Keep Talking

May 8, 2012

This will be a short one for those of you who know that I am usually quite wordy…

Yesterday I had a session at a nursing home I work at.  There is a resident there who has been in my groups since I began working there – a sweet woman from California who had a stroke a few years back and lost most of her verbal skills.  She is still able to process information, but can’t respond coherently, and when she says words, they are accompanied by a jumbled salad of sounds and other parts of words.  It’s no surprise to me that she is able to sing entire songs without exhibiting even a hint of the turmoil hidden within her brain.

Yesterday, after about a half hour of group drumming, shaking, singing and conversing, I asked her to choose between two songs, knowing that it may be more of a guessing game for me, depending on how unclear her speech was.  I said, “D, should we sing Side by Side or I Left My Heart in San Francisco?”  What came out of her mouth shocked me and made my day simultaneously.  She said, in slow motion, but clearly…”I would like to sing…I Left…San Francisco.”  The activity director and I enthusiastically validated her success, and after the concerted effort and intention she put into her words, she seemed so happy with herself, I wanted to cry.

I am at this particular location every other week and I don’t have a lot of background or treatment plan information, so she may be seeing a speech therapist or going through some other treatment I’m not aware of, but that kind of result is similar to what happens when someone goes through Melodic Intonation Therapy.  I have never used those techniques, but is it possible that the consistent singing has helped her to find her voice again?  It may just be a fluke, but whatever the reason, D’s surprising verbal breakthrough made me so glad to be a music therapist, and to be making a difference in people’s lives in a visible and meaningful way.

Do you have any success stories on this subject?

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