According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, Cerebral Palsy is a neurological disorder that appear in infancy or early childhood. CP is characterized by problems with muscle movements, coordination, and nerves. Even though physical problems are one of the main complications in CP, it is caused from abnormalties in brain functions rather than in physical reasons. Common physical characteristics include: ataxia (poor muscle coordination), spasticity (stiff/tight muscles), awkward gait, stiff/low muscle tone.
CP can vary in degrees. A person can be diagnosed with severe cerebral palsy needing assistance in ADL’s (activities of daily living) and unable to walk. There can also be a type of CP that is mild and a person might not need much assistance and only have slightly awkward gait.
Yesterday my husband came home from clinical and had some interesting stuff to share with me. He is currently in nursing school for his RN, BSN and goes to the hospital twice a week. This week he worked with a 22 year old patient with cerebral palsy. He inquired from the patient’s chart that the patient also had scoliosis, pneumonia, history of staph infection (MRSA), and a trach in place. This poor guy had a lot of things going on. He was nonverbal and after brain function testing, found to have the cognitive function of a ten year old.
My husband was able to talk to the patient’s father about his son’s diagnosis. My husband explained to me that the patient would lie in his bed staring at the ceiling barely acknowledging anything. The patient would only smile, but that seemed to be at random times. He asked the father if the patient was able to express much emotion or pain. The father explained that he did not do much besides tense up when in pain and arch his back and smile when engaged or excited about something. The father told my husband to watch something. He went over by his son and found a television station that was playing George Strait music. Instantly, the patient started wiggling with excitement and smiling from ear to ear. As soon as his father turned off the music, he went right back to lying motionless and staring at the ceiling. His father tried this several times and the same excited reactions appeared each time.
How amazing is this? A patient thought to have no interaction with the outside world shows such a great difference when music is brought into the picture. And not just any kind of music. Client preference is almost always the most effective way for them to experience music. They can have association, memories, and special emotions attached to their favorite types.
I always get to so excited when I hear how music can affect individuals, even in the simplest ways. I hope to keep hearing about these special moments to further build the advocacy for music therapy. It is not just about singing a merry tune and having fun. Music therapy is about healing and love.