The Sensational Musical Magic of Paul McCartney
When my oldest daughter, Jaimie, was very young, her sensory sensitivities were so severe that she wasn’t able to function in most social settings. Her tactile system was most affected where a light touch instantly threw her into an inconsolable rage. How torturous it was as a mommy not to be able to comfort my child when she was upset, hurt or scared or even give her loving hugs or cuddles. But music gave me a way to offer that comfort without actually having to touch her. And the musical magic of Paul McCartney was how I figured out music was my lifeline to Jaimie. According to Ryan Judd, Board Certified Music Therapist, “Music therapy began in the 1950’s when musicians start to work with World War II vets in a hospital setting. Doctors and nurses observed the positive physical and emotional effect the music was having on their patients.”
One afternoon when I was eight months pregnant with my second daughter, Jordy, Jaimie’s dad, Steve, took her for a walk to give me a bit of a break. Jaimie, who wasn’t even two at the time, was completely dependent on me. I was the only person she let near her or do things for her. I prayed for some sort of miracle that either helped me figure out what was going on with Jaimie or, at the very least, to learn how to help her. That day, my prayer was answered.
After having a short nap, I decided to join Jaimie and Steve outside. She rarely tolerated the action at the park but she loved to run and spin in the open field behind our apartment building. The moment I stepped out onto the field, I saw Jaimie and Steve. Jaimie was laying down screaming at the top of her lungs, while her dad tried getting her up. Jaimie kicked and threw her arms around, her shrill cries filling the air.
I ran as fast as my very pregnant body allowed me to until I got to her side. Steve couldn’t pin down what had triggered her meltdown but right then it didn’t matter. She was too far gone. I didn’t know what to do. There, kneeling beside my sweet girl as she fought some unseen assailant ravaging her body, I cried for her. Then I did the only thing I could think of to offer comfort: I sang to her.
I started by humming classical tunes. When that didn’t work I moved to big band songs my grandfather listened to. Then Andre Bocelli, Michael Buble, classical rock and even The Wiggles. Nothing worked. Finally I sang ‘Blackbird’ by The Beatles, and something amazing happened. She didn’t stop crying right away but her sobs got quieter, her body relaxed. By the time I got to the end of the song, Jaimie laid there staring up at the sky and was calm enough to allow me to pick her up so we could go home. Ryan Judd feels that “Music can be beneficial in so many ways because it is processed in both the left and right hemispheres of the brain. It is also a multi-sensory activity that incorporates the visual, kinesthetic, auditory and tactile systems.”
Right then I knew there was something magical about The Beatles, particularly Paul, that took Jaimie to a safe place and it gave me a tool through which to bond with her. I used their music to calm her, work her stresses or sillies out and incorporated it into her S.I. therapy later on. They are still her favorite musical influence and she still turns to them when she needs them the most. Judd says, “Everyone can benefit from music therapy and it does not require any musical skills or experience. Music is an integral part of all of us and when that inner music can be nurtured, a person can learn, grow and thrive!”
This past November, Paul came to Edmonton for two shows. I was fortunate enough to have gotten tickets for both nights, and took my two oldest girls to see him the second. The girls created a sign for him and I had a shirt made. We were moved up to the open space behind the third row because the kind Rexall staff saw the girls’ sign, and my shirt, and saw that Jaimie was struggling with the crowd of people around us in the 20th row. Just as we were moved up, Paul sang ‘Blackbird’. I crouched down, Jaimie perching on my lap, and cried as he sang, remembering the miracle he gave us eight years earlier. It was a surreal moment. Judd believes “There are so many ways that you can share the gift of music with your child but the most important thing is to have fun and make it a positive, successful experience!”
Just before the final song of the night, Paul not only read the girls’ sign and gave them a ‘thumbs up’; he also read my shirt and gave me a wink. In that moment, when our eyes met, I silently thanked him for all he’s given to us. He may never know the powerful effect his music has had on my Jaimie, but we will always treasure seeing him sing ‘Blackbird’ and know he took my message of thanks on my shirt with him when he left Edmonton: ‘Thank you for giving her broken wings the strength to fly.’
Chynna Laird – is a psychology major, freelance writer and multi award-winning author living in Edmonton, Alberta with her partner, Steve, and their three daughters Jaimie, Jordhan, and Sophie and son, Xander.
Contributing Author: Ryan Judd, MA, MT-BC Board Certified Music Therapist. Visit www.therhythmtree.com
Photos Courtesy Chynna Laird and Creative Commons
Founder of the The Rhythm Tree
Ryan Judd is a board certified music therapist who specializes in working with children with autism and other developmental disabilities. Ryan is also the founder of The Rhythm Tree, www.TheRhythmTree.com, which has recently released The Rhythm Tree Music Therapy DVD Package for Children with Special Needs.
“I see children with special needs struggle every day to do what most people take for granted. I believe that children with special needs deserve to learn and develop in a fun, creative and motivating atmosphere,” said Ryan Judd, MA, MT-BC, who has been working with children with special needs for more than 12 years. “My mission is to teach parents, educators and therapists how to use music to help children with special needs learn, grow and thrive!”
The Rhythm Tree Music Therapy Package consists of four interrelated components (DVD, guidebook, CD, percussive instruments) that provide the tools necessary to effectively engage kids with music.
The Rhythm Tree Music Therapy DVD Package is available for purchase at www.therhythmtree.com/store.
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This post originally appeared on our March/April 2013 Magazine