I started at CVI almost fourteen years ago as a part time music teacher for BEGIN’s Pre-K program. After doing this and teaching after school music classes in the STARS program, I was asked by Anne McComiskey, our Director, if I would start a music therapy class for babies and their parents. I said I would love to.
We had to start from scratch because there weren’t many music classes, to our knowledge, using the format that we wanted to explore. Our number one goal was to help mothers bond with their visually impaired babies. Just in case you are wondering why would parents need a class to learn how to bond with their child...that is a good question.
Eye contact between babies and parents is a big part of bonding that is why we felt it a necessity to help these parents. Also many of our babies have other different abilities and health issues, so it is important for the mom to have fun with her baby. In this class we encourage lots of fun. Parents sing with their babies, dance with them, socialize with other parents and eat lots of happy food - all with baby in tow.
We do have fun, but we also do a lot of learning and teaching. We teach, name awareness, body awareness, sound location, concepts such as up/down, in/out, loud/soft and etc. Our children are exposed weekly to different sensory experiences (exploring different textures, scents and sounds), socialization with other babies, movement in a group and many other experiences. Parents learn to read their babies cues, because many of our babies at this time are nonverbal and parents oftentimes have difficulty figuring out what the baby needs or wants. Parents also learn how to advocate for their children by learning about their diagnoses in a healthy manner.
This class was originally called Music Matters, but in 2006 we added a wonderful family counselor, Memri Lerch, to the class and we renamed it Wake up and Sing! Wake Up meaning awareness and Sing symbolizing sharing. Our counselor made this truly a music therapy class in every sense of the word.
I have seen great benefits from this class. Other than the great learning that takes place, I have witnessed the birth of beautiful and lasting friendships among the families. These parents support each other in every way. In short, Wake Up is a great support for parents, siblings and the babies. I see Wake up and Sing growing not only in the number of families attending, but hopefully this model can be used all around the world to help families in similar situations. This is my ultimate dream for Wake up and Sing!