& Ben, The Meisel Brothers
Music and Building Community that
The music of KiDâ€™n
TOGETHER started through our familyâ€™s love of Alexâ€™s
son Matthew who was born with Down Syndrome and later also diagnosed on the Autism
Spectrum. When Matthew was 10
months old we knew that language development was a challenge. Fortunately, we could see that he loved and responded happily
to music. His joy and growth
inspired KiDâ€™n TOGETHER.
At the time, I worked as a sound
engineer and majored in Music/Science/Technology at Stanford University, and
our family collaborated to create music for Matthew to help support his
learning and speech and language development. Our entire family united. Alex thrust
himself into song writing. Our dad (Matthewâ€™s grand father), Harris, painted
the album art of KiDâ€™n TOGETHERland. My sister (Matthewâ€™s aunt), Melody, and
our mom (Matthewâ€™s Grandmother), Fredda, added vocals, while I arranged
orchestration and harmonies and set-up the recording logisitics.
Matthewâ€™s birth drove me to learn more
about children with Special Needs. I sought out experiences like teaching
children with autism how to swim, and becoming a counselor for children with
serious illnesses at Paul Newmanâ€™s Hole In The
Wall Gang Camp.
Based on experiences like these, I became a pediatrician, with my
guitar, KiDâ€™n TOGETHER songs, and
personal lessons learned through connection with families of kids with
special needs as integral parts of my work.
As parents and caregivers, we endure
challenges and sometimes battles to get our children important services and
resources. Respite and fun are
vital to sanity and singing and moving to music can be healing. We set out to create music that was
acoustic (played by a community), folksy, funny, and with lyrics to foster
early education development, and communication skills. We also wanted music that we, as
adults, would enjoy. Many children
listen to favorite songs over and over. Alexâ€™s boy, Matthew, would listen over
and over and over, and so we set out to create music that could stand
repetitive listening without inciting adult insanity. It worked for Matthew.
It worked for us, and it worked for many families with and without kids
with special needs. The music won not only the Oppenheim Toy Portfolio Platinum
Award, but also their Special Needs Adaptable Product Award.
Music soothes, communicates, and connects
us like few other media. Singing
is intimate, active, emotional and community building. Through song, we can store words and
details in memory by accessing brain functions outside of the usual language
centers; areas that process emotion, physical movement, and pleasure. This is why people with brain injuries
or dementia or medical conditions that affect the brainâ€™s cognitive (language)
centers are often able to remember words learned as song or through dance.
There are people all over the world
using Music to enhance the lives of children with and without Special
Needs. One fine example is that of
a remarkable young woman and astounding singer who grew up listening to KiDâ€™n
TOGETHER and has been recognized for music program excellence by the Girl
Fraye (click her name to learn more) used
KiDâ€™n TOGETHER music as the basis for her Gold Project Award winning music
therapy program she put together for children with special needs in her
community. Examples like this are
inspiring, and we welcome musicians, teachers, & music therapists to share
their most stimulating and effective music activities in or out of the
classroom at our website
My grand dream is for our music and KiDâ€™n TOGETHER
as a web destination to be a place where people who care about children with
special needs can congregate and empower each other, and exchange information
about how our health as human beings can be enhanced by music and other
Toward that dream, KiDâ€™n TOGETHER
entered the digital age this year with a blog, facebook
page, and a Twitter presence.
Songs are now available for digital download, and listeners and fans can
now share their impressions and stories.
With that said, Iâ€™ll end with a
personally inspiring, KiDâ€™n TOGETHER memory: When Alex and I first started singing for others we had a weekly
concert at a preschool where there was a child ~5 years old who had uttered
only one or two words in his life up to that point. He loved the KiDâ€™n TOGETHER songs. It was with this preschool group that we recorded â€śTwinkle,
Twinkle Little Starâ€ť and â€śEensy, Weensy Spiderâ€ť for our first album Alex,
Ben, & Co. -- KiDâ€™n Together.
During the recording of these 2 songs the boy with speech delay began singing
the words from both songs throughout.
His parents, the teachers, and we were all in tears at the end of the
day because this was the first triumphant use of words this boy had ever
used. On the recording, he is the
boy clapping with the strong â€śYay!!!â€ť at the end of â€śTwinkle, Twinkle, Little
Starâ€ť. It still amazes me, chokes
me up, and brings me great joy thinking about that day.
We welcome all to sing with children and
become part of our KiDâ€™n TOGETHER community.
Ben Meisel, MD FAAP
SUBSCRIBE TO THE KiDâ€™n TOGETHER Blog: http://kidntogether.com/wordpress1/
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FOLLOW KiDâ€™n TOGETHER ON TWITTER: @KiDnTogether
Photos by the Meisel Brothers, Music for Little Ones, and miss pupik