Free weekly music therapy program at Gigi's Playhouse

Published: Jul. 10, 2019 at 10:10 PM CDT
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Using music to reach nonmusical goals is what Wednesday evenings at Gigi’s playhouse are all about this summer.

Children here “are working on communication social skills and motor skills for the younger ones. Addressing body parts positional concepts like high and low, following directions,” says Board Certified Music Therapist at West Music Lorna Johnson.

She along with volunteers at Gigi’s Playhouse help to run a music therapy program that’s free for children with Down syndrome. The music program at GiGi’s is divided into two age groups and they meet every Wednesday. The first group is for babies who are newborns to toddlers who are three. The second is for kids between four and nine years old.

The class starts with children picking the colored circle of their choice to sit on. And everyone singing their name with the movement of that child’s choosing. It can be a clap, or a movement. Children are encouraged to play with sticks and pass them to one another, as well as to express themselves through words, song, dance and movement.

One of the reasons Johnson says music is such a strong tool for therapy is because it has “an inherent structure.”

“They (the kids) can tell the end of a cadence has come and so something is going to happen now so there are musical cues built into music. Everyone can benefit from musical therapy from 0 to 99,” says Johnson.

Parents and organizers say the music program is also an opportunity for kids who are not yet old enough for pre-school to socialize in an environment they like.

“Lincoln has two older brothers who he interacts with all the time but seeing him interact with other peers his own age just warms the heart,” says Amy Sweeney.

Lincoln is three years old and his favorite song is one where a scarf is scrunched into the size of a seed and kids stand up tall and spread the scarf as if it grew.

“West Music has been doing a fabulous job with it and I hope they continue to do it. We especially have looked into music therapy for school, ‘cause he'll start preschool and we hope he'll be able to get it in his IEP (Individualized Education Program) so that he can continue doing it. But I really hope that GiGi's is able to continue to do it here,” says Sweeney.

The Music program at Gigi’s is free for parents and their children, but it’s not free for Gigi’s playhouse to run.

“We received some grant funding to run to bring the music therapy here, it's not a free program for us to offer which is why we wrote grants, but it is free for our families to participate,” says Pam Lynch, Site Director at Gigi's Playhouse of the Quad Cities.

The current program is a summer session held every Wednesday that is scheduled to end mid-August. Gigi’s is hoping to secure enough funding to bring the program back in the fall. And it’s far more than just a music program for kids.

“The parents we've met at GiGi's over the last three years have meant a ton to our family. It’s nice to be able to do things like this with our kids that are going through the same thing and for them all to be in this class together is really fun,” says Sweeney.

Each class ends as it begins, with a song that includes each child’s name.