Friday, December 18, 2009

Music Preference Mystery: Men Falling for Celine Dion!

Arbitron's new "Portable People Meter" is shaking up the music industry. Apparently more men than want to care to admit listen to soft rock radio! This may not seem earth shaking to the everyday person, but the radio industry has been hit with "shock and awe" by the new rating system that is making its way into the world of radio.

Most of us are familiar with the Nielsen rating system that is used for television. People are randomly chosen to have special taps on their television sets to track their viewing habits. The data from what people watch is turned into ratings that the television industry can use for market share statistics. Everything from bragging rights to advertising rates is based on these ratings.

For some reason, the radio industry has never changed over to a tracking system like what is used for television. Instead of real time information gained from tapping people's radios they have used a survey. The survey relied on people remembering what they listened to. It also relied on people being honest!

Both research and professional experience have taught me that music preference is an important part of effectively using music in therapy. Music that might be used for relaxation, for example, is more effective if it is music that is preferred by the client and not just music that has been identified as sedative or "relaxing." My concern after reading this latest development in the radio industry is that people may not always be willing to tell a therapist their preferred music. A client may reflexively say "classical" music because they have some idea that it may be relaxing. The news article also increases the possibility that a male client may not admit his most preferred style of music in group situations. I think that a client also may be be affected by the gender of the therapist. The client may try to provide a music preference that he or she thinks the therapist expects.

All of these situations are problematic and are not entirely surprising to therapists, but the news report provides evidence that we should be paying more attention to the phenomenon. I have to wonder if some research has already been affected by this. Has past research not been as successful when using preferred music because participants have not accurately told the researcher what they like? How can we structure future research to obtain more honest responses from people about their music preferences?

I think that it certainly makes sense for the music industry to desire more accurate statistics about what people are really listening to. I believe that music therapists and researchers will also need to strive for more accurate responses when using music preferences in their work.

The article in the New York Times is here.

...Now, where did I put that new Celine album...

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Adapted Guitar Hero

I saw this on our local music therapy listserv and thought it needed a broader audience. R. J. Cooper and Associates have many different kinds of adapted technologies to offer. As a music therapist I am always trying to adapt instruments and songs for use with my clients, but sometimes a little bit more technical expertise is called for. The adapted Guitar Hero guitar is a great idea and it looks like good implementation too! If anyone has tried this, please let me know so that I can add your comments. Thanks!

Rock on!

Click here for the website.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

New Funding for Music Therapy Research

'Landmark' trial for music therapy in children's mental health News Nursing Times

This is a nice development for music therapy research! An Irish music therapy foundation has received a grant to conduct music therapy research in the amount of $537,188!

Saturday, December 5, 2009

A Philosophy of Music Education

This paper represents a class assignment that I thought would be good to share and hopefully encourage discussion. The assigned task was to develop a brief personal philosophy that included answers to the following questions. What makes music valuable? Why should music be taught in schools? What kind of music should be taught in schools? Who should teach? Who should learn? I tried to give each question some careful thought and approach the subject from the point of view of a music therapist who has been working for many years in the public schools.

Philosophy of Music Education

December 3, 2009

The current economic times have encouraged a thorough examination of every aspect of public education. It is now more important than ever that music educators have a firm understanding and rationale of music’s place in the school system as well as the method and scope of implementation in the curriculum. As a music therapist who has worked in the school system for the last decade, it is also in my best interest to put forth a philosophy of music education. My background may offer a unique perspective to add to the comprehensive statement of philosophy from the traditional body of music educators.

The foundation of any philosophy of music education must answer the question about why music has value. I believe that a large part of the answer to this question relates to the way music is part of our physiological makeup. Rhythm, for example, is naturally expressed in our breathing, walking and most importantly, our heartbeat. Human vocal cords are unique in their ability to produce a wide range of sound and naturally provide us with a way to express melody. Children at very young ages demonstrate instinctual impulses to sing, no matter their cultural environment. This bodily connection humanity has to music has resulted in music being created in every culture.

Music therapy exists in part because society has recognized the connection between music and the body and mind. Teachers and clients alike recognize that in certain situations, music has a power to affect change and behavior even if they cannot fully explain the reactions. Fortunately, there is a growing base of scientific research quantifying and explaining some of the ways music affects the brain, body and behavior.

Music is also valuable because it is individually significant and exponentially powerful. Almost everyone has some kind of preferred music, even if they do not listen to it regularly. Music has often been regarded by people as spiritually powerful and personally poignant. Music brings joy or sadness by allowing feelings to exist in a unique and stubbornly indescribable environment. Dr. Bennett Reimer espoused this idea in his writings about the five values of music (Madsen, 2000). I agree with his assessment that the connection of music with emotion allows music to complement and expand the appreciation of all other forms of art.

Some music educators have pointed out that music, as it exists in the brain, may actually be a separate type of thinking process (Lehman, 1995). Music seems to be processed in many different parts of the brain and not simply concentrated in the right or left hemisphere like math or language skills (Liegeois-Chauvel et al., 1998). This is one reason why stroke victims can sometimes sing what they want to say, but cannot speak. The brain also somehow processes music stimuli while producing emotions, but leaves one without a way to describe the process or experience with symbols or words. In the Western music tradition, for example, the need or desire to coalesce around a tonic note or key is a visceral, not language-thought induced reaction. Perfect pitch and various forms of synaesthesia are even more evidence that the brain can treat music as a unique form of cognitive processing.

The value of music may be easy to understand and accept as a society, but the next question that must be answered is why should music be taught in schools? I believe that music in the schools provides students with an opportunity to develop unique cognitive thought processes. Listening to music, analyzing and creating music all involve cognitive skills and thinking strategies that are transferable to other tasks and school subjects. Dr. Paul Lehman (1995) also argues that music instruction and experience can help to develop, “out-of-box,” thinking. I think that this type of thinking can be useful in a world where many issues are not black and white.

A second reason to teach music in the schools is because of its importance as a pervasive force in society. A good grasp of the attributes, history and functions of music is essential and integral to learning about our culture. Not only is music historically important, but it also has contemporary ramifications in political and business interests. Popular culture is sometimes ignored in school curriculum, but the close relationship of music and sports will not easily be rejected even during the leanest economic times. The marching band experience, for example, would largely cease its existence without the symbiotic relationship with football and high school.

In my experience, music should at the very least be offered to qualifying students in special education. Some children make significant and unique progress on non-musical objectives through the use of specially designed music strategies. Participation in music activities is also one of the easiest and most socially accepting mainstreaming activities for some of the children with disabilities.

If music is so valuable and necessary in the schools, then music educators must decide what will be taught. Although the core music classes have served the system well, there is room for improvement. Band, orchestra and choir teachers should continue to encourage related ensembles such as jazz band, show choir, string quartets and musical theatre. Some evidence points to a decline in participation in these traditional forms of music groups, but they are still part of the culture.

Some schools have begun offering other music programs in order to increase interest and participation. Guitar, world music drumming, composition and sound engineering and recording are good examples of programs to supplement traditional music classes. If parents and children in junior high and high school have the choice of which school to attend, then different schools could focus on individual programs and make them stronger and more successful. I think that school choice is the key to successfully expanding these types of programs to more schools.

Each school could offer the core music programs and a selection of specialized music courses. Every course should include opportunities to practice composition and learn about history as part of the instruction. The music repertoire should center on western civilization with occasional study of world music. Our country was established by western civilization and has made much contribution to that tradition at the same time it has established its own unique form of musical culture. Understanding other cultural music is still important, however, so schools might choose yearly world music themes to encourage collaboration and help manage the rotation of curriculum.

As our culture continues to grow and change, adjustments in our view of the philosophy of music education will necessitate changes in the field of education. Paul Lehman (Madsen, 2000) hinted at this when he wrote that teachers will have to receive more training in psychology, special education, non-traditional instruments and assessment protocols. I think that this training will help teachers be successful as alternative music courses are added to the programs and outreach to non-traditional students and students in special education is increased.

Teachers should also strive for more collaboration with music professionals outside of academia. Music educators may facilitate this collaboration by using electronic media to bring the world to the students when field trips are not possible. Co-teaching between departments in schools can also be a creative way to bring in new perspectives. In addition, stronger ties should be established with universities to foster research. Perhaps universities could take the example of the business world and develop more “corporate” MME programs so that teachers do not have to stop working in order to obtain an advanced degree and become trained in research methods.

I do not think that music can be mandated for all children in the special education program. Music may be contraindicated for some disabilities or syndromes and trigger unwanted behavior issues. Children with disabilities should also not be mainstreamed into regular music class without consult from a music therapist. The consult will ensure that the placement will be good for the child and not take away from the musical experience for the rest of the students. Music therapists will need to be prominently available as a resource for music educators as more special education students become mainstreamed into regular education classes. When necessary, it may be more effective to have the music therapist teach individual adapted music lessons with the music educator acting as a consultant. Junior high and high school students with disabilities could benefit from a “circle of friends” or peer partners to help with placement in music class or ensembles. Special roles may also be explored so that any interested special education student can participate, even if it is as an office assistant or on the sidelines in the “pit” for the marching band.

Aside from special education, music time in elementary schools should be increased. Early childhood and kindergarten programs often include much music in the classrooms, but first through fifth grade classes are frequently shorted in their music classes. Children in these grades should have a minimum of one music class per week for the entire school year. Once children reach middle school, they should be offered more options and choices. High school students should also be offered the opportunity to participate in off-campus community music groups, professional ensembles and the music industry for educational credit.

In summary, music is valuable because of its intrinsic nature within humanity and human cultures. Music has become a part of the makeup of our society. Music should be continued as part of the fundamental curriculum in schools with highly trained teachers who are open to change and collaboration. Outreach should be increased to non-traditional and special education students and more opportunities for music programs beyond band, orchestra and choir should be offered to all secondary level students. Regardless of its form, music as part of the fabric of our humanity and culture is an essential part of the experience, knowledge and practice and should have its place among the core subjects taught in school.


Lehman, P. R. (1995, September). Why teach music in school? Remarks prepared for the public relations video presentations of the Gemeinheardt Company, Inc., Elkhart, Indiana.

Liegeois-Chauvel, C., Peretz, I., Babai, M., Laguitton, V., & Chavel, P. (1998). Contribution of different cortical areas in the temporal lobes to music processing. Brain, 121, 1853-1867.

Madsen, C. K. (Ed.). (2000). Vision 2020: The housewright symposium on music education. Reston, VA: MENC: The National Association For Music Education.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Dancing For a Cause!

I saw this on ABC news and couldn't resist! Hospitals need more music! The glove company wanted to promote Breast Cancer awareness, so they made pink gloves and donated some of the profits from the sale of the gloves. The hospital employees took up the challenge to a whole new level!

I actually began my career in music therapy after working in a hospital and seeing the need for music. This video is great! It has already been seen by 1.7 million people!

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Stem Cell Research, Therapy and Related Music Therapy

Stem cell research has been highly publicized and discussed in the last ten years. Much of this is due to the fact that useful human embryonic stem cell lines were only recently established in 1998 (International Society for Stem Cell Research, 2008). The existence of stem cells for use in experimentations led to ethical dilemmas with political implications. Notwithstanding political and ethical debates, the use of stem cells for treating many diseases and disabling conditions has continued to increase. The related literature regarding music therapy and patients being treated with stem cells is small, but music therapy has been shown to have promising potential.

In order to understand the possible ways music therapy may benefit patients receiving stem cell therapy, it is important to define stem cells and review the current state of research and treatment. Stem cells are building blocks of life since they are unspecialized cells that can turn into many different types of cells as they develop. Stem cells can turn into muscle cells, red blood cells, brain cells and any other cell in the body. The National Institutes of Health (2009) primer on the subject of stem cells further explains that stem cells can divide without limits into more unspecialized stem cells. Embryonic stem cells begin dividing into different types of cells as the embryo grows into a fetus. In adults, stem cells located in the gut and bone marrow produce a replenishing supply of specialized cells that replace and repair damaged tissue (National Institutes of Health, 2009).

Embryonic and somatic (adult) stem cells present important differences for researchers studying different ways to utilize them in experiments and therapy. Embryonic stem cells, discovered in 1981, are produced from embryos that have been created through in vitro fertilization (National Institutes of Health, 2009). Embryonic stem cells have been considered unique because they can proliferate for many years in the laboratory without changing into specialized cells. Adult stem cells, however, usually generate the same type of cells for the tissue where they reside. Researchers have also found it difficult to make adult stem cells proliferate in the lab, and even when they do, it is for only a short time (National Institutes of Health, 2009).

Researchers aim to establish pluripotent stem cells, which mean that the cells can produce any cell in the body (International Society for Stem Cell Research, 2008). Embryonic cells are cultured and then subcultured until the cells have proliferated for more than six months. This establishes a “stem cell line.” The first human embryonic stem cell lines were created in 1998 (International Society for Stem Cell Research, 2008). Stem cell lines are useful to scientists because they have an abundant supply of unspecialized stem cells that can be used for directed differentiation.

Embryonic stem cells that are allowed to clump together and form embryoid bodies can start differentiating spontaneously. Researchers can direct this differentiation by adjusting the chemical composition of the culture medium or inserting certain genes. The eyes, ears and heart are common destinations for these cells. Adult stem cells can be differentiated into cells that are common to their origin such as skin cells, neural cells and hematopoietic cells (National Institutes of Health, 2009). Sometimes adult skin cells have been able to transdifferentiate into cell types other than expected, but these occurrences have been isolated in non-human vertebrate. One exception to this is the induced fluripotent cells (iPSCs). These are adult stem cells that have been turned into embryonic stem cells by introducing embryonic genes. Although these stem cells offer great hope to researchers in expanding stem cell lines, scientists do not know if iPSCs and embryonic stem cells are exactly the same (International Society for Stem Cell Research, 2008).

Stem cells offer great hope for treatment of disease and use in the lab for drug trials. Embryonic stem cells can become any type of cell and can be produced with relative ease compared to adult stem cells. Adult stem cells, however, are thought to be less likely to cause rejection by the immune system in a patient because they can be created from the patient’s own cells. By overcoming the problems with rejection stem cell therapy has been used successfully to place new cells in the spinal cord, repair burns, and aid in fighting heart disease and arthritis (International Society for Stem Cell Research, 2008). Stem cells in the lab have been used to learn how cell division occurs in cancer and birth defects. Researchers have also been able to test drug effects on differentiated cells.

The usefulness of stem cells is sometimes overshadowed by ethical questions surrounding the use of embryos and their destruction to create embryonic stem cells. Many people have asked whether embryos should be considered people or property. Even if embryos are considered property concerns have been raised that women could become commercially exploited for their eggs (Hollowell, Coelho, Weldon, & Moffit, 2005). Cord blood stem cells may offer an alternative to embryonic stem cells since they do not require an embryo to be destroyed and offer some potential for undifferentiated cells. The current dependence on embryonic stem cell lines for most of the research and therapy will continue to cause ethical debate, but has also been a catalyst for political battles.

The political debate over stem cells has centered around the use of federal money for research on embryonic stem cells. George W. Bush established an executive order allowing for funding of ongoing research on embryonic stem cell lines that had already been established, but did not allow for additional funding to destroy new embryos and create new stem cell lines (The White House, 2001). In March of 2009, President Barack Obama issued an executive order to allow embryonic stem cell research to be funded by the National Institutes of Health (Stout & Harris, 2009). His order makes it possible for federal spending on new embryonic stem cell lines.

Ethical and political debates may continue until consistent methods are found to produce pluripotent stem cells without destroying human embryos. Although private research was not directly affected by the political debate and continued producing stem cells for medical use, President Obama’s new executive order will surely spur more federal help. Stem cell transplants and therapies that have been successful over the last decade have presented patients with challenges in healing and coping with the invasive procedures. The American Cancer Society (2009) cites high fever, infection, cramps, diarrhea, mouth sores and pain from needle sticks as only a few of the adverse symptoms and side effects from stem cell transplant. Health care workers will have to put effort into treating the physical and psychological side effects of stem cell therapy and transplant.

Music therapy has already been involved with some of the patients in this new frontier of medicine. Music therapists have been using music to help with pain and nausea (Sahler, Hunter, & Liesveld, 2003), improving mood (Cassileth, Vickers, & Magill, 2003), and decreasing anxiety (Robb & Ebberts, 2003). The research conducted by Cassileth, Vickers and Magill (2003) looked at the effect of music therapy on mood disturbance during autologous stem cell transplant for 69 patients divided into two groups. Music therapy interventions were determined by trained music therapists according to the needs of each patient and the interventions ranged from music assisted relaxation to active music making with instruments and song-writing. The researchers found that patients in the group receiving music therapy indicated a 28% lower score on an anxiety/depression scale and a 37% lower score on a total mood disturbance score when compared to the group that did not receive music therapy. The score for total mood disturbance for the group receiving music therapy was significantly lower than the total mood disturbance score for the control group. Music therapy was helpful in this instance where drug therapy might be less effective or contraindicated due to medical circumstances.

More research will need to be conducted with regard to music therapy and the therapeutic use of stem cells. The research literature about music therapy to help with relaxation (Sahler, Hunter, & Liesveld, 2003) and reducing anxiety (Robb & Ebberts, 2003) were pilot studies with very small numbers of subjects. These studies are important in establishing the feasibility for future research using music therapy with patients undergoing stem cell transplant and therapy, but the experimental results cannot yet be generalized to larger populations.

Opportunities for music therapy will increase as more options for stem cell transplant become available. One exciting new development is the discovery of stem cells that can turn into hair cells in the inner ear (International Society for Stem Cell Research, 2005). Successful transplants of stem cells for hearing loss would be a huge step forward and could benefit from specially developed music interventions during hearing rehabilitation. Overall, music therapy is well positioned to help patients before, during and after stem cell therapy. There already exists a large research base describing music therapy for pain management, relaxation and psychosocial support for patients undergoing similar procedures. Transfers can be made between existing practice and work with patients who are meeting the challenge of stem cell therapy.


American Cancer Society. (2009). Detailed guide: Multiple myeloma stem cell transplantation. Retrieved October 30, 2009, from content/CRI_2_4_4X_ Stem_Cell_Transplantation_30.asp

Cassileth, B. R., Vickers, A. J., & Magill, L. A. (2003). Music therapy for mood disturbance during hospitalization for autologous stem cell transplantation: A randomized controlled trial. Cancer , 98, 2723-2729.

Hollowell, K., Coelho, P. H., Weldon, D., & Moffit, R. E. (2005). Federal stem cell research: What taxpayers should know. The Heritage Foundation, Washington, D. C.

International Society for Stem Cell Research. (2008). Stem cell facts: The next frontier? Retrieved October 31, 2009, from

International Society for Stem Cell Research. (2005). Stem cells and the inner ear. Retrieved October 28, 2009, from

National Institutes of Health. (2009, April 28). Stem cell basics. Retrieved October 27, 2009, from

Robb, S. L., & Ebberts, A. G. (2003). Songwriting and digital video production interventions for pediatric patients undergoing bone marrow transplantation, part I: An analysis of depression and anxiety levels according to phase of treatment. Journal of Pediatric Oncology Nursing , 20, 2-15.

Sahler, O. J., Hunter, B. C., & Liesveld, J. L. (2003). The effect of using music therapy with relaxation imagery in the management of patients undergoing bone marrow transplantation: A pilot feasibility study. Alternative Therapies in Health Medicine , 9, 70-74.

Stout, D, & Harris, G. (2009, March 7). Obama reversing stem cell limits Bush proposed. The New York Times, p. A1.

The White House (2001, August 9). President discusses stem cell research. Retrieved November 1, 2009, from http://georgewbush-hitehouse.archives.govw/news/releases/2001/08/ 20010809-2.html.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Top 5 Books about Drumming for Therapy

Drum circles and group drumming have experienced huge growth over the last decade. There are many music therapists who use the power of drumming to help their individual clients or different kinds of groups from corporate employees to kids in special education. There are so many different ways to use drums and drumming in therapy that it has been hard to find one authoritative book on the subject. Here are my top 5 favorite handbooks on using drums in therapy. Each book has its strengths and adds to the knowledge base. All of them are well written, easy to read and have many great pictures and illustrations:

Tataku: The Use of Percussion in Music Therapy

Bill Matney has put together a great book that brings together instruction about how to play instruments and a guide about facilitating drum circles. He has included specific references for working with different types of populations.

The Healing Power of the Drum.
Robert Lawrence uses his book to explore many case examples of using drums in therapeutic situations. He also provides some history and foundation for the use of drums in wellness.

The Art and Heart of Drum Circles.
Christine Stevens is one of the pioneers of synthesizing music therapy and group drumming. Her book is an indispensable tool for the drum circle facilitator. She has years of insight into what can make or break a drum circle.

Together in Rhythm : A Facilitator's Guide to Drum Circle Music.
Kalani is not a music therapist, but he has been doing community drum circles for a very long time. His book comes with a DVD that is very useful in visualizing the leadership/facilitator skills for group drum circles. He also includes transfers for using various techniques with people and children with disabilities or in special situations.

Any of these books will help you to keep the rhythm going!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009



(Leo Sevush)

Pick out a pumpkin, a pumpkin that fits.
Put it on the table and scoop out the pits.
Put it in the oven and bake that pie.
Put it on the table and listen to the sighs.
Delicious, delicious, delicious pumpkin pie!
(rub your tummy...) Mmmm, mmmm, delicious pumpkin pie!

Cranberries look, red, round and small.

Put them in your mouth, you won’t like them at all!

Put them in a pot and cook them long

Put them on the table and you’ll hear this song!

Potatoes and gravy are part of our fare,

Cut up the potatoes and cook them in a pot.

Mash the potatoes, and pour the gravy on,

Put them on the table and you’ll hear the cheers!

Turkey and stuffing are the dish for today,

Mom’s been cooking since early in the day.

Turkey’s in the oven and the dressing is on the stove,

Put them on the table, and you’ll see the smiles!

Rolls with butter are an extra treat,

Fluffy, white and tasty – you’ll eat and eat and eat!

Bake them in the oven until they’re nice and golden!

Put them on the table and you’ll hear us say,

Please see my post: Thanksgiving Tunes! Delicious! for a description of activities that go with this song.

Thanksgiving Tunes! Delicious!

I use a number of different songs around the holidays, but one of them that has been a huge success is a song called, "Delicious." It is written by Leo Sevush according to the sheet of music I have, but I have never been able to find the original source. If anyone out there knows what book or collection it comes from, please let me know!

I usually play the song on guitar, but I have also recorded it for some of the clients and teachers I used to work with. You can listen to the recorded version by clicking on the record:

02 Track 2.wma

This song is great for many reasons, but especially for the repeating line, "Delicious, delicious..." This is an obviously difficult word for many young children or kids with speech impairments to say, but they absolutely love trying to say it all twenty times in this song! This very clear repeating line also lends itself nicely to the use of a Bigmak button for anyone who does not speak or needs an alternate way to participate.

I have made up a file folder with pictures of all the things in the song with a picture of a table so that the children can set the table as the song goes along:

Like so many file folder activities, you can make this one fit the ability level of your students or clients. You may want to let each participant choose what they want to eat for thanksgiving and just see if they can get the food on the table. Sometimes, I sing about a specific food and see if they can find the correct picture from a field of however many choices I feel will be appropriate. I made up pictures for all the foods in the song, but feel free to add more pictures and verses for foods your kids like.

I have transcribed a song sheet for guitar that you can see here. The tune will get stuck in your head for at least a day or two! Enjoy!

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Oxytocin: Implications for Autism and Music

Someone asked me recently about the use of Oxytocin to help people with autism improve their social skills. I had not heard much about using this drug, so I did some investigating. I think some of the recent "buzz" about using Oxytocin may be from some new research that was published about genes in people with autism. Dr. Simon Gregory at Duke University used a controlled study to establish that in 20 cases of autism there was a problem with the OXTR gene that processes Oxytocin in the brain. Another study by L. A. Green et al also found problems with Oxytocin processing in children with autism. This is important because previous research has shown some indications that oxytocin can decrease obsessive compulsive behaviors, repetitive behaviors and increase the desire for social attachment. One study by Eric Hollander in 2003 compared giving Oxytocin or a placebo to individuals with autism and found that there was a significant decrease in the number of repetitive behaviors for the group receiving Oxytocin infusions.

The research seems to be showing that there is some relationship between autism and the genes that process Oxytocin. So far, the number of research studies are few. The studies also have small sample populations and have not been replicated. I think we are just at the beginning of understanding how Oxytocin might play a part in autism. Some people are theorizing that giving Oxytocin to people with autism might be helpful, but the research has only been able to demonstrate short-lived improvements from extra Oxytocin. These studies also used injected Oxytocin and giving the drug through nasal mist did not seem to have the same effect. Since the research is not clear about the possible problems with the brain processing Oxytocin, perhaps giving extra Oxytocin is not recommended since it may have negative side effects in other areas. Oxytocin, after all, is a powerful drug (Pitocin) sometimes used during labor to increase the strength of contractions.

So if injecting Oxytocin may create a temporary positive effect in some people with autism who may have a deficient processing mechanism, perhaps we can find a better way to supply Oxytocin or increase its uptake. Please bring in Dr. Hill of Arizona State University....

Dr. Hill started a research project last year to test Oxytocin levels in band students before and after playing in ensembles. These students do not have autism, but if there is evidence that music may increase natural Oxytocin levels, this may be an interesting basis for more research into why music has been so effective in helping many people with autism.

My initial thought is that it may explain why after about 5-10 minutes of a familiar music therapy session, children with autism usually settle down and increase their focus of attention. I have also noticed that many children with autism have a very positive association with music and the music therapist. Would music induced increases in Oxytocin account for the increased verbalization and social interactions that often occur during music therapy? I have not seen published results of Dr. Hill's study, but I anxiously await his findings.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Kindle Some Fun!

The local music therapists in Dallas/Fort Worth have recently been discussing the merits of digital readers. They mentioned the Kindle from Amazon which I have already had highlighted on Music Makes Sense for the last year. Amazon just came out with their newest version which uses 3G technology.

I think these devices are great ideas for therapists! They are super portable and won't add much to the huge amount of stuff music therapists usually port around. I imagine having song books and picture books at the tip of my fingers without the extra weight! Because they are 3G, you will also be able to download selections wherever you are and use the materials almost in real time.

Here is a nice video about how it works:

And some details about the Kindle:

Slim: Just over 1/3 of an inch, as thin as most magazines

Lightweight: At 10.2 ounces, lighter than a typical paperback

Books in Under 60 Seconds: Get books delivered wirelessly in less than 60 seconds; no PC required

3G Wireless: 3G wireless lets you download books right from your Kindle; no annual contracts, no monthly fees, and no hunting for Wi-Fi hotspots

International Coverage: Enjoy 3G wireless coverage at home or abroad in over 100 countries.

Paper-Like Display: Reads like real paper without glare, even in bright sunlight

Carry Your Library: Holds up to 1,500 books

Long Battery Life: Read for days without recharging

Read-to-Me: With the experimental Text-to-Speech feature, Kindle can read newspapers, magazines, blogs, and books out loud to you, unless the book's rights holder made the feature unavailable

Free Book Samples: Download and read first chapters for free before you decide to buy

Large Selection: Over 350,000 books, including 104 of 112 New York Times® Best Sellers, plus U.S. and international newspapers, magazines, and blogs. For non-U.S. customers, content availability and pricing will vary.

Low Book Prices: New York Times Best Sellers and New Releases are $9.99, unless marked otherwise. When traveling abroad, you can download books wirelessly from the Kindle Store or your Archived Items. U.S. customers will be charged a fee of $1.99 for international downloads.

Christmas is right around the corner!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Checking In With Carly.

Carly update.

I discovered Carly back in April of this year. (click here for a link to my blogpost.) She had joined twitter and started following my tweets. She really has an amazing and inspiring story. John Stossel and John McKenzie recently did a story on her progress for ABC's 20/20. I thought it was interesting that Carly has so much to say, but is still shy about typing around new people. It was also insightful that her father had to apologize somewhat for having talked around Carly as if she did not understand before she started typing and demonstrated that she has a keenly observant intellect. Enjoy her story. We can really learn from her insights, although I think that she is the exception and not the rule for children with autism.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Side Notes: Obamacare

I would like to comment on the health care debate that is currently raging in Congress and America in general. Not only does this affect all of us, but it will also have implications for music therapy treatment options and reimbursement issues. With this in mind, our music therapy seminar class has considered the subject over the last several weeks in order to try and grasp the main ideas of the current plans being bandied around the legislature.

This propaganda poster is actually right on the mark. Our class did a survey of health care systems in 10 countries around the world. I was assigned Japan, which has a very tightly regulated government run health care program. Every country we looked at also had some type of government run health care. In each case, our investigation found that longer wait times were one of the major complaints in these other systems. Interestingly, the longer wait times only resulted in shorter times with the physician. Since the government controls how much the doctors can charge for patient visits, the only way to make up the lost revenue is to see more patients per hour/day.

Our class actually had a very civil and productive discussion about the plan President Obama has put forth. There were arguments for and against, but we did not have a shouting match or anything so heated like the demonstrations shown on TV. It seemed that as a group of regular folks just trying to solve some problems with our health care system, we were able to rationally discuss the situation. Of course, we did not have to worry about being elected or pleasing certain interest groups.

I found it interesting that we could not find the details about the current situation of the health care legislation. We found the plan that Obama outlined, but the plan being considered in the finance committee does not look very much like the original Obama plan anymore. Senator Baucus has changed so much, including taking out the public option and not promising to cover all people, that no one really knows exactly what they are trying to accomplish. All of this information was found through third hand sources since the senators have been conducting all the discussions in secret. They have not even promised to post the final legislation for all to see on the internet before a vote.

Our class acknowledged that there are problems with the system in the U.S. Obviously the increase in cost every year is out of control and the U. S. government spends much more on health care than most other modern countries and provides less in services overall. We agreed that America excels in critical and acute care as well as having top of the line doctors and equipment. Other countries seem to have problems with quality control and customer service since the government control is not responsive to consumer driven sentiment. Some of the countries have successfully contained dramatic cost increases by regulating drug prices and drug companies and providing more coverage for preventative care. Unfortunately for the U. S., our population is much more diverse with many poor dietary and cultural habits that increase the health costs across the board. We do not have the benefit of a very homogeneous society like Japan. As the rest of the world becomes more metropolitan, many of America's health care problems are seeping into the systems of the socialist democracies and causing them to limit benefits or increase taxes.

After much discussion, our class decided to pretend like we were the Senate Finance Committee and hold a vote to see if the current Baucus bill should be voted out of committee to the full senate. I was surprised that the bill did not even receive one vote! The most liberal thinking class members were too upset that there was not a public option in the bill and the more conservative people were very concerned that there was so much deception about costs and increased taxes. Of course, since our class met, the bill has been passed out of the Finance committee in the real senate.

In my opinion, the entire Baucus bill seems to be a horrible injustice to taxpayers. The bill was only passed out of the committee by plain bribery on the part of Senator Baucus. People may call it bargaining, but when certain key states like Nevada, Oregon, Rhode Island, and Michigan are exempted from paying for some of the costs listed in the bill because they have Democrat senators, it is obvious what is going on. Seventeen other mostly Democrat controlled states also received special deals to limit the state's costs in the health care plan. Either every state should have an equal burden or the bill should not be passed. I think that the current plan is just a money grab from some people like the drug companies and medical device makers and reapportionment of the money to interest groups lucky enough to have their names mentioned. The last time I looked, music therapy was not on the list of the blessed! (Not that it should be.)

If you are going to change the health care system, then change it. The bills before congress right now mostly tinker around the edges and just play favoritism to one group or another. Since Democrats are in power, they should be honest and admit that it is probably over 90% of their interest groups that are getting the benefits. The options for health care will not increase as a result of congress passing any of the bills in the pipeline. There is not a bill offering a single-payer government run program and there is also next to zero proposal for any kind of market driven reform of health care since the conservative viewpoint has been locked out of any negotiations. Americans should not just throw their hands up in the air and say any reform is good. A vote for change does not abrogate our responsibility for due diligence in developing good ideas that make a difference!

To be honest, our class was very disheartened. In our examination of the details of the health plans and the process it is going through we found that the entire mess in Washington is so far removed from how regular people seem to think and act that we were at a loss for suggestions to improve the health care plan. We are even more concerned because we spent weeks looking at the issue to the best of our ability by looking for unbiased information and could not see how the current health plans will be successful in fixing anything. This Halloween, the scary thing is that most people will spend only a few minutes thinking about this subject while at the same time being informed by extremely partisan voices. Is this really in the best interest of our wonderful society and country? At the moment it does not look like anyone will be able to stop the legislators in Washington from messing things up once again although I am convinced that a much larger percentage than is reflected in the polls would oppose any legislation in its current state.

Washington D. C. - Where nothing makes sense and the keys to knowledge have been lost forever!

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