Music Therapy Success Stories: Helping a Girl Memorize Her Address
Music can help kids memorize more than just the ABC’s. In this case, music therapy helped a girl with a seizure disorder learn her address in a fraction of the time it took without music.
Several years ago I worked with a teenage girl with a seizure disorder and developmental delays. I provided music therapy groups for her class 2x/week and I absolutely adored her (along with all of her peers!). She had a personality the size of the moon, loved music, and stopped by my room often to wave hello.
She knew what she wanted and did whatever she could to get it–even if what she wanted was to sit in the middle of the hall instead of walking to class.
She had many challenges, one of which was her ability to retain information. Her teachers worked diligently to teach her academic concepts, social skills, and life skills, but because of her developmental delays she needed repeated lessons and instructions and continued patience to understand concepts.
This was especially true when her parents asked her teacher to help her memorize her home address.
Her teacher worked with her diligently, sitting and repeating the address for her in pieces, asking her to repeat it back, and hoping it would stick.
It took 2 years.
And then she moved.
Flustered, her teacher approached me one afternoon and told me about her seemingly wasted efforts to help this dear student commit her address to memory. She asked if I could do something with music therapy to help her.
So I got her new address, put it to the tune of “BINGO”, and arranged to keep her in the music therapy room for 10 minutes once a week after her class had music therapy.
When I worked with her, I would first sing through the entire song, sometimes more than once, to help her become familiar with it. I then sang only one line several times in a row, and then left off the last word in the phrase and encouraged her to fill in the blank. Once she got the hang of that I would leave off more and more of the phrase and help her when needed.
It seemed ineffective at times, especially when she would fill in every blank one time through, then forget all of them less than a minute later. But we persisted, and she improved little by little until one day she was able to sing the entire address to me by herself.
It took 11 weeks.
Not only did the song help her learn her address faster, but it became a source of pride for her. Because she struggled to retain information in most settings, this became one of the only pieces of information that she could consistently remember.
It even helped with encouraging her to get up when she decided to sit down in the hall–I’d walk by and say “can you sing me your address?” and she’d smile and start to sing. As she did, I’d take her hand and help her up while we sang together. She was proud of what she remembered, and even a year later it was still there.
Music has an incredible power to facilitate learning. Facilitate, of course, means “to make easy”. It helps us commit information to memory, and is stored more concretely in our brain that simple spoken language. That’s why those with Alzheimer’s and Dementia are often able to sing song lyrics even when they are no longer to carry on a conversation.
Music just sticks.
It therefore makes sense to include music therapy in special education settings, where a music therapist is able to design music programs to teach students needed information in a way that will last.
Because when it’s put to a song, kids will remember.
If you want to see what music therapy can do for you or your students, schedule a free trial session to see how it works. We’d love to see you!