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Music therapy brings progress with the beat of a drum

Amanda Fehd
Jim Grant / Tahoe Daily Tribune/ Colleen Klym leads Maiella Riva, left, and Anthony Triano through a song as Shauna Triano looks on during music therapy for children with learning disabilities.
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A year ago, 3-year-old Anthony Triano could not walk, feed himself, dress himself or go to the potty alone. Anthony has Down syndrome and he learns things a little more slowly than other children.

But with the help of a drumbeat and a song, Anthony can now do all of those tasks.

“Music engages a different part of the brain,” said Colleen Klym, a music therapist. “So while one part of the brain might not be able to process things, the part that processes music might be more advanced in these kids who are developmentally disabled.”

Klym, 27, works with children like Anthony, as well as the elderly who have lost speech or motor functions. Through her company, Mountain Music Therapy, she works at several area schools and nursing homes and provides private sessions.

Anthony took his first steps with Colleen through music, said his mother, Shauna Triano.

She had been working with Anthony for more than a year to teach him to thread beads on a string, considered a developmental milestone.

He got it within five minutes during music therapy session last week. Other tasks, like using a spoon, have also come more easily, his parents said.

With standard therapies, Anthony would make some progress, his father Dave Triano said, “but the difference when the therapies were integrated with music was stunning.”

Music therapy is an established health care profession which requires 41Ú2 years of training plus a credential, according to the American Music Therapy Association at http://www.musictherapy.org.

The profession began in the hospitals of World Wars I and II, where doctors noticed music’s benefit to patients’ well-being. The first music therapy degree was awarded 51 years ago at Michigan State University.

The therapy was featured in the Nov. 14 edition of Time magazine for its alleged benefits to patients with Alzheimer’s and dementia.

Despite this history, Klym said she still senses skepticism from people and feels she has to prove it is valid.

But parents like the Trianos have left their doubt behind.

“It’s amazing,” Shauna Triano said. “I keep thinking it’s not going to work and it works. Every time she does something with him, he’s able to do it.”

Klym is not a performer. Rather, she uses several instruments to teach speech and movement, and improve social skills through an interactive environment, where the patient participates to his or her best ability.

With the beat of a drum or guitar, Klym breaks down the steps to a certain task like putting on pants or making a sentence, and might come up with a song to match.

Lynne Tara wishes she knew about music therapy a long time ago, when her 15-year-old daughter Katelyn, who also has Down syndrome, was an infant.

When Katelyn started therapy last year with Klym, she could only say a couple of words at a time. Now, she is forming sentences for the first time in her life, according to her mother.

“We had not seen much improvement at all until this came along,” Tara said. “She works hard with these kids. There’s so many children who have speech delay who could benefit from this.”

Klym grew up in an Irish home with music all around her. In tough times, she always turned to music to help her get through, she said.

“I feel like I’ve been blessed with the gift of music. And I’m honored to work with these people and see them learn and feel good and be touched by music like I was touched by music.

“The music speaks for itself and it does work.”

For more information, call Klym at (530) 659-7438.


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