Arts are an excellent way for any child to grow and develop mentally, physically and socially. The arts are even more important for children with hearing, speech and processing challenges. At Heuser Hearing & Language Academy, we are proud to offer art therapy, music therapy, dance therapy and theater programs for our students.
Greta E. Gillmeister is a board certified music therapist (MT -BC) who provides music therapy to every child twice a week. According to 2002 research by Darrow and Grohe, music is of significant value in establishing a positive learning and therapeutic environment for children who are presented with exceptional challenges in their educational experiences. Integrating a music therapist into HHLA’s curriculum reinforces existing and highly successful learning strategies.
Music therapy for deaf and hard of hearing children goes beyond simply feeling vibrations. In fact, 90 percent of all deaf individuals have some residual hearing. When it is amplified with hearing aids or cochlear implants, they are able to experience the rhythms and melodies of speech and song. Ms. Gillmeister uses a combination of recorded and live music, pitched and non-pitched rhythm instruments, noisemakers, creative expression/movement activities and puppetry to accomplish functional gains in the following areas:
- Auditory training
- Language acquisition and development
- Speech production and reception
- Gross and fine motor skills
- Social interaction skills
- Emotional development
- Listening skills
Ms. Gillmeister consults the teachers at HHLA to determine ways to address each student’s individual learning goals and objects through music therapy, as outlined in their individual educational plan.
During art therapy, children are engaged in critical speech and language lessons as well as expressive therapy to cope with hearing loss. Many students have expressive issues, learning disabilities, speech and language disorders, behavioral disorders or illnesses that creates a communication barrier. Often, this can affect learning. Art therapists can see past the limitations of learning and help students discover different systems of finding answers through art.
Students at HHLA attend a daily art class with Jill Hedges, a certified art therapist. Art therapy is often used for children who are going to have surgery (e.g. getting a cochlear implant) soon. Art helps them deal with feelings of anxiety or nervousness about the operation and allows children to freely and creatively express their feelings in their own style, pace and manner. As a result, art helps the child feel more calm and at peace.
For students who cannot speak, art can be a way of communicating without using sign language. Children in general are particularly receptive to this type of therapy. Art allows them to express complicated issues that they cannot verbally communicate; it also helps them resolve different emotions by drawing, painting and constructing with an art therapist. Art therapy can assess and address each student’s needs individually through the activities they participate in and how they create their art.
HHLA is so excited to have worked with Louisville Ballet to create a movement/dance program specifically for our children.
Music and dancing can benefit children with hearing loss by promoting critical social skills. Often, children with hearing loss become withdrawn from their peers due to the gap created by vocabulary and communication issues. However, by engaging in creative movement and music therapy, a child experiencing hearing loss can bridge the gap between them and their hearing peers.
Through creative movement and dance, children are given the opportunity to express themselves physically and emotionally while participating in a very enjoyable and beneficial activity. But what exactly is creative movement and how can this form of activity benefit a child? Creative dance helps develops physical and emotional skills and wellbeing, improving coordination, control, balance, agility and strength. Children receive positive stimulation and learn how to communicate without words. Their imaginations are allowed to run free, which can help self-esteem and confidence flourish.
Many children who have hearing loss also experience vestibular problems. The vestibular system receptors are located within the inner ear and provide a sense of balance, stability and movement. Children with a hearing loss often to have a vestibular system that malfunction, leading to imbalance, dizziness and many coordination issues that require physical and occupational therapy. Activities that benefit the vestibular system, like dance, require motion of the head and body in combination with use of the visual system.
The Commonwealth Theatre Center visits Heuser Hearing & Language Academy. The children receive two 10-week residency programs – one in the fall and one in the spring. This is a lively storytelling program that uses active listening to build comprehension and language development – skills vital to early literacy. Children participate imaginatively, contributing sound and movement under the guidance of the storyteller.
This customized program is adapted for any age and many different disciplines. Both the students and teachers learn to “pretend” and, together, practice critical social skills. In addition to social skills, the program is language-rich and greatly enhances our vocabulary program.
Call Heuser Hearing Institute at (502) 636-2084 for more information about Heuser Hearing & Language Academy.