Children with special needs see hope in playing drums
Bang, bang, bang. The loud sounds of African drums with children's singing throbs along the corridor of Tongji University's Yangzhi Rehabilitation Hospital. Children play the drums in the classroom under a therapist's instruction, while their parents and grandparents enjoy the sound with smile on face.
This time though the kids were especially excited – they will perform at a charity Christmas gala on Saturday.
The African drums are part of an art program that the hospital has introduced for children with problems like autism, down syndrome and developmental delays. Among the treatment, music therapy, especially African drums, is the most popular among children.
"I can see the huge progress my daughter has made in the past year. She loves it so much and plays it at home every day," said a mother of 14-year-old Yuele, who suffers from down syndrome. "Children with down syndrome are more sensitive to music and rhythm. She becomes happier and more sociable after playing drums. Whenever she starts playing, she becomes positive and is in a good mood."
Chen Liyuan, a therapist at the hospital's Pudong clinic, said music therapy is not purely music performance.
"Music therapy is not just relaxation. We use all kinds of music-related measures like listening, singing, instrument playing, music creating, lyric writing, dancing and painting in the class. Then we also adopt the new neurological music therapy into our treatment. The feedback has been positive," she said.
The African drums are used as a team music treatment, which is part of neurological music therapy. It can improve children's muscle force, endurance and control to mobility and also help them learn how to cooperate with others. It develops their focus, coordination, creativity and teamwork and boosts their self-judgement and confidence.
"African drumming, with the loud sound, strong rhythm and easy learning curve, is very popular among children. They have learnt dozens of songs and have participated in many performances and competitions. We also arrange family treatment programs, during which I explain the meaning and the brain function of every song and rhythm and all parents are very supportive and cooperative," Chen noted.
Yi Yi, a girl in the African drums team, said she likes playing the drums very much.
"It is fun and interesting. I am happy when playing the drums," said she, who closely follows the therapist during the course.
Officials from Yangzhi said the hospital has different training programs for children and adults with different problems.
"We have designed individualized therapy in line with each patient's condition. Art rehabilitation is a type of psychological treatment which includes artistic expressions like painting, music and dance to encourage children to participate in social activities through artistic methods and expression," according to Zheng Qin of Yangzhi's Pudong clinic.
"Early screening, detection, treatment and rehabilitation are key for better treatment effects. We hope to arouse parents' awareness."
"I am working with other parents to organize a drums team for these children, who can not only use the therapy as a rehabilitation method but also a route to be involved in society, a lifestyle and even their means of livelihood," said Yuele's mother. "They love music and African drums very much. It gives them and us hope."
Yuele and her team members have been invited by the Expatriate Center to participate in a charity Christmas gala on Saturday night. They will play the African drums during the event, which will also see students from international schools, charitable organizations, choral and orchestra elites perform.