Monthly Archives: June 2014

Laughter and music better than drugs for dementia patients





Clown Doctors at Work

Clown Doctors at Work

In one of my earlier posts, Bring in the Clowns, I told the story of the Clown Doctors used in many children’s hospitals as part of the healing process. That post also mentioned Clowns Without Borders and other groups expanding the integration of humor and laughter in healing to adults and to communities suffering from traumas of various kinds. This story from “Down Under” shows the power and possibility of laughter and music in assisted living settings for those with dementia.

Laughter and music better than drugs for dementia patients.

Alzheimer’s & Dementia Weekly: New Movie Trailer on Music & Alzheimer’s








I have posted many times in the last month about Alive Inside, the documentary film on Dan Cohen’s work MUSIC AND MEMORY. This is an excellent article from Alzheimer’s & Dementia Weekly.

Alzheimer’s & Dementia Weekly: New Movie Trailer on Music & Alzheimer’s.

The Snake, The Gecko and The Giant Snails


This is another great session of the Little Explorer Club, one of the truly wonderful activities Arabella has started.

The Little Explorers Activity Club CIC

There is a presentation line of Giant African Snails in front of Iris who is sitting on the sofa.  She had been dipping in and out of the animal session but wanting to keep her distance from the others who were sitting on the floor admiring the snails before them.  Then when they heard that Iris’s favourite part was touching the little eyes on stalks so they shoot back inwards a couple of the children went over to her with their hands cupped around the enormous snails.  One by one making the offering of their snail with eyes out.   A little routine commenced, Iris would do her bit and the next snail in the line would be moved towards her.  Everyone laughed, in fact the group session was working well, we had successfully managed nearly all of the children to sit down in a circle around the room, they…

View original post 168 more words

Music and Memory on NPR: Check This Out and Watch Katie Couric on Monday June 30


nightskynine-2.jpgCheck this NPR program out. It will show why it is so important for you to learn more about Dan Cohen’s Music and Memory.

Watch the Katie Couric program on ABC tomorrow June 30.







For Elders With Dementia, Musical Awakenings : NPR.

Music Therapy May Help Children with Autism


good summary of some of the research.

ASF Blog

By Marcela De Vivo, mother of a child with a severe disability and freelance writer who works with Oltarsh law firms.  She writes on immigration law, health and special education law and inclusion. 

Individuals of all ages and all abilities can benefit from music therapy. Previously, music therapy has been used to support emotional, cognitive and social development in many populations. Music therapy may help to promote wellness by managing stress, enhancing memory, and improving communication.

A 2004 study from the Journal of Music Therapy found that music in interventions used with children and teens with ASD can improve social behaviors, increase focus and attention, increase communication attempts (vocalizations, verbalizations, gestures, and vocabulary), reduce anxiety, and improve body awareness and coordination.

Many additional studies have found that children and adults with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) respond well to music. Often, individuals with autism respond positively to music when little…

View original post 678 more words

Transforming Power of Music: Lindsey Stirling, the Ven Tribe of Kenya and Iris Grace




This morning on Facebook, Arabella, mother of Iris Grace, the four-year old artist with autism posted a link to this extraordinary video by Lindsey Stirling. It is an extraordinary piece. Please watch it, it will uplift you and make you wonder at the talent and power of young people.

Iris Grace loves and responds to music in many ways. Today she was shown this video as part of her speech therapy and wanted to return to it time and time again. I have been following her story as she grows and breaks through the silences of the past. When you have watched and listened to this video, go back to my earlier posts and look at iris Grace’s paintings.




Lindsey Stirling …. presents her most recent, uplifting video!!.

Life is Puzzling


She has wonderful ideas for art therapy projects.

Positive Art Therapy

Life is full of puzzles, is it not?  And although we continue to try we can not solve them all. However, over at Art (Therapy) + Happiness we decided to share the puzzle of what makes our lives meaningful through an art swap using actual puzzles. 

Swap puzzle-sm

I sourced 10 identical blank puzzles of 20 pieces each and opened the swap up to 10 participants.  Each participant was sent a full blank puzzle.  The name of each participant was written on the back of two of the pieces.   As long as I have this right in theory each person will end up with a complete puzzle with there name on the back of all the pieces.  I hope I do have it right!

The participants were then asked to create an image(s) on their blank puzzle, either as a whole or individual pieces, while keeping in mind what brings meaning…

View original post 109 more words

Arts & Minds, Working in the Community


Arts & Minds is a wonderful organization located in Cambridge, England and serving communities in Cambridgeshire and Peterborough. They support a “role for the arts in maitaining positive mental health by delivering high quality arts opportunities to the people…and supporting the creation of self-sustaining initiatives. This is an excellent model to examine.

409136_283260598399404_1830842316_n 10478128_900782886614004_9164907341045877756_nOne of the groups they have been helping are the Combat Veteran Players, located in London. This group provides opportunities for combat veterans who have had stress and other mental issues after returning from war to work towards positive returning to society. This group will present Hamlet in July at Shakespeare’s Globe in London. This is an extraordinary opportunity for this group and shows the support of mainstream theater in the UK for it.

Arts & Minds hopes to establish a similar group in the Cambridge area. The use of the performing arts in helping returning veterans has been part of the VA’s approach to assisting veterans through the arts since the mid 1980s. See my earlier post on this.



Arts & Minds offers many different opportunities for people in the local community to engage in improving mental health through the arts.




The image above lists the major areas the group serves: artist and care giver training, young onset dementia training, visual arts workshops, arts on prescription, and gallery space for mental health settings. They have just received funding for a project manager for Arts on Prescription, a “series of friendly, weekly art workshops for people experiencing mild to moderate depression and anxiety.” They also work closely with the National Health Service’s Child and Family Unit.

To learn more about Arts and Minds, check out their website,



Creative Aging: More on Music


This week has been a very interesting one for my theme of music and healing.


Veterans Performing at the 2013 National Veterans Creative Arts Festival

Veterans Performing at the 2013 National Veterans Creative Arts Festival

Almost every day I have come across new evidence of the transforming power of music. One of the most fascinating examples came from Vermont’s publication Seven Days. It is titled “How Didgeridoo Playing Can Lead to Better Sleep.”

What is a didgeridoo you ask? The didgeridoo is an extraordinarily simple indigenous Australian wind instrument. Originally they were made from termite-hollowed eucalyptus branches; now they are fashioned from many woods. The article describes the sound as “a low, droning bellow that is…wild and haunting.”

In 2005 the British Medical Journal published a study showing that people who played the didgeridoo for twenty minutes a day, five days a week. showed improvement in their sleep apnea. Pitz Quattrone, a musician and music teacher in East Montpelier offers classes in the didgeridoo for people with sleep apnea and has seen improvements in those he with whom he works. If you live in the Vermont area and want to find out more about this, you may contact Pitz at



This same Vermont publication led me to the story of Vermont’s first aphasia choir. As the article notes, “Aphasia is a neurological disorder, typically brought on by either a stroke or a traumatic brain injury, that impairs the ability to speak, read and write.” This is a very frustrating problem both for those who have been affected and for their families. Julie Stillman, a former writer and editor,  had a severe stroke that left her with very little hope for recovery.

Julie is one of a group of people in the community who suffered a stroke in the left hemisphere, with its domination over language and other functions. (Although recent research  indicates that left/right hemisphere relationship is more complicated than thought earlier. RMJK) Karen McFeeters Leary, the force behind the choir, is a speech-language pathologist who is also a singer and song-writer. She remembered a story from her graduate work of a man who had a severe blow to the head and could not speak, but could sing. (Note: I have found many stories about children with autism who are unable to speak but who sing beautifully. RMJK) Karen found only two other aphasia choirs in the US, in Texas and Oklahoma and both supported by local hospitals.

The eleven members of the choir who are stroke survivors are accompanied by a spouse, relative, or friend who also sings with them. Their first public performance was held recently, with the singers presenting arrangements of familiar folk songs. It was an extraordinary occasion and marks, we hope, only a beginning in the use of singing as therapeutic in working with stroke victims. I strongly suggest you read the full story in

In earlier posts I have told some of the story of Iris Grace, the four-year old girl with autism in the UK. Some of her greatest progress has been made through music. I end today’s post with her beautiful painting, “Dancing to the Oboes,” created after one of the music sessions for children she attended.

Dancing to the Oboes Iris Grace, 4 years old. United Kingdom

Dancing to the Oboes
Iris Grace, 4 years old.
United Kingdom