Monday, April 27, 2009

Music at Your Fingertips: Radios, Switches and TBI

I was heading to a home visit on a long highway through wheatfields, making my way to a small country town. Turning off the highway, I passed an old feed store and headed down what used to be a frontier brick and stone building -lined main street. If you dumped truck-loads of dirt on the street to cover it up and threw in a few cowboys on horses, you would think you were on the set of a western movie.
When I arrived at the house, using a Powerlink 2 from Ablenet, a Big Red switch on a universal mount, a radio and an lamp that looks like an aquarium, I set up a cause and effect activity for a non-verbal 4 year-old girl in a wheelchair who had a traumatic brain injury when less than a year old. The doctors said she would never be able to do anything, but the 2 aunties who care for her and love her have worked hard to get her to respond and clue in on what is going on around her.
Since her arm was hanging down off the side of her chair, we mounted the switch so it sat under her fingertips. I moved her fingertips slightly so she could get the feel of flexing them a little to make the switch trigger the radio station and the aquarium lamp on, timed for 3 seconds. As soon as the music started she rolled her eyes and opened her mouth, but when the music and lights stopped, she didn't try to get it going again. We verbally encouraged and coaxed, and finally I moved her fingertips and started the music and lights again.
"When we say funny things, she laughs," shared one aunt. "Not too long ago when we were talking about my sister having to be gone part of the day and a sitter needing to be here, she started to cry. We think she knows what is going on."
"I am sure she does. If she can move her fingertips to make the music play and gets the idea that she can have control over it, it will give her some power, and the stimulus will get those synapses' firing and we can build another block in the foundation," I encouraged.
We moved out to the back step of the house and continued to visit when suddenly from the living room we heard the country music station we had the radio set on, begin blaring through the house.
"She did it by herself!" cried one of the aunts.
I watched as the other aunt with me, began to tear up, her eyes showing the excitement of what she was hearing. "We know there is alot going on in her head and we want to see her world open up."
"She is just like any other typical kid inside," I said. "She will trigger the switch and do what she wants on her timetable, not ours." It seemed like when we were staring at her and waiting for her to do it, she wasn't going to. But as soon as I was out of the room...there it went!
I shared a few strategies with them on how to use the timer on the Powerlink and left them to experiment and play.
What a lucky girl to have 2 aunts that care so much. She is just starting to expand her abilities and there is so much ahead.

All the best to you!



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