Arts Health News

Posted: May 23 2017 - 12:00pm

“This is the way we shrug our shoulders at school today,” sings Kate Pereversoff, while she plays the tune on a guitar.

Gathered in a circle around her, a group of four- and five-year-olds move their shoulders up and down, some sitting, some standing, a few singing along quietly. Pereversoff raises her voice, changes the song’s words from “shrug our shoulders” to “tap and stomp,” and strums more loudly and quickly. Immediately, the energy level in the classroom rises, and the children clap and jump and yell.

Pereversoff, a music therapist with JB Music Therapy in Calgary, visits Renfrew Education’s Park Place preschool location once a week to lead music class with this group of kids, 70 per cent of whom have special needs ranging from autism spectrum disorder to cerebral palsy.

Once the music starts, however, it’s almost impossible to tell who has challenges in this inclusive environment. It looks like the students are just having a big dance party, but learning is happening through songs that identify body parts, count out numbers or recite the alphabet. When Pereversoff passes around a drum and then a xylophone, the preschoolers practise taking turns and playing the instrument in time to the beat. For many of the kids, this half-hour is therapy.

“When you look at early child development, music is an important part of that fabric,” says Robin McKittrick, Park Place manager. So many preschool songs teach concepts, he says, from rhyming to farm animals and the sounds they make. For kids with special needs, the same learning applies, but music is also motivational and it can be a vehicle for getting them to participate and socialize.

“It can open that window into engagement with them,” says McKittrick. “For children who don’t have the ability to contribute verbally, or those who have motor planning difficulties, they can play an instrument or just move their bodies and be part of the classroom.”

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Posted: May 21 2017 - 12:03pm

Music gave Robb Nash a second chance at life — and he's using it to reach teens at risk of depression, bullying and suicide.

At 17, the Manitoba musician was in a serious car crash that crushed his skull and left him with no signs of life.

He was ultimately resuscitated — and miraculously survived. But for more than a year after his accident, Nash says he suffered from depression and suicidal thoughts.

"I woke up from my coma and didn't know who I was. I didn't know who my parents were. I went through this very bitter time," he said. "I played every sport; I thought my life was playing sports. And now, here I am, 17 years old, and my mother has to bathe me again."

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Posted: May 21 2017 - 2:31am

When Nicole Provost was 16 and singing in a choir, she noticed a little girl, about nine years old, with a developmental disorder who kept moving around, out of formation with the rest of the group. That brief moment inspired her to launch the Mayday Club Youth Choir, an autism advocacy choir, last fall.

“It’s a choir for kids who have a hard time fitting in,” said Provost, 22, a physics student at the University of B.C. “There is such a need for a group where people can go and be themselves.”

With her ability to “super-focus,” Provost, who was diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome, poured her energy into the choir, which has grown to 34 members, ranging in age from five to 27 (although it takes members up to 30 years old), and has performed at 20 events across Metro Vancouver.

The majority of choir members have developmental conditions such as autism spectrum disorder or Down syndrome; others are siblings or people who are interested in working in the field.

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Posted: May 18 2017 - 9:00am

On May 15, 2017 the Bowen Island Garden club welcomes Shelagh Smith, HTR, MAEEC, a professional gardener, horticultural therapist and ecological educator. Shelagh will share her experiences in designing restorative gardens and knowledge about “nature engagement” as a research-based healthcare practice. 

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Posted: May 17 2017 - 12:00pm

Music therapy reduces depressive symptoms in patients with dementia but has little or no effect on agitation or aggression, results of a new meta-analysis suggest.

The analysis also found little or no effect of music therapy on emotional well-being or quality of life, overall behavioral problems, or cognition. Effects of the therapy on anxiety or social behavior were unclear from these data.

"The take-home message for clinicians is that they can prescribe a musical therapy intervention as a way to improve depressive symptoms in dementia patients," lead author, Jenny T. van der Steen, PhD, associate professor, Department of Public Health and Primary Care, Leiden University Medical Center, the Netherlands, told Medscape Medical News.

While there's no cure for dementia, it's "good news" that a nonpharmacologic intervention such as music therapy can improve the well-being of patients with dementia, said Dr van der Steen.

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