If you walk into one of the music therapy rooms at A Place To Be on a Thursday evening, you may find 9-year-old Numa nestled in mother’s lap, working with his music therapist on his latest therapeutic goals. The room is filled with music, laughter and his mother’s delighted enthusiasm as she lovingly encourages her son on every small progress he makes through music therapy.
Just several years ago, Numa was a typical little boy, full of energy, character and song. Always a lover of music, Numa delighted in belting out tunes from his favorite Broadway musicals like Les Miserables and Mamma Mia, to any audience who would listen. But when Numa was six, he experienced a brain bleed, after an Arteriovenous Malformation (AVM) ruptured turning into an almost deathly stroke, which affected almost all of his daily living functioning. He is now in a wheelchair, nonverbal and dependent on caregivers to fulfill his needs. Despite his many physical challenges, the music is still in Numa.
Last year, after learning about A Place To Be through his homecare nurse, Numa’s mother, Lula, enrolled her son in music therapy sessions. The family now travels weekly, from northern Virginia to Middleburg, through rush hour traffic, to participate in music therapy.
“We are working on three primary goals, communication, motor coordination and sensory integration,” explained Allison Echard, a Board-Certified musictherapist at A Place To Be. “Before his AVM ruptured, Numa was strutting down sidewalks belting out his favorite songs,” Allison said. “Music is something that has been important in his life. Having the opportunity to be engaged in music now, despite his limitations, is filling him up, motivating and encouraging him to work on his rehabilitation goals.”
Numa’s progress is encouraging. In therapy for less than a year, he is achieving therapeutic goals from vocalizing sounds to finish a musical phrase, to turning his head toward the sound of his favorite pitched bell, to lifting his hand while sitting at the piano with his mother to signal the last note of his favorite song.
But it’s not only Numa who is benefiting from music therapy. Music is helping the whole family stay connected. Often times Numa’s father and his little brother wait patiently in the waiting room at A Place To Be, so very excited to participate in the goodbye song at the end of Numa’s session. And Lula is of course a big part of each music therapy session. While most of Lula’s days are filled with taking care of Numa’s medical needs, frequent doctor visits, managing medicines and staying up with him when he can’t sleep, music therapy gives mother and son the opportunity to reconnect through music, a passion they both have always shared.
“We strongly believe that the power of music can bring our son’s voice back and that one day Numita can share his own story. This brings hope and faith to a family like us,” Lula said. “We are here because we have hope.”