Music Play Guest Post: Mrboosmum Joy and Learning Through Music

Today I am honoured to host a Music Play post from an incredible mother and an amazing writer.

Mrboosmum shares how music lets her have fun with her family and how musical play has helped her son’s development.

This is an inspirational story of musical play. Please read it and then pop over the Premmeditations to learn more about Boo and his awesome mummy.

I grew up in a very noisy house. First of all, there were the animals. At one point, we had two dogs, two hamsters (and another my sister was looking after for a friend), two rabbits and a budgie. The only thing that outnumbered the pets were the musical instruments.

By the age of ten, I was playing the violin, the descant and treble recorder and the organ. I dabbled badly on the guitar and harmonica and other assorted oddments (my very musical Mum’s two ukuleles and a Fender my Dad bought 25 years ago after a windfall and has never learned to play), while my sister played the flute and clarinet as well as various bits of percussion. And then there was the music we listened to. I think I listened to pretty much every genre going. My Mum liked the Beatles and the Carpenters, Abba and country and western, Broadway musicals, Mahler and Elgar. My Dad liked the Stones, Chuck Berry, Buddy Holly and Little Richard. And I developed my own tastes: a mixture of many of theirs with a healthy side order of jazz.

Music was a huge part of my life and a huge part of my education, too. The discipline of practicing, of working together with others in groups and orchestras taught me a lot. And it was fun, too. But as with lots of fun things, adulthood got in the way. I still play the organ when I visit my Mum and Dad in stolen minutes between meals, cries of ‘Mummy’ and nappy changes. But I have long since stopped playing the violin, although now my daughter is learning to play it and I sneak quick goes on her half-size when she’s not looking. I don’t even listen to as much music as I used to. Long journeys are made to the sound of Dr Zeuss stories or Disney musical scores. And when I drive to work I listen to audiobooks related to my job.

But my son Boo has changed things in this aspect of our lives as he has all others. You see, Boo was born 11 weeks early nearly 2 years ago. We don’t know why. He got meningitis when he was three days old and suffered a massive brain injury. As a result, he has quadriplegic cerebral palsy and is globally developmentally delayed. He has very stiff arms and legs and a torso that’s like a marshmallow. That said, he is learning to sit and roll and saying odd words. Oh, and he is the happiest most gorgeous child I have ever met.

Our lives consist of a weekly whirl of appointments (about 4-5 a week) and as much therapy (physio, occupational and speech and language therapy, Portage, hydrotherapy and so forth) as we can fit in. We don’t and can’t just play with him. ‘Therapeutic play’ are our watchwords. Everything has to be done with an eye to do all we can to aid his development to ensure he reaches his cognitive and physical potential.

When he was much younger I cried a lot more than I do now, and I remember sobbing my heart out to my best friend on the phone one day saying that I just wanted to be able to play with my baby as a baby. I didn’t want to be his therapist, I wanted to be his Mum. I wanted to enjoy him and him to enjoy being with me.

Music was one of the ways I have discovered that I can be and have all of those things at once. In fact, I would go so far as to say that music has promoted Boo’s development more than anything else we expose him. And it’s just so much fun!

So when Jennie asked for guest posts from people who use musical play with their children I couldn’t resist offering something. Here are just some of the things we do with Boo. They combine joy and learning in the best possible ways and keep us all that little bit saner.

Here are just some of the musical weapons in our arsenal:

music 1

And here are some of the things we do with them…

1) Gross Motor Development: Holding musical instruments in different positions (lying on your back or side, or in a supported sitting position, or during tummy time) helps to develop great arm and hand function. Boo struggles with both of these things. Lifting and lowering his arms in front or to the side is no mean feat for him, but put maracas in his hands and it becomes a whole lot more enticing and suddenly possible. And different instruments help do this in different ways. With maracas, for instance, you can get him to hold one at a time and isolate one arm or hand while trying to keep the other still, or give him two and get him to move them in parallel. Or, if you want to get really tricky, you can give him a tambourine or rainmaker drum (the one with the fishes on the right) and get him to hold it with two hands and move it. You can do the same with feet and legs too, by putting the drum by one or both feet and getting him to kick it or by attaching bells with Velcro to his ankles, a tip I gave a friend who had a neurotypical child who couldn’t/wouldn’t raise her legs of the ground and was very frustrated she couldn’t roll. Within a couple of weeks, she was rolling.

2) Fine Motor Development: Of course, the really clever stuff with instruments is when you get your fine motor skills going. This is even trickier for Boo than the gross motor stuff. But he’ll try anything for a musical pay-off. Every instrument we have poses a different fine motor challenge. Bells need to be held in a different way to maracas, for instance. And if you bang a triangle it isn’t going to make any sound, unlike a drum, which will shake the house’s foundations if our miniature Hulk gets his hands on it. Learning how to grab and hold each of these things teaches Boo skills that he needs to be able feed himself or do a million and one things in day-to-day life (lift a cup, brush your teeth, get dressed). We have a bunch of physio exercises we can do to try to help him achieve the same goals. Frankly, they are no fun at all.

And then there’s the whole blowing thing. We’re still working on this with Boo (he has just learned to suck through a straw, but not yet to blow reliably). Getting the lip closure and diaphragm control needed to blow on a whistle or toy trumpet helps with speech and feeding. It is also the cause of bent-double hilarity and long fits of giggles when it accidently happens in this house.

3) Singing: I love singing; so does Boo’s sister. And we sing to him a lot. His speech, as I’ve said, is delayed, but his understanding seems to be excellent, and I’m sure that’s largely because of songs we sing to him (great vocabulary enrichers) and we use Makaton, where we can, for various words. Lately, to our great delight, he’s started to join in with the singing, in his way. A great way of getting children to speak (especially when they face challenges in this area) is to sing a familiar rhyme and skip the end word of each line. A favourite here, and at Boo’s conductive education classes, is ‘Twinkle Twinkle’. The first few times, it went like this:
Me: [grinning inanely and singing slightly off-key] ‘Twinkle, twinkle little …’
Boo: [hysteric giggling because Mummy seems to have forgotten the words that surely every 18 month old in the land knows]
Me: ‘How I wonder what you …’
Boo: [look of incredulity at how stupid Mummy is not to know the words to the song she’s singing].
Now it goes like this:
Me: ‘Twinkle, twinkle little …]
Boo: ‘tarrrrrr’
Me: ‘How I wonder what you’
Boo: ‘Arrr, arr’ [squeals of delight]

We also use songs as a way of promoting his physical development. I don’t know if Boo will ever walk independently, but he will push up to stand with light support from us now if you sing the ‘Grand Old Duke of York’. This boy moves up and down right on cue.

And we sing songs to help distract him so and quieten his mind (which is usually busy sending his muscles wappy signals) so he can achieve physical tasks that don’t come naturally to him. There’s a song, for instance, we sing at conductive education called ‘I Sit Ready’ and whenever he hears it, Boo sits better straighter and for longer than in any other circumstances.

4) Fun: Mostly, though, we incorporate lots of music into our life because it makes life better. Things can be difficult in Boo Land. This wasn’t the life we’d planned for or wanted when Boo unexpectedly arrived. And it can feel horribly relentless sometimes. But music fills our house with fun, and a little piece of that elusive normal. We learn through it, yes, but we also laugh and giggle ourselves silly, which is just as important. Don’t you think?

My name is Mrboosmum. I am the mother of two children: six-year-old Sissyboo, who is beautiful, clever and a little bit crazy, and was born at 39 weeks; and Boo, born at 29 weeks and living with quadriplegic cerebral palsy and epilepsy. I blog over at Premmeditations where I write about our new normal and all that has come with it.

If you have a music play post that you would like to share then please do email me I would love to share your story on the blog.

2 thoughts on “Music Play Guest Post: Mrboosmum Joy and Learning Through Music

  1. Pingback: Good News Fridays #43-45 | Premmeditations

  2. Pingback: 8 Presents for Young Children with Cerebral Palsy | Premmeditations

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