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Music therapy helps young patients feel better

The music therapy program at Lucile Packard Children's Hospital Stanford brings hope and healing to young patients in need of an interlude of inspiration.

Singing a song, strumming a guitar, tapping a tambourine; Music seems so simple, but it can do so much for children who need a boost.

Every day the Music Therapy program at Lucile Packard Children's Hospital Stanford brings hope and healing to young patients in need of an interlude of inspiration. Music therapy also helps those patients -- from tiny babies in the neonatal intensive care unit to teens almost the size of adults -- to take control over their environment, express themselves during stressful times and share meaningful moments with family members within the walls of the hospital.

Board-certified music therapists Cassi Crouse and Rebekah Martin use the power of the melody for a variety of purposes: to reduce anxiety, help kids manage their pain, normalize the hospital setting and encourage neurological growth. By creating music interventions individualized to each patient, Crouse and Martin also can promote socialization, facilitate rehabilitation, encourage baby-parent bonding in the NICU, and support development of speech and motor skills in critically- or chronically-ill children.

A recent story for Stanford Children's Health highlights how music therapy can subtly, but effectively, help kids in the hospital cope:

For children with chronic illnesses, we're working on goals like promoting positive relationships with peers, increasing self-esteem and coping with extensive hospitalizations and time away from 'normal' life," says Martin. "Interwoven between learning cool riffs and strumming patterns are things like social skills, opportunities for independence and choice-making, or conversations about support systems and meaningful relationships.

Patients who have benefited include 15-year-old music fan and budding musician Kayano Lizardo-Bristow. He has chronic kidney disease, and is undergoing dialysis three days a week while waiting for a new kidney. He also has regular guitar lessons and weekly sessions with Martin.

Recently Martin and registered nurse Colin James surprised Kayano with a special gift: his own guitar, signed by Ed Sheeran, his favorite musician.

I've seen him become more motivated to overcome challenges, engage with peers more easily and display increased independence," says Martin.

One of the youngest music therapy recipients is 3-month-old baby Aria Bennett. Born with tetralogy of Fallot, a rare, complex congenital heart defect, Aria has already undergone three surgeries.

With Crouse's help, Aria's mother recorded a music therapy CD. She sang lullabies a cappella to soothe her baby when she could not be by Aria's side at the hospital. As Aria's father Dylan Barrett said:

Music therapy brings a calming presence in the room for everyone -- parents and providers.

Photo courtesy of Lucile Packard Children's Hospital Stanford

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