By Kylee Hale
At the birth of her third son, Sharlene Habermeyer learned that a traumatic labor would leave her little boy with prefrontal cortex damage. Sharlene and her family heard every excuse in the book of why her son wouldn’t graduate high school and why college would be completely out of the question.
“Children do not come in tidy packages—they come with spontaneity, energy, and delicious individuality,” Sharlene shared. “Some have learning challenges that affect them physically, cognitively, emotionally, and/or behaviorally. The good news is that music can help with most of them.”
While raising a child with seemingly unbreakable physical or mental barriers can often be overwhelming, Sharlene pushed through to help her son graduate into a grown man with a successful family and career—and so can you.
Think outside the excuses
It’s easy to let the physical and mental barriers of a child become overwhelming, but don’t let the barriers stop you from trying to help your child. Doing research on your child’s physical or mental condition can be an eye opening experience, and it can help you and your child think outside the box of ways to overcome those “unbreakable walls.”
Perhaps your son or daughter is fascinated with structures built of Legos or Play-Doh. Or they could be partial to coloring an imaginative landscape. Finding what your child does concentrate on can help you narrow down the options that could help him/her learn other essential lessons and skills.
Take the time to test these skills out with your child(ren). Introduce new activities and learning methods and let them show you what they understand. The summer is a great time to test out creative activities and Pinterest can be a great resource!
Music is often the answer
As many of you may know, music is a crucial part of life for people of all ages and mental capacities. Whether you’re 18-months or 92-years-old, music can open your mind to higher levels of thinking, activate creativity, and build self-esteem.
Sharlene’s research led her to understand the musical benefits music can have on the “auditory, visual/spatial, and motor cortices of the brain.” This affects speech, language, reading comprehension, problem solving, centrating, and more.
“Studies indicate that when children with ADHD or learning disabilities learn a musical instrument, attention, concentration, impulse control, social functioning, self-esteem, self-expression, motivation, and memory improve.”
Tap into a natural rhythm
Everyone has a natural sense of rhythm and I personally believe that is why everyone can connect so closely with a myriad of tunes on the radio. This is due to the fact that we are all biologically working on a similar rhythm—our heartbeat.
Sometimes, especially when we deal with mental disabilities, our brains and heartbeats don’t quite connect. Therefore, our biological rhythms are thrown off and everything around us seems to interrupt the rhythm we are trying to set.
Finding your child’s niche will help them to coordinate their biological rhythms. Ultimately, helping them concentrate on the cognitive skills that can often look overwhelming to an already chaotic mind.
Put the rhythm in your hands
Sharlene shared some of the creative activities she introduced to her son that provided him with the necessary skills to improve.
- Enroll in private or group music lessons
- Music lessons are such a great way to help your child learn cognitive skills and build self-confidence. For younger children (ages 18-months to four-years-old) a weekly group music class can help them feel prepared for private lessons. Children ages five and up are often ready to learn on their own and it’s the prime time to help them develop such musical skills.
- Recognize their heartbeat
- Listening to music with a strong bass beat and pointing it out to your child can help them find a grounding and focus. Help them recognize their heartbeat and how it changes based on the beat of the song.
- Move with the music
- Dancing is a great way for young children to hear and feel music and coordinate it in their minds with actions. Building these skills on top of a beat, can often help the child “multitask” their homework or classes in the future.
- Draw to the music
- Sharlene created a great activity with her son where she asked him to draw what he heard. This activity enforces creativity and again, builds multiple senses on top of a steady beat.
- Incorporate music in their learning
- Listening to calm instrumental music is a fundamental practice for helping your child finish their homework—especially in their more difficult subjects. Classical music opens the mind and clears a path for the child to think about the subject at hand.
Remember, every child is different, and some adaptations may be necessary for your child to tap into his/her internal rhythm.
Learn more about Sharelene and her personal journey.