I’M PAUL GEORGE
WHEN I WAS SIX
MY MOM HAD A STROKE
NBA All-Star Paul George
7” x 4 7/8”
Face drooping Arm weakness Speech difficulty Time to call 911
Learn the signs of a stroke F. A. S. T.
When working with survivors with aphasia, I like to
incorporate singing to improve expression. I might start by
having them play a harmonica to work on air production,
then do vocal warm-ups similar to those done in choirs.
I may then have them sing a single word at the end of a
familiar lyric (e.g., “My bonnie lies over the ______”). We
will progress to longer and longer phrases, moving toward
the survivor singing an entire song. These exercises improve
word retrieval, articulation, volume and prosody — the
rhythm and intonation of spoken language.
Music is highly engaging and activates multiple
parts of the brain simultaneously, the way the sky lights
up during a fireworks display. This makes it a perfect
medium for helping people with left-side neglect
and difficulty with attention. Music can be used to capture
someone’s attention (focused attention), hold it for a period
of time (sustained attention) and get the survivor to switch
back and forth between two things (alternating attention).
If a patient has left neglect, I might use the playing
of instruments to help with this. I would place one drum
in front of the survivor and another to her left. Using a
drumstick, she strikes both drums one time alternatively.
Back and forth, like a tennis match. I move the drum on
the left to various locations encouraging her to hunt for the
drum. I also provide a familiar song for motivation and a
strong beat for entrainment to help organize the movements.
I have been practicing music therapy for nearly 20
years, and I still am amazed at the power of music when
my stroke clients are able to walk with even steps, or when
someone who can’t talk is able to sing for the first time. It is
a rewarding job, and I am grateful for the opportunity.
Kyle Wilhelm has provided music therapy
services since 1998. He has worked with
a variety of people — children with
autism, hospice patients as well as people who
have had a stroke or traumatic brain injury.
He has served as music therapist at more than
25 Refresh & Retreat Stroke Camps.
For more information, visit the American Music