© 2022 WFAE
90.7 Charlotte 93.7 Southern Pines 90.3 Hickory 106.1 Laurinburg
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations
Charlotte Area

Helping Cope With Autism Through Music Therapy

Patrick Cavanaugh

For people who are recovering from an injury, or working to overcome special needs like autism, there are a number of therapies - speech, occupational, even equestrian. There's also music therapy. A program at Queens University trains students to enter this field. Patrick Cavanaugh Like most 13-year-old boys, Patrick Cavanaugh likes to have friends over, but it's hard for him to interact when the friend arrives, says his mother Cindy Cavanaugh. "He'll get very nervous and instead of engaging or participating with friend he'll start reciting, he'll recite an entire tv program, or a book," she says. Lately, he's been reciting the children's book, "Tikki Tikki Tembo." "So, if he's really nervous he'll start reciting (the book) and not engage you at all," Cavanaugh says. Patrick is autistic. For help, his mother takes him to Queens University once a week for music therapy class. Patrick especially has trouble talking to people he doesn't know. Anything out of the ordinary throws him off. Music therapy helps him connect. At Queens, he works with a certified music therapist and student Danielle Glefke. They help him with basics. Things like, "Hello," and "How are you?" "Children who are born with autism come across with a lot of communication problems. They are just unable to express themselves in a normal fashion. There's outbursts, there's banging their head on things - things that aren't socially acceptable," Glefke says. Glefke sings, " Hello Ms. Sabrina how are you today?" Then, it's Patrick's turn to sing along and ask the same question. As Daniel bangs on drums, sings songs and plunks the xylophone he's having fun, building confidence, practicing fine motor skills, and strengthening literacy skills. In just four months of therapy, his mother has seen a difference. "After the first couple of sessions it was obvious to me that she just really clicked with him and that this was going to be really positive and Patrick would leave here wanting to stop at my husband's office and tell him how fun music was, wanting to call grandma on the phone and tell her what a great time he had at music," Cindy Cavanaugh says. That enthusiasm is what inspires Danielle to pursue a music therapy degree. "I think that it's so incredible to see how music allows people who normally can't communicate with the world to have an outlet of communication, and to express themselves in ways that other people might be not be able to understand." After she graduates, she'll work with clients young and old. Music therapy can work to help a variety of issues from learning disabilities and physical limitations in the young, in the memory problems and challenges that come with to Alzheimers and dementia in the old. "I think that's the great thing about music therapy. Because it's (music) so universal, it hits all populations" Glefke says. Simple songs, helping people master the simple tasks in life that make a big difference As a parent, all you want is for your children to be happy, Cindy Cavanaugh says. And Cavanaugh says she definitely sees that occurring in her child through music therapy. The Charlotte Arts Journalism Alliance is a collaborative effort of WFAE, the Charlotte Observer, WCNC-TV, QCityMetro.com, Charlotte Viewpoint and UNC-Charlotte to enhance arts coverage in our region