Music is our daughter Jessica’s love language. She speaks it fluently. Jess is 41 years old, nonverbal, and has a rare genetic deletion (1Q 43-44). She lives in a group home with five other women who have become family. (Article in Today’s My View )
Jacob is Jessica’s music therapist and part of a local creative arts group. Music therapy is an evidence-based practice that uses musical interventions to reach an individual’s unique goals. Think of speech, occupational and physical therapy all within a music class, and you have music therapy.
Kay is one of our daughter’s housemates, and a few weeks ago, she let us know with a nod and a smile that she wanted to watch Jessica’s music session. Kay is in her mid-50s and nonverbal but can communicate with a picture board and head nods.
Jacob was singing to Jess, and he turned to Kay before singing the song’s last word. Kay immediately uttered a sound to complete the tune, and her glee and pride were enlightening. Jacob immediately recognized Kay’s love of music and was able to elicit additional singing with his therapeutic skills. After that session, Kay started taking weekly music therapy.
Jacob asked me when I first noticed Jess humming tunes. Oddly enough, I had no memory of the first time. However, my son Alex immediately reminded me that it was “Jeopardy!”
Many years ago, Jessica visited a respite home for one week. As we drove Jessica home, she started humming the “Jeopardy!” theme song. At first, Mitch and I were a bit astonished. Is this really “Jeopardy!”? Is Jess making up a tune that sounds exactly like “Jeopardy!”? We did not regularly watch “Jeopardy!”, so Jess did not learn the tune from us. I called the respite house and asked about their “Jeopardy!” viewing habits. The staff told me that the daily “Jeopardy!” theme resonated through their home.
Afterward, Jess and I started communicating through music, where I would hum the first line of a tune, and she would follow with the second line. A musical conversation! That was the beginning of what is now close to 30 tunes in Jessica’s repertoire — the beginning of Jessica developing her musical love language.
Several weeks later, I sat down to play the piano with Jessica. Kay indicated that it was her turn at the piano, and she wanted me to play with her. She pointed and vocalized until I received her message. We did a couple of simple songs because that’s all I can do, and her face lit up.
At the same time, another housemate was sitting with us and cheering for both Jessica and Kay. She enjoyed watching her friends discover music as much as they enjoyed creating music. The women are not just housemates; they are chosen family.
I was in awe of both Jessica’s and Kay’s talents and competency once they were given an avenue to express themselves.
When Jessica was first diagnosed with an intellectual disability, I mistakenly, as a new and inexperienced mom, thought it meant that she would stop learning new skills. She disproves that theory daily.
Once people meet Jessica or Kay, they often summarize what both women cannot do. I hope new acquaintances open their minds and hearts to see our daughter’s abilities, talents and intellect. I love that Jacob appreciates, values and encourages new skills and opportunities for his students. Music is Jessica’s love language, and we love that we can sing along with Jess.
For an inspiring stories about Raising a Child with a Rare Chromosome Deletion, check out 3-time award-winning memoir, Raising Jess: A Story of Hope!