Music, art therapy helps kids find their creative side

When Chris Stat read about music therapy, she couldn’t help wondering if it might help her son Nick, who had multiple disabilities when he was adopted.

Kids enjoy drumming at the Music Institute of Chicago

“Everything was bothering him,” says Stat. “He would scream constantly, would just have tantrums all the time, just not enjoying life at all.” She’d read about the therapeutic aspects of music and decided to take Nick to sessions at the Music Institute of Chicago. “He was constantly in the time-out room in school because he just could not pull himself together. But by using music and by using art and his imagination and building, it has really, really helped him to focus more.”

“We believe very strongly that every child, no matter what their ability, has an urge to create,” says Ted Rubenstein, clinical director for the Institute for Therapy through the Arts. The institute, part of the Music Institute of Chicago, provides an outlet for that urge to roughly 3,100 people a year, more than half of whom are children.

“One of our missions is to remove the barriers, to work with the program, work with teachers to make sure each student can fully engage and benefit from arts instruction,” says Rubenstein. The institute fulfills those goals in two ways-through therapy sessions and inclusion in mainstream arts programming. Therapy sessions are tailored to the needs of the child, with the ultimate goal of moving the child completely into mainstream lessons. The institute starts every child in mainstream lessons, then adds restrictions, such as an aide and private sessions, until a balance is struck between therapy and arts education.

The institute worked with Nick to control his hyperactivity and keep his emotions in check by combining drum lessons and art therapy.

“In the beginning, all he did was scribble,” says Stat. “Now he sits and he draws, and he builds cars and planes and uses his imagination. He’s able to be more creative and feel a sense of accomplishment.”

Nick has made similar strides in music, and has had parts in two musicals put on by the institute. Now he can use music to calm himself, or express his emotions by writing a song.”He’s still working on it, but he has just done remarkable,” says Stat. “I just get amazed at where he was to where he is now.”

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