Healing Through Rhythm

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In working to reach children living with some of the most severe disabilities in Lewis County, Popes Kids Place in Centralia is using a new medical instrument.

A drum.

At Vivians House respite and daycare center, staff are using percussion instruments to help children learn and communicate. Called The Rhythmic Arts Project, the Centralia area medical center was able to provide the curriculum to its staff through a grant from Ron Simpson of the David and Minnie Meyerson Foundation of Duvall, which promotes programs for children with disabilities.

TRAP was founded in 1997 by Eddie Tuduri, a professional drummer who has appeared on more than 40 albums by musicians such as Ike Turner, the Beach Boys and Dwight Yoakam. The idea came to Tuduri after breaking his neck in a surfing accident in 1997. The accident paralyzed him and he had to undergo a cervical fusion surgery but he was determined to gain some of his life back. Tuduri said rhythm therapy, using drums to get his muscles moving, factored heavily in his recovery.

I asked for some drum sticks and a few percussion items. Having been a professional drummer all my life it seemed only natural that I test those waters first, Tuduri writes on the TRAP Web site. I was extremely weak but there was potential in what I felt and hope that I could regenerate nerves and impulses.

Five weeks later, Tuduri walked out of the hospital having regained his mobility. Whats more, before the end of his recovery the doctors and nurses at the Rehabilitation Institute of Santa Barbara had taken notice of the physical and mental benefits of Tuduris rhythm therapy and were using it with other patients. The director of the institute worked with Tuduri to develop a curriculum that has proved successful in helping people with traumatic brain injury, mental illness, cerebral palsy, developmental disabilities, Alzheimers, and other forms of dementia. The program uses various types of percussion instruments to create recognizable patterns that can be matched to speech as well as different educational subjects.

Tuduri visited Popes Kids Place earlier this year and presented a training session for employees on the use of TRAP with the children at their center. Shawna Estrada of Vivians House respite center at Popes Kids Place said right away she has recognized the significance of having this program available to their children.

There really is no wrong way of doing this, Estrada said. You can pretty much tailor it to any kind of situation, which is great for the center because we can pretty much do it any time.

The most amazing benefits of TRAP have been with children at the center who are non-verbal, said Popes Kids Place director Penny Jo Haney. The rhythm of the drums seems to encourage children to vocalize. Even those who cannot actually vocalize are able to use the drums to mimic the beat given by a teacher, thus giving them a way to connect with their caregivers.

That was the most amazing thing about it is these children who had no verbal communication, it was a way to draw them in and make them part of the group, Haney said.

Vivians House currently sits next door to Head Start of Lewis County program and the center staff have used TRAP to unite the two groups. Haney said Head Start will be moving out of that space in June and Popes Kids Place will be siting its 3- to 5-year-old daycare program in the space. When that separation of infants and older children takes place, she said the TRAP curriculum is planned to be expanded and formalized even further.

I know the staff have been really impressed with it, Haney said.

The drums come out at least twice a day at Vivians House, though Estrada said they always play it by ear to see how often the drums are needed. Sometimes they are used for one-on-one sessions, especially if a behaviorally challenged child begins to have difficulty.

We usually cant get them to sit down for something like story time but with the TRAP project theyre happy to do it, Estrada said of some of her behaviorally challenged children. They actually want to do this.

Besides letter and word recognition, the TRAP curriculum can be used to work with children on subjects such as numbers, shapes, day of the week, name and color recognition. And for the staff at Popes Kids Place, one of the best features of the program is that it can involve all of their children.

Even the most medically fragile kids we have can do something, even if its just shaking a tambourine, Estrada said. And I think they really do get it.

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