Category: Living with Brain Injury & Neurological Disorders
Advocacy, accessibility, disability, and assistive cognitive technology information useful in living with brain injury, hydrocephalus, and other neurological disorders that impair cognition and independent living.
Last week on June 11, 2013, I held a drum circle at a group home for persons with schizophrenia. This was my first time conducting a therapeutic drum circle for this specific population and disorder, though I’ve put on drum circles in senior living homes and homeless shelters where some were schizophrenic. In my nuclear medicine work (17 years), I encountered this in some of my procedures and clinical workups. And in coaching of some 20 youth sports teams, I encountered a variety of behavioral issues.
I undertook some pre-event research of published works on the use of drumming and music therapy in schizophrenic populations. Mostly what I found via the Internet was with using music therapy, and most of this focused on supporting happiness and self-worth, where the latter was widely used towards sustaining employment.
With little published on the use of drumming here, I mostly relied on my broad experiences in drumming and in the neurosciences. I felt if today’s group were made happier by the drumming, then I would have achieved most of my goal. But there are also going to be family present. And I knew family would have questions, and attendees may well have questions too. There was also some pre-event discussion on how this mighty become an ongoing workshop. Still, I was undecided on which methods I would use today. I felt I should just go with the flow, and see what jumps out at me. And it did.
As I arrived, I was welcomed by my own heightened intuitive senses, and I picked up on many of the thoughts, energies, and emotions of the attendees and family. This may have been precipitated by a recent hectic schedule and limited sleep, but it could well have been due in part to a long talk I had the day before on traumatic brain injury. I relied upon my “intuitive direction” on how to facilitate this event, some of which I discuss in my blog below
Nonetheless, I was feeling highly insightful, and it led to some really warm discussions on earlier rock music and drummers, and this paved the way for my use of an “informative” approach with the drum circle, where I spoke and discussed the instruments, something I normally don’t do a lot of. It was a “busy” drum circle as we were in a fairly cluttered room with lots of furniture, some 15 people anxious and curious to play, and a lunch in waiting upon our finish. Below is a photo of me putting on another drumming workshop at a private home – that I share so readers can see what a “drum circle” is about. Privacy laws would prohibit me from sharing photos of patients/clients at a group home.
We got started on a simple rhythm. But, just as it was starting to gel, one of the attendees (John) jumped on the tan tans (bass) I had moved aside, and said I didn’t feel they’d fit without a skilled drummer to lead, as I would facilitate from djembe. As you might imagine, the bass killed the rhythm. I regrouped, and this time assigned John to play a simple bass pattern. But that didn’t work either, so I had to emphatically put the tans aside.
Over the next 45 minutes, we played a number of rhythms, and I think all were pleased. Then we enjoyed a nice pot luck lunch and social, followed by the group’s scheduled support session that I did not participate in. I was told after that the drumming seemed to cause a lot more participation and dialogue that usual. And the parent who arranged for my drum circle shared he felt the drumming really benefited them today.
I’m not able to provide photos of this event to due privacy reasons, but I have written other blogs that discuss the scientific challenges and integrative medicine mechanisms that are similar to that see in schizophrenia. The science of movement in basketball is very applicable to this disorder, as movement helps quiet the mind. Drumming for addiction is similarly applicable. As is drumming for autism. My related blogs include:
As I reflected back on my drum circle and session, it occurred to me that what this group really wanted and needed from me – was acceptance and HEALING! Drumming turned out to be the activity that brought everybody, and it was the service they paid me for. As a drum session facilitator, I felt rewarded to be able to work with this group.
This blog discusses the science and everyday managment of children and adults who live with neurological & learning disorders, PTSD, and other disorders associated with sensory processing disorder (SPD) and intolerance to sound, lights, and scents. In these affected individuals, sensory overexposure often results in medical sequela ranging from headache to dizziness, irritability, behavioral changes, descreased cognition, nausea, vomiting, and fatigue. In later stages, it can trigger “siezures.” Sound sensativity affects about 20 percent of the population. Problematic sensory processing disorder affects 5-10 percent of the population.
Sensory processing disorder is related to dysfunction of any of the five (5) senses. It was earlier termed sensory integration disorder (SID), hyperacusis, sensory overstimulation, and sensory overload. Sensory problems and SPD commonly follow neurological disorders and brain injury spanning hydrocephalus, post TBI, post tumor resection, multiple sclerosis, migraine disorders, drug & alcohol addiction, and PTSD, ADHD, ADD, and autism spectrum learning disabilities.
I became an affected SPD sufferer after onset hydrocephalus in 1992 from a head injury. Since 1995, I’ve undertaken research and implemented my findings in neurological consults (hydrocephalus monitoring, patient consults) and in drumming therapy and drum circle workshops with a wide array of health populations. While my specialty is mhealth, medical devices, and cognition, I am also involved in general health, movement disorders, and wellness and write about my findings online. I am of the opinion that sound, light, motion, and stress act as “sensory triggers” and are responsible for the high prevalence of PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder) and mental health challenges today. Imaging studies show that PTSD produces pathological changes in the brains of children. So, no doubt PTSD and sensory overload is wreaking havak on the brains of adults, including, police officers and those living in inner cities with high rates of crime.
The web page linked below provides a nice overview of the five (5) senses. Typically 1 to 3 of these are compromised in sensory processing disorder (SPD).
It has only been about 15 years (about year 2000) that SPD and sensory processing dysfunction have really been recognized. So we have a long way to go. Testing and documentation, education, and protections remain years behind what they should be.
I attribute this in part to the government’s earlier efforts to refute PTSD from military combat, and in recognizing autism as a disorder in of itself. In autism, there is also much debate and criticism of a causal relationship with childhood vaccines. And this has not helped to further care and treatment of SPD disorders.
My onset of SPD was gradual and often followed my shunt malfunctions and surgical treatment of my hydrocephalus. By the late 1990s, I understood SPD as a diminished capacity to process auditory, touch, visual, olfactory, and gustatory sensory stimuli. And over time, I began to view the challenges of SPD in terms of access & accommodations to public places, and even more broadly, cognitive accommodations with web sites, store displays, and user instructions. Today, the broader terminology for these considerations is cognitive accessibility, where I have subsequently set up a web page at www.CognitiveAccessibility.org
This next study below is list breakthrough research on sensory processing disorder (SPD) where scientists were able to document the areas of the brain affected by SPD. Thie image below is taken from their study.
My name is Stephen Dolleand I began this blog in 2010. I developed hydrocephalus 4 weeks following an auto accident in 1992. In the years that followed, I had many challenges to overcome, and became involved in Food & Drug Administration advocacy that led to my designing the DiaCeph Test for mHealth monitoring of hydrocephalus.
My SPD challenges weren’t so apparent from the start due to all the challenges. It was probably year 3 that I had begun to notice how sounds and visual stimuli (lights & erratic movements) could bring on a neurological event. Young children chasing birds would really get me. For sound, it was just busy environments that bothered me. I took a few more years before I was able to identify specifically what sounds and how they could bring on a neurological event – which I term the SPD effect. This can vary a bit from person to person. But typcially you’ll see a decrease in cognition, an increase in irritability and behavior change, headache, and changes in balance and orientation.
From 1992 to 2013, I underwent twelve CNS shunt revisions. In 2015, I was also diagnosed with pachymeningitis, and it has further aggravated my SPD challenges.
It was my astute neurologist in 1999 that shared new research on sound hypersensitivity, and instructed me with tips on how to help manage it. Back then, it was often termed “overstimulation.” And it then led to my undertaking a critical SPD study.
In 2002, I undertook my first SPD Study, where I employed both the Aerex Balance Padand the Boss BR-8 Recorder (w/ metronome) to evaluate touch, visual, and sound sensory challenges. I took my materials to a hydrocephalus conference at St. Joseph’s/CHOC Hospital in Orange, CA, and also to England Physical & Balance Therapy in Garden Grove, CA, where I was undergoing vestibular therapy. I published my study results on my web page below.
I employed the Boss BR-8 recorder and metronome to study the effect of sound on cognition in persons with hydrocephalus, plus interviewed about 20 individuals claiming to be affected by sound intolerance. I learned that the adverse effects of sound was more due to “rhythmic structure” of sound, or degree of syncopation or melody, versus volume or tempo.
I used the Airex balance pad to evaluate gaze dependency of balance in individuals with hydrocephalus. What I learned here, was that patients who were unable to maintain balance on the pad while focusing on a moving target (business card on a stick), termed gaze dependency, reported more problematic chronic headaches and SPD complaints. I concluded that additional deficits were likely causing the decreased sensory processing. I felt that the additional deficits might also help predict poor outcomes after the insertion of a CNS shunt for hydrocephalus.
Later in my study, I found that melodic and highly syncopated sound patterns seemed to offer a therapeutic effect to some of these complaints – as a mechanism in support of music therapy. I created an “audiotape” of melodic metronome beats and piano sequences from my Yamaha keyboard, and would play and listen to this audiotape 2-3 times per week. It seemed to help my sound sensory issues.
I published my study on my web site, and it has been hosted there since 2003.
It is common to experience difficulty with sound, light, and motion after brain injury and onset of neurological disorder. Perhaps the most problematic is offensive types of unsyncopated and white noise sound, which is everywhere today in busy urban areas.
You can simplify sound sensory processing into the “melodic” Mozart Effect on the healthy end of the spectrum, and tortuous repetitive sounds on the unhealthful end of the spectrum. Repetitive unhealthful sounds can make even normal people ill at the right decibel and sound pattern. In fact, sound is still today used to extract information from prisoners during wartime, and it plays a significant role in football & basketball.
In 2014, I published the above provocative blog on SPD and drumming for football, and detail how the ill effects of sound plays a role in college and NFL football. I discuss sensory and cognitive challenges from fan & stadium noise, and methods for using drum beats to help play call synchronization, player movements, and communications.
My Introduction to Drumming & Drum Circles
It was in 2004 that I became involved in hand drumming and drum circles from my personal and therapeutic activities with music. I had no thought or expectation that drumming would help my SPD challenges. But after about a year of regular drumming, I discovered that my SPD sound sensitivity was improved. I re-examined my research and proposed that group drumming might help affected individuals to better organize sound, like a form of physical therapy for sound processing. My company web page below discusses by durrent work with drumming for general health and neurological disorders.
Signals traverse our brains in wave form patterns like those seen on EEG tests, and there are literally millions of signals traversing brains daily. As our brains process signals in wave patterns, so do we physically move about in wave forms or rhythmic patterns, and one area where the two overlap today is in “proprioception,” where our bodies are able to remember specific types of movement patterns, i.e. in sports, dance, and this then is integrated into whatever sport, dance, or social activity we are doing.
As I became involved with drum circles and drumming for the brain, I discovered how drumming can help retrain the brain’s ability to process unsyncopated sound by engaging the individual in disordered sound, and allowing them to integrate an order to the beats played – in essence, serving as physical or occupational therapy for the brain. I then began to study audible rhythm’s role in balance and movement, cognition, mental health, team-building, and stress reduction.
In February 2016, I updated this earlier blog on my experience with drumming therapyin cerebral palsy and autism, plus I’ve put on quite a few drumming workshopsfor a number of neurological disorders. I link all of my efforts together as best I can.
Below is the autism article in support of the autistic boy in the video at the mall. This story and short video on sensory processing disorder (SPD) in autism is featured on The Mighty web site. I’ve pasted the YouTube link below so that it might play here.
The video is shot from Alexander’s point of view during a trip to the mall. From noises to smells to bright lights, it shows all the things that might cause Alexander, who was diagnosed with autism two years ago, to have a meltdown.
SPD is often a problematic medical/disability issue in autism, and deserves to be much more a part of our public health dialog. In fact, I believe we should approach autism from the standpoint of brain health, and treat it’s related sensory processing disorder more for what it is, a sequel of medical complaints.
If 20% of the populace were found vomiting from traveling in cars and public transportation from motion sickness, that would be a big story. But when it’s an individual struggling with a health issue involving the brain (as opposed to the middle ear), the public sees it thru biased eyes. And governments do too. The link below is the National Institute on Health April 2016 publication of alternative medicine for autism.
While my own SPD complaints are not normally as severe as the child in this film, at times I feel a lot of what this child is experiencing. Often I am forced to undertake a number of steps to protect me from unhealthful sound. SPD is not just about autism or hydrocephalus or PTSD. It’s about brain health, public health, and how we all approach dysfunction of the brain.
In September 2015 I spoke on alternative medicine, SPD, cand cognitive accessibility in drug and alcohol addiction at Sovereign Health of Orange County. My presentation/blogis quite lengthy, but I share a lot of detail into SPD about 2/3 of the way through the blog.
Today in 2016 — the best way to manage SPD is not to put yourself in an environment that is more than your can process, leaving you overstimulated. You want to get out and do things. But your neurological stamina and your environment are changeable – and you may often not take the right intervention to head off an SPD event in time. Then you’re dealing with neurological sequela.
It’s important to know the individual medical makeup of each affected person, and the nature of their surroundings at any given time, and catch the early WARNING signs. If you’re around someone with SPD difficulties, the signs to watch forare: changes in their eyes, demeanor, irritability, cognition – which indicate overstimulation. Ultimately it’s a function of matching neurological stamina with a tolerable environment. Sound mobile apps, ear plugs, and eye cover can help too. My blog below discusses in more detail how decibel meter apps can help in managing sensory processing disorder. And I discuss my proposal for a new sound processing standard and algorithm measurement that could be used in sound measurement apps.
My Proposal for a Sound Processing Standard & SPD Algorithm for Mobile Apps
The image of “The Hulk” crushing a tree-schredding machine is provided as it is symbolic of the crisis facing individuals with sound sensitivities leading to neurological and behaviorial sequela. The idea for the animated Hulk Crushing the Tree Shredder comes from my HydroPowered Super-Hero series, which is a collection of super hero stories about children living with hydrocephalus. The tree schredding machine also illustrates the challenges that public noise poses to persons with sound sensory disorders. Sound sensativity affects as much as 20 percent of the population today. Yet comes with little to no accommodations or protections.
The broader issue of sensory processing disabilities and SPD spans not only adverse sensory responses on cognition, but also comprehension of information, user instructions, Internet access, access to technology, and reliability of assistive technology. In these regards then, the access to and controlled environment of, defines an accommodation that should be protected by applicable disability rights persuant to the Americans with Disability Act (ADA), and Sections 504 & 508 of the Rehab Act.
One of the common sound/SPD challenges today is with loud and eratic TV and radio advertisements. I am yet to post YouTube examples, but hope to in the near future. I have been exploring technological and regulatory solutions, including, a proposal for a new sound processing standard that would allow for a reproducible means of evaluating sound for likely unhealthful qualities.
A new sound processing standard could help identify differences in sound makeup and resulting audio & brain processing, particularly in affected individuals. This would be particularly helpful in screening offensive TV and radio commercials, machinery, and non-synchronous broadcasts in public places, and would be used in concert with the current decibel emission volume standard. Generally the more monotonous or less synchronized a sound, or the more its component audio is broadcast at the top of the EQ spectrum, the more difficult it is to process. Some types of these sounds are used to break the will of prisoners. Many of today’s audio broadcasts and public noise are now approaching unhealthful levels.
The image below is a c-panel screenshot of Time Warner Cable’s VOIP telephone options for blocking “telemarketer” and other unwanted telephone calls. I have inserted my proposal for TV quiet options (technologically possible) to screen/mute/lower unhealthful audio from TV commercials and programs. I shared this on Twitter and Facebook too recently.
In 2013, I purchased the domain CognitiveAccessibility.org and have been organizing content for broader plans. This domain currently points to a page on my main web site. I do all of my web site work in Microsoft Frontpage, which is being phased out by web hosting companies. I am now writing more on WordPress as have found it easier to use than learning a whole new web platform.
Below I share my blog on TSA Travel Accessibility tips for when flying with a CNS shunt for hydrocephalus or any cognitive disability.
These last two blogs discuss healthful solutions for sensory processing disorders as they relate to the sports of basketball and football. I also discuss methods in basketball for mindfulness and therapy to help calm the brain.
YouTube Videos document Harmful Audio of Sounds from Everyday Life
The audio in the videos below are known to “trigger” neurological complaints and behavioral changesin persons with neurological & learning disorders with secondary sensory processing disorder(SPD). The difficulty in the sound is often in the lack of melodic pattern as I wrote about in my above 2002 metronome study. A similar depiction is presented in the above video on autism from “The Mighty.” Sometime soon, I will update this section of videos with “offensive TV & radio commercials” airing today. Despite passage of the CALM Act baring loud commercials in 2012, it seems that little has changed. Advertisers also manipulate the sound EQ distribution of audio in commercials to get your attention, making it more problematic to persons with neurological disorders and SPD.
This blog discusses my disability rights complaint to the U.S. Justice Department Civil Rights Division, and request for a sound sensory accommodation from loud music and screaming broadcast all over my YMCA of Orange County fitness center where I was a member. I had been a member from 2007 to 2011. But it was in the later part of 2010 that a new fitness director was hired, who began putting on zumba classes with loud music and screaming, which was then broadcast all over the gym. Being exposed to this in the adjacent rooms then made me ill.
I undertook numerous remedies to bring a resolution to this. I was eventually asked WHY I couldn’t tolerate it, that loudness levels were within limits set my their national organiozation, and was told to where ear plugs when in the facility – which I tried for a while. But I kept having to take them out when a nearby member spoke to me. Other members (esp seniors) I was told discontinued their membership due to the unhealthful noise. Earlier in 2007, I had abandoned my 25 year membership at 24 Hour Fitness after they began playing loud overhead music. This YMCA gym could have, and should have, made the necessary accommodation I requested. In their ruling, DOJ rejected my complaint in its entirety and instructed me to seek other (esp. civil) remedies. In my opinion, both were legally and morally in the wrong! But there’s very little advocacy for SPD and sound sensory disabilities.
YMCA’s practices effectively barred me and other members with sensory processing disorder from using their fitness facility. The loud music and screaming gave me headaches, nausea, made me dizzy, and irritable – not unlike motion sickness. This is a known medical response for affected individuals to this type of sound sensory stimuli. And it gets better. After I filed my complaint to DOJ, the fitness director created a fake incident alleging I was disturbing other members, where I was told my membership was no longer good. I left and never returned!
Prior to filing my complaint with DOJ, I verbally and requested in writing to management for a change in their music broadcast policies. YMCA declinded to make any accommodation or modification. This was also after I had done volunteer work (music therapy) for this YMCA, and after others (affected seniors) had donated money.
It took DOJ two years to respond with a “no.” My complaint was filed with the “Disability Rights” division, who has jurisdiction over public and private facilities for disability rights accommodations. My complaint asked DOJ to draft new language of protections applicable to public and private venues across the U.S. where loud music or machinery poses unhealthful consequences to persons with neurological and sensory processing disorders.
Mostly what this YMCA needed do as an accommodation – was keep the door of the Zumba classroom closed. But management decided it more important to leave the door open, despite the room already having numerous open windows to the outside that brought in fresh air, and instead chose to broadcast the loud music and screaming through the rest of the facility.
Below is my complaint to DOJ and request for accommodation to the YMCA of Orange County, both of which were denied. These parties theated sound sensitivity and sensory processing disorder as though it were a “comfort” issue, rather than health issue.
A large segment of the U.S. population suffers from sensory processing disorderas a result of either autism, post TBI, PTSD, ADHD, hydrocephalus, post tumor, post stroke, Parkinson’s Disease, multiple sclerosis, migraine disorder, dementia, Alzheimer’s Disease, and more. Affected individuals become very sensitive to loud/erratic sound, from music, machinery, loud raucious TV commercials, and other types of sound which carries elements which are problematic to affected individuals. The affected Americans account for 15-20 percent of the population. These unhealthful sound levels for many, are often protected by years old standards of the decibel scale & chart below. But, these acceptable limits are coming under fire as I share further below.
The above chart has been coming under fire. OSHA, the primary authority over unhealthful sound in the workplace, still agrees with the more liberable interpretation above.
This next chart illustrates the decibel levels of common machinery.
Now we’re getting a little more current science with this next chart, which factors in reporting by persons exposed to what were thought of as otherwise safe decibel levels. And none of this yet takes into consideration the loss of sensory processing function by persons with neurological injury and disorders, and related SPD. When affected individuals are unable to tolerate these sound/noise levels, that raises ACCESSIBILITY to public and private facilities. Such facilities would include health clubs, restaurants, night clubs, churches, schools, malls, art & music venues and events, fairs, parks, and the like.
The image below illustrates the critical brain areas in volved in sensory processing.
In 2016, technology has made decibel meters available as mobile phone apps. I use the Smart Tools decibel app. However, what is needed is an app and new sound standard to measure the EQ mix of sound and its likely effect on sound processing. Such data would then lower the effective healthful range of sound.
In individuals such as myself, I will have good days and bad days, where my sound intolerance can vary and leave me in a pickle if I ignore the early warning signs. As an affected individual, you need to be aware at any given time of the status of your sensory intolerance, so you can make your optional adjustments as needed. However, there still needs to be new efforts in mitigating the hap-hazard broadcast of sound and noise as so many people are effected, with many more becoming affected who aren’t aware.
As for regulatory actions against noise, the only one that comes to mind is Congress 2012 ruling on the CALM Act – intended to prevent volume raising of TV commercials. But nothing has changed. Obnoxiously loud and ridiculous TV commercialscontinue on almost all channels. And on radio too. While the science in support of sensory processing disorder and affected neurological disorders exists, the U.S. government and DOJ have acted to deny the science, accommodations, and disability rights protections, while advocating for bizarre new and usual protections for special interests groups. I challenge those who deny this, to play such sounds at an official’s or company office. You will likely be thrown out! So WHY is this exposure OK for the general public? I discuss this in more detail in my 2015 blog on Tips and Information on sound related Sensory Processing Disorder below.
New sound standards and measurements must occur for there to be progress. There first needs to be a revision to current safe decibel scale, to revise it to reflect the health needs of persons with SPD disorders. Next, I am advocating a NEW decibel scale to include a “sound processing component” to account for how the human brain processes sound. Examples of difficult sounds are machinery with fast unbroken patterns, TV & radio commercials where a person is talking fast or screaming with music playing at full volume, and music with people screaming and yelling.
Since this blog was authored in 2013, I have added a new web page of information for sensory processing disorders and cognitive disabilities at CognitiveAccessibility.org, as well as several new blogs which I discuss below.
In 2015, I authored this important blog on tips and new information on sound related sensory processing disorder, or SPD, which includes updated supporting blogs and web content on this important subject. I am hoping to find the time and energy to build a complete web site for CognitiveAccessibility.org to advocate and share science on sensory processing disorder and cognitive disabilities. In this blog below, I also share some of my efforts with drumming and drum circlesthat can raise one’s level of intolerance, and improve over well being.
As many of you might expect, I almost always have percussion instruments with me, even while on vacation. When I traveled to Northern Michigan in 2012, I brought the above claves, shaker eggs, a cylinder shaker, woodpecker, gongo bell, flute, and thunder tube. I travel with these should I be asked to entertain or do a drumming therapy session. This request came from a friend of the family for an 11-yr old girl with cerebral palsy and autism from a chromosomal defect. The child was quite challenged and could not walk or talk, and suffered from restlessness and difficulty sleeping.
The Patient Workup
In preparing for my sessions, I perform a brief patient workup that consist of speaking to the parent in the presence of the child – to get the relevant patient history and to let each see me speaking in the presence of the other – which establishes permission. I am experienced in doing clinical workups from my prior nuclear medicine work and current hydrocephalus consults and drumming work. All together, I have 17 years of clinical workup experience as a nuclear medicine technologist(10 years with my company Certified Nuclear Imaging), 15-20 years hydrocephalus and medical device consulting, more than 10 years in drumming, and 10+ years earlier experience coaching youth soccer and baseball where some of my kids had speacial needs
Next, I introduced myself and spoke directly to Eliza, the eleven year old child in this session. I wanted to assess her present state of mind and willingness to work with me- which was positive. I assess the eyes, body movements, and listen to any verbal responses to any nervousness or physical complaints that might interfere with the session. It is important to know any issues that might limit the session – so I can ideally adjust ahead of this. I shared with her mother that I would keep the instrument play simple and not too loud, and start simple and increase stimulation and complexity as long as she was agreeable and engaging. As the therapist, I must continually observe her engagement and adjust my interactions accordingly.
Sensory Processing Disorder
Most all children with autism also suffer from sensory processing disorder (SPD), as do many with hydrocephalus, ADHD, PTSD, Parkinson’s, post TBI and the like. IN SPD, the individual will become easily over sensatized to sound, light, motion, or scents. Sound is the most common, but lights and colors are often an issue too. The list of accommodations for individuals with SPD as a medical challenge vary, but now fall under “cognitive accessibility,” which medically and legally defines the neurologic functional needs of the individual. I have become increasingly involved in cognitive accessibility over the last 5 years.
As I sat down next to Eliza, I observed her to be drooling, a bit anxious but also curious about what I was about to do. She was cooperative. My approach is to be calm and assuring. In these sessions where sensory processing disorder is present, sound, color, my voice, and movements become a critical part of the music therapy session. I maintain my attentiveness to her responses.
Color, Movement, and Music
I began by playing a simple 1-2 beat on my wooden claves, and it immediately drew her attention. I followed this up with one shaker egg, and then two, and she responded with giggles and excitement the more I played. With the colored egg shakers, it was hard to differentiate how much of her response was due to the egg color and motion versus sound from the eggs. Then I played the cylinder shaker, which can be loud if not careful, and I got more positive response from her. Next, I played the woodpecker and shaker together, and she went bananas! Yes everyone likes the wood pecker. By this time, she had been awaiting and anticipating my every movement and instrument sound. It was as much fun for me as it was for her. She became a terrific student and fan!
Then I played the Remo thunder tube. And she became so excited, she reached out and grabed it. Her mother said she couldn’t hold things in her hands. But she pinned the thunder tube between her right hand and lap, and resisted a bit as I reached to take it and play again. However, at no time did she play any of the instruments. I tried to get her to hold a shaker egg, but without success. Eventually she held the thunder tube almost entirely in her hand. My session lasted almost 40 minutes, and I was very pleased at her attentiveness, willingness to engage me, and willingness to challenge her own limitations.
Music and the Brain
I believe the favorable response and attentiveness during this treatment was due to the child’s attentiveness to engage me and the sounds and colors of the instruments. By the end of the session, she had remarkable focus and level of excitement, and briefly drank from a bottle. And then stood up by holding onto the porch railing, and stretched in excitement. I explained to her mother that these type of therapies might be helpful in her walking or talking someday. The family has a piano where she and the other kids will gather around and play together. I’m told she likes the bass noteson the piano. So I suspected she’d love the sound of a bass drum (I did not have on this trip). I would be curious as to what an EEG would show of her brain waves since she craved active sounds. She’d also been to a Blue Man showwhere the performers made her part of the show.
Music & Drumming Therapy as Healing Arts
EMDR therapy is one related sound and movement therapy that comes to mind and is used in PTSD and sensory processing disorders to desensative the individual. I reflected on new EMDR methodsin 2002 when I undertook my sound sensory study with the Boss metronome (discussed further below). As EMDR is also a “healing art,” I’ve shared my blog below on CAM and alternative medicine. It is from 2012. But it’s been updated. It is the first third or so of this blog, where I discuss my past mind-body methods, that I think is relevant to music and drumming therapytoday. In these regards, I believe the benefits come from more than sound and interaction, they come from the authencity and “intent” of the therapists. And this is widely true thoughout the various alternative medicinemodalities. There must be a BUY INby the patient! The trust and optimism causes a release of neurochemicals in the brain and change in cell structurethroughtout the body.
Drumming for the Brain & its Effect on Brain Wave States
In EMDR Therapy, the therapists determines what to say and how to integrate sound and visual cues. It has been discovered via Parkinson’s Disease work that happy and relaxing activities please the brain and aid in the release of endorphins, particularly dopamine. Dopamine levels often run low in PD. I am uncertain as to the effect seen in cerebral palsyand autism. But I observed in my session with this child that she had a strong affinity for rapid stimulation thru musical toys, also confirmed by her mother.
I am unsure whether Eliza’s low functioning state kept her brain wavesin a lowered state, i.e. alpha. But she craved rapid stimulation. I felt it critical that I engage her in a step-by-step method of rhythmic movements and sound so as not to overstimulate her, and maintain her focus and level of engagement. Most of what I played were slower rhythms. The most up tempo I played was a moderate samba on the bell and clave. And this was only one session. I didn’t have opportunity to stimulate her on multiple levels. And at the end of this single session, I could see she was tired.
I suspect a djembe drum or bass drum might also captivate her. I’ve observed a young girl with marked autismat the HB pier who will sit right in front of the large fast playing djembes. I’ve been concerned it may not be healthy for a child at her level, though she appears drawn to the stimulation. Children have lower brain wavesuntil their teens. So any artificial attempt to speed them up could have adverse consequences. This is also why caffeine and sugar act differently in children.
The next day Eliza’s mother contacted me to share that she slept thru the night and seemed remarkably calmer after the drumming session. This experience is one of the reasons WHY I became involved in drumming. It has also helped me personally in managing many of my own challenges with hydrocephalus. Further below, I discuss some of the contraindications and research with sensory processing disorder, including, a blog with audio examplesfrom YouTube of problematic machinery noise.
I have been involved in drumming therapysince before I became involved in drumming in 2004. It was my 2002 sound sensory processing studywith the Boss metronome which were my orginal efforts in sound patterning. After becoming involved in drumming in 2004, my interests were split between play and research. I authored this first web page on drumming entitled, What is a Drum Circle, which discusses some of the science plus my own views on drumming, or drum circles.
In 2005, I put on my very first drumming for the brain workshopat the High Hopes Head Injurycenter in Tustin, CA. From there, I began to put on a wide array of drumming for health events, though these were mostly for disorders of the brain and central nervous system. This drumming for wellness page below features some of these efforts.
Drumming therapy is finding success today in 1:1 and group sessions with ADHD, ADD, autism, hydrocephalus, Parkinson’s Disease, post TBI, aging, and more. What is critical in all of this is that the individual and group ENGAGE!
The information on my above drumming web pages discusss how you can obtain a drumming event, workshop, or therapy session with me.
I created the above Cognitive Neuroscienceweb page to encompass my neurosciences efforts from hydrocephalus to mHealth, sensory processing disorder, drumming, drumming therapy, cognitive accessibility, and related outreach. Like so many sites and pages, it is a work in progress to keep it up to date.
Generally speaking, decibel appsonly help you with loudness or decibel levelof surrounding sound before it might become problematic for you, your child, or parent. Unfortunately, the triggering aspect of sound, is more in its pattern and pitch than loudness, and is why I undertook this next study in 2002 on sound and sensory processing – to understand the types and effects of sound exposure on persons with hydrocephalus who also have SPD. I feel the types of SPD challenges I evaluated in hydrocephalus is similar to that of autism and other neurological and learning disorders.
As for balance, coordination, fitness, and sensory processing challenges, it doesn’t get much better than shooting baskets– which I began doing therapeutically in 2008. I eventually met up with another shooter, Al Massip, and our on court discussions turned to philosophy and brain science. One day, I posed the question, Where does the Shot come From? And this became a focal point of our shooting for several years, until 2015 when I published this in-depth blog that now attracts 500+ monthly visitors from all over the world. This suggests a lot of people are trying to answer this question. The answer may be in part mystical too. On a therapeutic level, my basketball and drumming with basketball methods are very helpful for a number of neurological disdordersand brain health.
The final supporting presentation below was from my power point as part of a talk I delivered at Wayne State University on drumming and rhythm methods in STEM3 education. I discuss a range of implications from language and learning, to speaking tempo and entrainment of teacher/student, to health and sound sensory processing and classroom noise considerations.
From my 20+ years in living with hydrocephalus, research and writing about the brain, a lifetime of playing music, 17 years in nuclear medicine, and coach on 20 little league soccer and baseball teams, I truly understand how drumming helps others.
Contact me if you are interested in drumming therapy sessions, consults, or having me speak at an event. The best method of contact is via email.
Stephen Dolle Neuroscientist, mHealth Inventor & Drum Circle Facilitator Email: contact[at]dollecommunications[dot]com DolleCommunications.com