Music: A Fact of Life

music

Claudette Anderson

Claudette Anderson owns Prescription For Success in Parker, Colorado.  Her center offers auditory, visual, and cognitive therapy as well as testing.  Claudette is a certified practitioner of the Structures of Intellect (SOI) program as well as numerous other treatment modalities.

From the womb to adulthood, sound has made you what you are today.  Studies conducted throughout the world have shown us how sound’s energy shapes the brain’s development before birth; how musical rhythms regulate our body movements; how pitch, tone and musical structure can fine-tune the mind and sharpen listening skills; how music can improve student’ test scores and communication skills; and how brains of musicians differ than those of non-musicians.

The music of your life began with a heartbeat. Sounds from the outside world, immersed you in the womb; filtered sounds were transmitted to your ears through the amniotic fluid. Especially during the final trimester, the fetus readily responds to sound in the environment.  Mothers have reported that their unborn child kicks in time to music played-even stopping and starting as the music stops and starts again.

New neurological pathways are created in the fetus’ brain through contrasts of sound.  A fetus’ brain tries to make sense of new sounds. The fetus remembers sounds. The fetus becomes accustomed to familiar sounds and responds to new sounds. This is the first form of learning you have. Developing human brains seem to adjust to music even more than our language. Infants often recognize and respond to the theme songs of TV programs their mothers watched while pregnant. The mother’s voice can pattern in the fetus not only the brain and style of communication, but the physical body’s sense of itself in the world.

After birth, as an infant you paid attention to familiar voices that you heard in the womb, especially your mother’s voice. You would turn your head to the source of the sound. Babies even attend to the pitch, rhythm, tone and emotion in the music. Mothers have always sung comforting songs to their babies because “babies understand it, according to Norman Weinberger, an auditory neuroscientist at the University of California.  Musical favorites are obvious in infants. They will wiggle and coo when they like the sound or squirm, turn away, or even cry from unpleasant sounds.

For those of us who received insufficient patterning in some way, there is help in developing the deficits and an individual’s true “voice.”  The deficits are called “Auditory Processing Disorder.”  We treat this problem with music therapy.

Music does improve brain function by stimulating neural circuits in many different areas of the brain and by providing crossover activity between the hemispheres of the brain.  If we improve our listening ability, we help the brain work better.

As you got older, your ability to hear the tone and rhythms of sounds helped you to learn words. Speech is based on frequencies of sounds.  There’s a definite close connection between music and spoken language. They share: rhythm, melody and pitch and are both processed in the brain in similar ways. Many areas in the brain that are crucial to our language are related to music, too.  The Broca’s brain area deals with musical sight reading and with language processing and organization, plus memory. As musicians age, they keep an average of 15% more gray matter in the Broca area than non-musicians have. Sound first reaches the brain in the Heschl’s Gyrus. Musicians have 130% more gray matter in this area than non-musicians.

From a fetus to a grown-up, music is essential and remarkable. Music stimulates development, provides pleasure, strengths your neural pathways, enhances your sensory and perceptual (auditory and visual) systems, improves memory and stimulates good emotions and social bonds.

Illustrating Children’s Writing

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Tobey Stein

Tobey Stein owns an internet company in Colorado.   She is an early pioneer in distance education and virtual learning spaces.

How can parents encourage kids, especially those who aren’t excited about books, to become readers and writers?  Preschoolers are all ears when stories they have dictated to an adult are read aloud from a colorful, special book.  These one of a kind, homemade books can be an irresistible lure toward independent reading.  Little ones quickly learn to point out their names and other significant sight words and can practice letter recognition and other skills.  For school age children, an illustrated short book they have authored is a visible record of achievement that can encourage even reluctant writers to hone their skills.

Here are a few free and easy (really!) software programs that even those who don’t have an artistic bone in their bodies can use to illustrate children’s stories and writing projects.  Older kids will have a lot of fun illustrating their own work and even parents will be able to handle these tools to create books for younger children. (Did I mention it’s all free?)  The finished books make great gifts for grandparents and friends.

    

Comic Master http://comicmaster.org.uk  is extremely easy to use and can quickly and easily turn children’s stories of the superhero variety into graphic novels.  Drag-and-drop technology allows users to quickly select backgrounds, characters, dialog and text boxes, and more.  The graphic novel can be saved or printed out.

The Hero Machine http://www.heromachine.com/heromachine-1-1/ is another option for drawing superheroes.  It offers more options than Comic Master but is still easy to use.  Begin by choosing from a selection of different eyes, eyebrows, noses, mouths, and hairstyles.  Next, select a costume for the fictional character.  Once you have created your illustration, you can print out the finished character or download a text file that will enable you to load your finished character to the Hero Machine the next time you visit the site. A more advanced version of the Hero Machine with more features and accessories can be found at http://www.heromachine.com/heromachine-3-lab/.

The Portrait Illustration Maker http://illustmaker.abi-station.com/index_en.shtml is a user-friendly, web-based portrait maker.  Originally designed for creating online avatars, the site can also be used to illustrate young writers’ fiction. You can choose from a variety of hairstyles, face shapes, eyebrows, eyes, noses, and mouths, and you can also add accessories and make-up. The customized image can then be saved to your computer.

Anonymous D.’s Anime Character Maker http://xdanond.deviantart.com/art/Anime-Character-Maker-2-2-12759504  Japanese anime drawings are another option for illustrating a story filled with villains and heroes.  You will like Anonymous D.’s Anime Character Maker. The software is extremely simple to use. Start by choosing whether your character is male or female then add hair, eyes, skin, clothes, weapons, and other accessories.  Currently there is no option to save your finished characters, so you’ll have to use the “print screen” key on your keyboard to save your work. (Press the “print screen” key on your keyboard, open up a new word document, and then right-click to paste).  Alternately, you can use a screen-capture program to clip and save the image.

DAZ 3-D Studio http://www.daz3d.com  Finally there is DAZ 3-D Studio.  This product is a bit more sophisticated but still easy to use, especially if you have cut your teeth on some of the other products.  There are free and paid versions of the software so look for the green button to download the free stuff.  The free software has a limited number of characters and backgrounds from which to choose.  If you find you like illustrating, you can purchase graphic packs of characters, animals, fantasy creatures, scenes, and accessories.

After downloading the design console, begin with the tabs on the left hand side.  Starting at the top, choose a background, then character, outfits, et cetera.   The 3-D grid will show while you are designing the picture but it will go away after you render your artwork.  Drag and drop objects or use the 3-D tool (box & circle) to change the horizons or reorient backgrounds.  When your illustration is complete, hit the “render” button.  Finally, go up to “file” and save the picture.  The illustration above did, admittedly, use some of the purchased elements but the basic composition was completed in less than five minutes.

The Boy Who Walked: Ode to Early Intervention

D.

An Ode to Early Intervention

Allison Fort

Allison F. is a freelance writer and editor.   She spends her days with her daughter and son who make sure she is home and never, ever, alone. Her blog,  Home And Never Alone, will resonate with every parent who has never taken a bathroom break without company. 

 

2013 draws to a close in just a few more days, and while this past year has brought changes and new adventures for all of us, no one in our house has changed more than D.

I haven’t written about D.’s physical therapy in a long time, and that’s largely because he has therapy so rarely these days. A few months ago he went from weekly therapy sessions to biweekly, and as of last month he has therapy just once a month. In February, he has an evaluation that will determine where we go from here – and whether he still needs physical therapy now.

The photo shows my baby boy a year ago, three days shy of his first birthday.  That single step separates our living room from the rest of the first floor of the house, and for D. it might as well have been a wall. There he sat, waiting for his sister to come back to him from other parts of the house. D. did a bunny hop crawl at almost one, and he could stand up holding something if we got him onto his feet, but he’d yet to pull himself to standing.

There are lots of aspects of parenting that are scary, but perhaps none quite as scary as worrying that something is wrong with your child. Not long after this picture was taken, D.’s pediatrician suggested we contact our county’s early intervention office to have him evaluated, confirming what I’d been worrying over for months.

The day after D. qualified for physical therapy, he crawled over that step for the first time. It was the first of many new accomplishments, and a week later his first physical therapy session had him climbing the stairs after his sister.

D. has been in physical therapy for nine months now, and I have a fat binder of forms detailing his progress and “homework” and goals. If I didn’t have the paper trail to prove it, I’m not sure I’d believe just how far he has come.

The boy who used to sit so patiently at that step now not only walks and runs but stomps forcefully, reveling in the thumps of his own footsteps. He runs so fast and so often that it’s hard to take a picture of him that isn’t blurry. D. is still cautious on the stairs, but every day he’s a little more confident, and I’m sure before I know it he will be jumping down them the way his sister does.

The boy who just a few months ago used to cry and fuss and tell his physical therapist to “Go ‘way” now runs to the door to greet her and tells her “Come back” on her way out the door. I’m not sure how many more times we’ll see her, but I’m so grateful for the two wonderful physical therapists who have literally gotten our little boy on his feet.

For a long time, I cursed myself for not calling to get D. the help he needed sooner. I thought we should be able to help him ourselves, and I felt more than a little bit like a failure for not being able to teach him to walk and crawl “normally” when I was home with him all day. In the early months, I was nervous before each and every physical therapy appointment.

But this was never about me – it was always about D. and what he needed. A big lesson in parenting (and life in general) is that what you want and need isn’t always what your child needs. D. needed physical therapy, and I’m so glad he’s had it.