weighed 1030 grams; his brother weighed
only 760 grams!
Both boys needed to be resuscitated at
birth, and it was over an hour before they
were stabilized and my wife and I were
able to see them. Our firstborn was active and responsive while his brother remained unresponsive after delivery. My
wife (also a musician) stood beside him
and started to sing “You Are My Sunshine,” a song she had sung to them in
her womb every night before bed. Our
son instantly started moving and reaching for her hand to hold her finger!
Shortly after that, I started using music
and music lessons as a gentle strategy to
help children learn and develop, a strategy that gradually removes the therapeutic aspect. My students were now going
to a music lesson just like the rest of the
kids did, rather than going to a clinic appointment or another doctor’s visit. The
students were involved, participating,
learning, and leaving with a smile. It was
incredibly rewarding to witness these exceptional students succeed. Smiles of accomplishment became a driving force as
I helped all of my students learn.
In 2011, one parent asked me about an
after-school program called MusIQ Club.
Curious about the possible benefits, I
contacted the company and started using their interactive music software with
some of my students. The response was
informative. Students seemed not only to
gravitate to the computer but also worked
well within its interactive environment.
One of these students, a 9-year-old
boy with Asperger’s syndrome and
ADHD, had been my student for eigh-
teen months. Early on I began using
strategies to develop and increase his
attention span. During each session, we
had rotated between singing, movement,
instrumental, and musical activities, and
he had displayed a slowly increasing at-
tention span, with a maximum of 5-min-
ute sessions. However, introducing this
child to sessions using interactive music
software had an immediate impact. He
began to actively request the computer
music sessions, and using the interactive
software, he was able to concentrate for a
full 45-minute session about learning to
read music and play the piano! Within
six months this boy was reading music,
following beats and rhythms, and getting
full enjoyment from a solid music ses-
sion. His increased interest in music al-
lowed me, as an instructor, to focus on
behavior, social interactions, and emo-
tion. I have seen this situation repeat it-
self with many of my students.
The benefits of music
training are supported
by recent neuroscience
remained. When the music lessons were
resumed, the advantage increased again.
Reading music involves reading an abstract set of symbols, interpreting those
symbols, and translating them to physical motion of ten fingers across a piano
keyboard. That’s exercise for the brain,
both receptive and productive processes
at the same time, and at any age it develops new neural connections.
Permanent change to the brain was
measured in a 1995 Heinrich-Heine University study that found the cerebrum
was significantly larger in people who
had received instrumental music training early in life.
2 A 2012 study shows that
students who receive instrumental music
training early in life develop enhanced
listening skills that can make a significant
difference in academic performance.
Attraction to learning music is one of
the great consistencies in human nature.
Consistency is required for learning . . .
so why not lean on music to help our
children learn and develop? Using mu-
sic as a gentle strategy and driving force,
combined with evidence-based methods
of intervention, we are better able to help
our exceptional children excel. Repla-
cing the therapeutic focus with music
learning makes it enjoyable—not just
another therapy session or doctor’s ap-
pointment. Shaping their mode of think-
ing and making it fun allows children to
approach music, education, and devel-
opment with smiles, thus allowing them
to achieve and advance educationally,
musically, behaviorally, and socially. Be-
ing excited about music extends the ben-
efit of our class because students practice
with the interactive software every day,
and parents appreciate sharing music
with them at home.
Steve Buckley has been involved in the
music industry for more than forty years,
following fifteen years of private classical
and jazz training. He has been teaching
music to children for twenty-five years and
working with special needs children for
more than thirteen years. In 2011 Steve
began designing programs for children
with special needs using interactive music
software by Adventus, and he continues
to teach complex care and high behavior
children privately at his home studio in Innisfil, Ontario.
1. American Psychological Association (2003, July
29). Music Instruction Aids Verbal Memory,
“Music Training Improves Verbal but Not Visual
Memory: Cross-Sectional and Longitudinal Explorations in Children,” Yim-Chi Ho, M. Phil.;
Mei-Chun Cheung, Ph.D.; and Agnes S. Chan,
Ph.D.; The Chinese University of Hong Kong;
Neuropsychology, Vol. 17, No. 3, www.science
2. Department of Neurology, Heinrich-Heine University, P.O. Box 101007, D-40001 Diisseldorf,
Germany (received 20 June 1994; accepted 27
February 1995). The subsequently performed
Scheff tests showed a significantly larger anterior
callosum in musicians with early commencement
of musical training compared to controls, and in
musicians with early commencement of training
compared to musicians beginning later (p. 0.01).
110420112058.htm, “Childhood Music Lessons
May Provide Lifelong Boost in Brain Functioning.”