Browde, actor, psychiatrist, and narrative therapist, “it made all the difference to my health and life."
Sharing the healing power of storytelling is a narrative exercise that Browde and his fellow actor Murray Nossel, an academy-nominated documentary filmmaker, have engaged audiences in for the last 14 years through Two Men Talking, a live unscripted performance that has been showcased to acclaim in New York, London, and South Africa. On stage, the two men explore a variety of stories: growing up white, Jewish, and gay under apartheid in South Africa; homophobia; racism; AIDS; and most importantly, their friendship and the passage of time.
From the moment of birth children process the world through their senses. Through discovering taste, touch, sound, and movement, each child develops unique likes and dislikes. For some children, however, sensory processing can be painful or disorganizing.
Raising a Sensory Smart Child, by Lindsey Biel, M.A., OTR/L, and Nancy Peske, is a resource-rich, practical handbook for parents and caregivers of children with Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD) as they work to help kids find their daily balance.
Blissful Bedrooms is a one-of-a-kind nonprofit organization seeking to transform the bedrooms of young individuals with significant disabilities into spaces where they can experience peace, comfort, and joy. The idea was born from a special bond between Martha Gold- Dvoryadkin, physical therapist/yoga instructor at New York's PS 118 and a former student,Tamisha.
"My partner Alex and I brainstormed one day on how we could bring more happiness into her life. We decided to paint and decorate her bedroom. We were amazed at the impact on her and us," said Gold-Dvoryadkin.
“I wish to be, I wish to go, I wish to meet, I wish to have.” These are the magical questions in the wish-making process that have guided the granting of more than 1,700 wishes of children with progressive, degenerative, or malignant life-threatening medical conditions by Hudson Valley Chapter of the Make-a-Wish Foundation . I recently had the privilege of attending the annual Wish Gala, and took few moments to speak with Denise D'Amico, Vice President of Program services, on the work of the Foundation.
Claudia Glaser-Mussen, the sassy singer-accordionist of the Grammy- nominated children's rock band, Brady Rymer and The Little Band That Could, has a lot to say about her muse, “I can feel my mother's presence on stage, when I perform; she inspires me and I'm able to convey that energy to the audience.” A thread of music runs through Glaser-Mussen’s life, "I grew up in a home where music was a part of our experience,” she says. Music never became more important for Glaser-Mussen than it did in the final stages of her mother’s life, when she was coping with Alzheimer’s disease. In this telling, WNYC radio interview, Opera Mom, Glaser-Mussen and her brother, violinist Matt Glaser, reflected on the role that music had in the care of their mother, Jeanette Glaser-Taubin, a professional opera singer.
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