Alex and Music’s Magic: A Kindermusik Story

Kindermusik Story

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]Mark and Kim Elicker and their son Ethan were a wonderful family, but they all had so much more love to give. About six years ago they traveled to China to adopt two year old Alex. This is his story – a story of endless love and musical magic.


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Kindermusik for Ethan

Before Alex came home to his family, Kim, an early childhood educator herself, took her son Ethan to Kindermusik from the time he was a baby until he aged out. Lydia Klinger was their Kindermusik educator and really drew the family in. Kim shares why she choose Kindermusik:

Lydia was the reason we started and fell in love with the program. With Ethan I admit I valued the social benefits of being with other Mom’s and families. As an early childhood educator I connected with the developmental appropriateness of the curriculum. Years later when we adopted Alex, I once again became a stay at home mom and I wanted that connection to other families. I chose Kindermusik again with Alex because I loved it so much with Ethan, but I honestly, remember seeking activities that I believed would foster our bond and attachment.

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The day Alex legally became a member of the Elicker family!
The day Alex legally became a member of the Elicker family!

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Alex Comes Home

When Alex came home with the Elickers at age two he wasn’t very verbal. He was a child surrounded by sounds he had never heard. Occasionally, he’d speak a word or two of Mandarin, like mā-ma (mother), bà-ba (father), gē-ge (older brother), and siè-sie (thank you).

Dr. Boyle: When Alex came home with you, how would you describe him?

Kim Elicker: He was quiet and energetic, though when he first came home he didn’t have a lot of stamina. He was curious and resourceful! He could play with a bucket, a box of crayons, and a paper bag. That was just him – he didn’t need anything fancy.

DB: You mentioned he wasn’t very verbal.

KE: He wasn’t. And that’s a typical very typical of children who are adopted into a family who speaks a different language than he was born into.

DB: Right…so what he had been hearing for the first two years of his life, he’s wasn’t hearing that any more and was a completely different environment for him.

KE: Exactly. In our situation, everything changed – what he saw, what he heard, what he smelled, even what touched his skin. It was all very different.

DB: So…you shared with me that on days he was going to Kindermusik, Alex tended to be more verbal.

KE: Yes. In the beginning, receptively he picked up English rather quickly. He was following simple one step directions.

DB: Little kids are sponges.

KE: Yes! But his communication pretty much shut down verbally. We expected that from classes we took before the adoption. His brain was switching gears. We read to him, we talked to him, we engaged him all the time, but he didn’t attempt to speak a lot.

When we started Kindermusik, in the beginning much of it was listening in that particular first program he was in. I noticed his concentration level – his focus – was very intent. He would be very tired those afternoons after Kindermusik in the morning!

By his second set of classes, I started noticing a change. We’d go to Kindermusik, we’d have lunch, and the rest of the day he’d be much more talkative. He’d attempt new words. Anytime he tried new words, it seemed to be on Kindermusik days. Once I noticed the pattern, I really started paying attention to it. It followed this trend for about a year.

DB: And did you take part in the classes with him?

KE: Yes.

DB: That’s great. There’s all this research out there that tells us that because of the way music impacts the brain, when you make music with another person, it builds empathy between you and the other person, it builds trust between you and that other person. You can become more comfortable with that person when you share a musical experience.

KE: That’s an interesting take on my situation. When you are first adopting you need to build trust. That’s part of the attachment process. It’s an interesting thing for me to hear you say – it makes total sense![/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]

Alex and Ethan
Ethan and Alex having fun in the band room.

[/vc_column_text][vc_column_text]DB: Sounds like Kindermusik was an important part of Alex’s process.

KE: Yes! I remember sharing the news of Alex’s increased verbal activity with Lydia, our Kindermusik educator. She said it just gave her chills! She was excited to get that feedback.

DB: I would imagine! Kindermusik is certainly fun with music and movement, but the mission is really to help kids develop socially and emotionally…getting them to interface with other kids and have positive interactions with adults. It helps them move through those developmental domains.

KE: Certainly. And in our case, it was quite obvious because he wasn’t really verbal at all…it was very easy to pick up on when was happening.

DB: It’s just so cool to hear about this – a very specific situation in which music helped a child affected by a rather involved transition find his voice. That’s music reaching parts of the brain that everyday speech or conversation does not. I would imagine that music coupled with music was helpful.

KE: Yes! That was his other area. According to the typical US standard, he would have been lacking in gross motor. Within six months he had caught up. The movement in the class was beneficial.

DB: That’s great. So how long did Alex do Kindermusik?

KE: He was five, almost six when we stopped. When we love something we stick with it![/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]

Kindermusik Educator
Lydia Klinger, the Elicker’s Kindermusik Educator, with Ethan, and guest trumpet player Allen Vizzuti.

[/vc_column_text][vc_column_text]Kindermusik was a very important part of the Elickers lives. Ethan, now 15, lives for the trumpet and plays as often as he can. And Alex? He’s going into third grade this fall. He’s taking piano lessons and singing in church. His ultimate goal is to play organ!

Lydia, their Kindermusik Educator, retired after 20 years of serving musical smiles to her community. She now plays with the Harrisburg Symphony. The Elickers still keep in touch with her. Recently, she arranged a meeting with the Symphony’s guest trumpeter, Allen Vizzuti and Ethan.

For the Elickers, participating in Kindermusik classes helped smooth the complex process of an international adoption, helping Alex open up and explore his verbal possibilities in his new language. As an educator, Kim knew exactly what was happening. As a mom, she got to see music work its magic in her son’s young life. Friends, that’s why Kindermusik Educators do what they do. They are in it to change lives.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]

Ethan prepares to play a duet with a friend.
Alex prepares to play a duet with a friend.

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The Gift of Love: A Parent’s Perspective of Kindermusik

Gift of Love

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]As a Kindermusik teacher, I am always observing as I am teaching – mostly observing the children so I can adjust and adapt to them, but also actively working to “see” things through the parents’ eyes too. When I look through the eyes of a Kindermusik parent, there are some of the really precious things that I get to celebrate, acknowledge, and even just hold in my own heart.[/vc_column_text][blockquote cite=”Theresa Case”]”I melt at the pure and absolute delight on a parent’s face in the closeness and sharing that happen in every class.”[/blockquote][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]I share the feeling of pride that glows on a parent’s face when their child starts tap-tap-tapping with his own shaker, gets completely absorbed in Story Time, or quietly starts singing a few words here and there.

I melt at the pure and absolute delight on a parent’s face in the closeness and sharing that happen in every class.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]I smile at the humor on a parent’s face when her child suddenly starts singing very loudly or urgently begins sharing a very important, but very unrelated, story to share with me.

I gently nod my head as a parent and I make eye contact during Quiet Time, acknowledging that the snuggles and cuddles in the little years go by all too quickly.

I hug the parent with happy tears in her eyes who is absolutely overjoyed at how her child who has been in multiple different kinds of therapy is now comfortable in class, engaging in activities, and making friends with the other children in class.[/vc_column_text][vc_column_text]parent's perspective[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]I clap and celebrate right alongside my families; with full hearts we share the bittersweet moment of watching our Kindermusik “babies” proudly march across the stage as Kindermusik graduates.

I am a Kindermusik educator, and these are only some of the amazing things I am privileged to glimpse through a parent’s eyes because of the power of Kindermusik and the difference it makes not just in the life of a child, but also in the heart of a parent.[/vc_column_text][vc_separator][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]Shared by Theresa Case, who has been sharing the joy of Kindermusik with children and families at Piano Central Studios in Greenville, South Carolina for over 20 years now[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]

Parent Perspective: Why We Love Kindermusik

Parent Perspective

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]For the Thornton’s, DeMartino’s, and Carlson’s, Kindermusik is a family event since it’s often Grandma who brings the grandchildren (who are cousins) to class at Kindermusik of the Valley. Kindermusik of the Valley is located in Burnsville, MN, and is an award-winning Kindermusik program owned by the fabulous Helen Peterson. Here’s a peek into their Kindermusik story and why Kindermusik is so special to them, as told by Kristin DeMartino. [/vc_column_text][vc_separator][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_video link=”https://vimeo.com/183819433″][vc_column_text]

Every song, every dance, every beat…

We were first introduced to Kindermusik when my oldest, now almost 5 years old, was only six months old. He attended a class with my mom and they were immediately hooked, which has resulted in each of my children, as well as my sister’s, beginning Kindermusik at a very young age.

I find it hard to put into words what this program has meant to us, but I will start by saying that our educators at Kindermusik of the Valley are phenomenal. This honestly seems like an understatement, and I really cannot say enough to truly represent how they have impacted each of my children. They are genuine, caring and have a way of bringing out a confidence and pride in each and every child they interact with. Every song, every dance, every beat of an instrument, and every idea is praised and encouraged. Creativity is endless, and I love the confidence that Kindermusik has instilled into my kids.
.[/vc_column_text][blockquote cite=”Kristin DeMartino”]”They…have a way of bringing out a confidence and pride in each and every child they interact with.”[/blockquote][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]

Parent Perspective
Have you ever seen pure joy in an educator’s face? Here’s your reference.

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Those Special Connections

As a parent, I have also appreciated the connection Kindermusik encourages between music, body movements, and emotion. Each week the kids are encouraged to experiment, whether it be through movements or instruments, with a variety of music. It is so fun to watch them express themselves and their emotions in such a therapeutic way.

In connection with that, I have also appreciated the ease at which the majority of what we do within the class can be carried over to home. My kids love having “kitchen commotions”, “skating on paper plates”, moving with scarves, and just making music with a variety of everyday items.[/vc_column_text][vc_column_text]

Parent Perspective
We love to sing praises to music, too, young lady.

[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]Overall, I just really cannot say enough about what Kindermusik means to us. We look forward to it each and every week![/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]

ADHD – An Adult Perspective on the Journey

ADHD

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]According to a 2011 report from the Center for Disease Control, the rate of ADHD diagnoses was 11% in children ages 4 to 17. When I was that age the diagnosis rate was about 3% – 5%. If you want to do the math, I’m 43. Recommendations on how to treat the disorder have changed over the years, and we’ll get to that. But first, I wanted to share my experience, as someone who has dealt with Attention Deficit Disorder his entire life. [/vc_column_text][vc_column_text]I always had attention issues. Growing up, the only places these issues didn’t plague me were music class, choir, and band. Everywhere else, I had all the classic symptoms: loss of time, easily distracted, constant talking, and the strangest for me – hyperfocus. Hyperfocus manifested itself quite strongly, and I didn’t know what to call it or how to talk about it until years later. When I had moments of hyperfocus, the world around me seemingly slowed down, my heart felt like it was racing, and my periphery narrowed.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]I was never diagnosed as a child. It was my wife, a public school music teacher, who first suggested that I have myself screened. She witnessed many moments of distraction, loss of focus, and even hyperfocus, which seems counterintuitive to the name of the disorder and its other symptoms. Throughout my undergrad and masters degrees, I was able to use various coping mechanisms in class to overcome ADHD challenges. I’d sit in the front row, constantly ask questions, and borrow friends’ notes, take them home, and retype them. All of this worked until I started my doctoral studies. I finally caved and sought help.

ADHD
Dr. Boyle speaking to an audience at a recent concert

I’ve often been asked what ADHD (I never experienced the “H” part) felt like. This was my best description: if a thought started at the back of my head, and found completion as it moved to the front of my head, I felt like there was a bundle of straws going in every direction between the back and the front, preventing the thought from making the journey efficiently. In my case, I was diagnosed at age 36, and my doctor and I decided to try a medication. The first day taking the meds I went to the library. It was as if all those straws were lined up in perfect parallel. Those thoughts that were getting lost? They now had a clear path from onset to realization. In the past, I’d get a few pages of notes after a three hour visit to the library. That day? I took 35 pages of well organized notes that stuck in my head in perfect order.

This was the right choice for me. I don’t need to take the medication every day, only when I need it. That usually is when I need to do in-depth, complex reading.

My wife calls them my “do the dishes” pills. She says I notice things that need to be taken care of much more readily if I have taken one on a given day. [/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]

Current CDC Recommendations

The CDC now recommends behavior therapy as the first line of treatment in young children. It is beneficial for parents with children who have been diagnosed to learn as much about ADHD and to go through parent training in behavior therapy. The CDC states:

“Children who have ADHD act in ways that are often challenging for parents. Children may forget things they are told, be overly active, and act before thinking. They might not be able to get positive attention the way that other children can; they tend to misbehave and might be punished more frequently than other children. Even if children with ADHD really try to follow rules, they might not be able to. This can have a negative impact on their self-image, and cause them to give up trying or to act up more often.

A therapist skilled in behavior management can help parents understand how ADHD affects their child. Parent training in behavior therapy is used to help change problem behaviors by building parenting skills, improving the relationship between parents and their child with ADHD, and helping children manage their own behaviors.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]

Music and ADHD

But what about music? This is, after all, a music education blog! Well, a recent ADDitude article, the online magazine offering strategies and support for the ADHD community, provided the following:

Music strengthens the areas of the brain that, in the child with ADHD, are weak. Music builds and strengthens the auditory, visual/spatial, and motor cortices of the brain. These areas are tied to speech and language, reading, reading comprehension, math, problem solving, brain organization, focusing, concentration, and attention issues. Studies indicate that when…children with ADHD learn a musical instrument, attention, concentration, impulse control, social functioning, self-esteem, self-expression, motivation, and memory improve. Some studies show that children who have difficulty focusing when there is background noise are particularly helped by music lessons.”

It makes good sense that these experiences start at an early age. And research supports that. Get them involved from birth. The impact music has on the brain is tremendous.
[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]Sharlene Habernyer, the author of the above referenced ADDitude article, provides a list of strategies she used with her son, Brandon, a child diagnosed with ADHD. Here are some of them:

  • Start group music lessons. When he is about 18 months old, find a group music program for your child.
  • Dance to the music. Movement for an ADHD child is a must! In fact, movement is an indispensable part of learning, thinking, and focusing. As a child moves to different cadences and rhythms, his physical coordination and ability to concentrate improve.
  • Draw what you hear. Many ADHD children are creative and in search of creative outlets. Drawing or doodling engages motor skills, organizes the brain, and stimulates artistic juices. After a busy day at school, and before your child jumps into homework, give her paper and crayons, put on some classical music, and let her draw.
  • Read music books. I’m a strong advocate of reading to your children every day. Reading builds focus, concentration, vocabulary, speech and language, and writing skills. I read many books to our sons, some of which were associated with music: Swine Lake, by James Marshall (a great book to introduce your kids to the ballet Swan Lake), and Lentil, by Robert McCloskey.
  • Start private music lessons between the ages of five and seven. If you are a parent with ADHD, take music lessons along with your child.
  • March in the morning. Children with ADHD usually have a hard time attending to tasks during the busy morning hours. Every morning, play marching music (John Philip Sousa tunes are great) and march from activity to activity — getting dressed, making beds, eating breakfast, brushing teeth — with feet moving and arms swaying.
  • Sing your way to school. Teachers want students to be ready to learn when they come to class. So, on your way to school, sing in the car or play classical music.

So…what are you waiting for? Kindermusik provides experiences that benefit every child. And the more you are involved, the better! [/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]

Meet Julie Zimmer – Kindermusik Mom

Julie's eldest, Elena

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]Julie is a busy mom of three adorable kids – Elena, age 6; Luc, age 3, and Gia, age 1. They call Greenville, South Carolina home. Let’s learn a little bit about this Kindermusik Mom…[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]TC: Tell me a little about your own musical background.
JZ: I took piano lessons at the age of 5 and grew up having the privilege of many musical opportunities. I graduated with 2 degrees: in piano pedagogy and piano performance. I taught piano for 10 years.

TC: Why did you want to enroll your children in Kindermusik?
JZ: Because I understand the value of music mentally, socially and emotionally on a life. I started my oldest daughter, Elena, in Kindermusik classes as a baby, and she is now a proud 2016 Young Child graduate.

TC: How has being in Kindermusik impacted Elena?
JZ: It has really helped her develop a musical ear. She is not my naturally musically gifted one, and when she was little, she struggled with matching pitches or even coming close. As she grew up in Kindermusik, her musical ear grew stronger, too. It also taught her the disciplines of setting aside time to practice her instruments she learned in Young Child. Socially, it helped her work with her peers during ensemble play and in the younger classes, the concept of sharing and listening to others came much easier.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]TC: You also have Luc and Gia in the program. What do you love most about getting to do Kindermusik the second and third time over?
JZ: I enjoy the one on one time with them more and just carving out that time in the day to be very present with my child: to watch her, to listen, to play and explore together, a wonderful bonding environment. I also have learned the value of playing the music at home more. I have found it really helps them “play better” and get along better.

TC: What are some ways that Kindermusik has helped you be a better parent?
JZ: Reminding me that there’s not just ONE way to do things. I love the encouragement to explore together. Kindermusik has also taught me the value of SEEING the value in the “small” things we do each day with our children. “Just” holding them or rocking them is huge for the child and parent! Not just emotionally but physically.

TC: How has Kindermusik affected your relationship with each of your children?
JZ: Kindermusik has helped remind me that each child is different and that’s a good thing! One child may not be “actively-to-the-human-eye” participating due to anxieties or whatever reason, but Kindermusik reminds us of many different learning styles and some children absorb and process information much more internally than externally. And that’s ok! So learning to appreciate each child’s way of learning.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]TC: Do you feel your children are more musically inclined as a result of being in Kindermusik?
JZ: Yes, definitely.

TC: What is one way that Kindermusik has helped one of your children developmentally?
JZ: My 3 year old struggles with anxiety so Kindermusik is so good for him to in learning to deal with “new” situations, “new” friends, and “new” sounds.

TC: How does Kindermusik class “follow you at home” throughout the week?
JZ: We play music much more often now during playtime, while mommy is cooking, etc.
TC: How has being in Kindermusik benefited you personally?
JZ: I have found without even thinking I sing-talk through many of our activities. For instance, we have a song now for getting ready for church. A little tune that came to me that I just put words to that had to do with what we’re doing: getting ready for church. And there’s just something about singing your instructions to the kids that makes everyone enjoy the process more and look forward to the “activity” more.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]TC: What would you say is the greatest benefit your children have gained from being consistently enrolled in Kindermusik?
JZ: Their LOVE and appreciation of music

TC: What are some of your children’s most favorite Kindermusik songs?
JZ: “Toast, Toast” is a favorite when we’re making breakfast. Elena loves Bell Horses. I used “Ruru” as my second child’s special lullaby. All three kids LOVE “Catch Me.” Mommy’s favorite is “Toys away Toys away” – ha! 🙂

TC: Where do you see your children musically 5 or 10 years from now?
JZ: Taking piano lessons or violin lessons using their gifts to serve others.

TC: Why do you recommend Kindermusik to your friends? And why would you encourage a friend to sacrifice as you have to have all three children enrolled?
JZ: Because the benefits don’t stop when you leave the classroom. They continue for years to come. I have visual proof of that having taught piano students for years who grew up in the KM program. It won’t just benefit their music lessons but their school work as well.[/vc_column_text][vc_separator][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]Shared by Theresa Case, who has had the immeasurable privilege of teaching all three of Julie’s beautiful children in her Kindermusik classes at Piano Central Studios in Greenville, SC.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]