Alive Inside – The Rehabilitative Power of Music

I recently came across a documentary called Alive Inside.  To call it inspirational would be an understatement.  Alive Inside focuses on a social worker named Dan Cohen as he explores the flaws in the way that our health care system treats patients suffering from memory loss, and explores the well-documented rehabilitative effects that music has on these patients.  

It's rare to see a documentary focusing on a group that typically receives so little attention.  Memory loss patients tend to be elderly, and whether it's because we share a cultural mentality of "it's just their time," or because our society is largely ignorant of pain and isolation that these men and women frequently have to endure, with little help, enveloped in a fog of confusion, many of these patients are left to suffer silently when this doesn't have to be the case.  

Music is a universal aspect of what it means to be human.  There is no culture of which we have record that did not have music, and even today, it has the power to move us in incredible–and at times, almost incomprehensible–ways.  The state of Wisconsin has realized this, and they are giving an unprecedented kind of attention to memory loss patients on a state-wide level.  When we think of progressive, innovative states, Wisconsin probably does not jump to the top of our list, however, they have instituted a program that they call Music and Memory, about which they write:

"The Wisconsin Music & Memory Program has been designed to bring personalized music to individuals diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease and other related dementias.

The Wisconsin Music & Memory Program has successfully funded 250 nursing homes to become certified MUSIC & MEMORYSM facilities through Dan Cohen's MUSIC & MEMORY SM Certification Program.

The certification process required nursing home staff to attend a series of three 90-minute webinars, taught by MUSIC & MEMORY SM founding Executive Director, Dan Cohen, MSW."

This is an excellent step towards helping a community that many seem to have given up on.  Dementia is frequently perceived as a one way street – it may be slowed down, but not reversed.  This is such a common issue all across the world, and the rehabilitative effects of music deserve far more attention.  Please look into Alive Inside.  See if it's playing in a theater near you, or buy the documentary here.  This is a wonderful example of the power of attention.  Let's all do what we can to spread the word.

"Parenting" is a New Phenomenon

Years ago, there was no such thing as parenting.  The industry of parenting…  Parents needed kids to help them—to work on the farm, to do jobs, to support their family structure.  They needed kids to bring in money, but that’s about as far as parenting went.  And as times progressed, people parented intuitively, or like they had been parented, which had very little thought behind it.  The history of parenting in this country includes parents in apartment dwelling, putting their children in cages, suspended in the outside to air them.  But they left them there for eight hours.  And then when survival no longer depended on needing kids around, people started to think about how they felt.  And how their mothers treated them.  I think Freud in the 1920s was the first person to really make an impact about thinking about childhood.  So it’s been the last 100 years when we really started to experiment, talk about, and think about, how we were parented. 

This is new.  What we do with a child, that child remembers.  What we give to that child, emotionally, physically, and often gift-wise, that child remembers.  Everything that we do and everything we don’t do...  One of my audience members told me that he was obsessed with building models.  He related a story about when he was a child, and it was holiday time, his parents would ask him what he wanted.  He would make a list for them, on which he would write down the numbers of the models he wanted.  He never got them.  He has never forgotten that.  You know, when soldiers came back after WWII, they had left their parents in charge of some of their belongings (e.g., guitars, pets, etc.), and when they came back, and the pets were gone, and the guitars were gone, they were crushed.  And often, their parents said, “We didn’t think you were coming back.”  It gets to go from an emotional to a physical hit.  Emotional damage can feel physical, and this is not without reason.  Innumerable studies have demonstrated the negative health effects of emotional harm, such as an increase or decrease of certain key chemicals in the brain, in addition to higher blood pressure and an increased rate of heart attack or stroke.  

Email Impact

Funny how certain e-mails arrive, and I stop all other activities I’ve been engaged in….

One of my California pals sent me one this morning that involved her planning for her Christmas catalogue!!! I have always wanted to create something to sell in a catalogue that reminds people to pay attention…to each other & put their cell phones away & take a time out to BE…smell the roses, pay it forward, ask for help, and to really listen to another...


Another e-mail video arrived showing how kids and even grown-ups react when they receive a puppy as a gift; all girls started to cry with happiness and joy…the one young boy just fell down and started giggling, while holding his wee bull dog…!!!


AND then an article I’ve been saving, suddenly appeared on the top of a certain stack …”To build a better human, we must start with the ears” written by a classics professor Tom A. Palaima, at the University of Texas …who wrote that “True attentive listening is a vanishing skill and underdeveloped talent. We all want to be heard.” 

YES, we do.


I had to find some Research about the impact of technology on small children…Here it is:


Using a smartphone or iPad to pacify a toddler may impede their ability to learn self-regulation, according to researchers.

In a commentary for the journal Pediatrics, researchers at Boston University School of Medicine reviewed available types of interactive media and raised “important questions regarding their use as educational tools”, according to a news release.

The researchers said that though the adverse effects of television and video on very small children was well understood, society’s understanding of the impact of mobile devices on the pre-school brain has been outpaced by how much children are already using them.

The researchers warned that using a tablet or smartphone to divert a child’s attention could be detrimental to “their social-emotional development”.

“If these devices become the predominant method to calm and distract young children, will they be able to develop their own internal mechanisms of self-regulation?” the scientists asked.

Jenny Radesky, clinical instructor in developmental-behavioural pediatrics atBoston University School of Medicine, published her team’s findings. She urged parents to increase “direct human to human interaction” with their offspring.

Radesky encouraged more “unplugged” family interaction in general and suggested young children may benefit from “a designated family hour” of quality time spent with relatives – without any television and mobile devices being involved.

Radesky questioned whether the use of smartphones and tablets could interfere with the ability to develop empathy and problem-solving skills and elements of social interaction that are typically learned during unstructured play and communication with peers.

Food for thoughts today.


Do you know someone who's going away to college?

Beginning college is a scary and exciting time.  For many students, it will be their first time living independently, and they'll be experiencing the pressures of a new environment, harder classes, a heavier workload, and making new friends.  Navigating the increasingly challenging college landscape is difficult, not only for students, but for their parents, as well, who often don't know how they can most effectively support their kids.  This is why I've created Attention:  Secrets for Making it in College and Beyond.  This short book is like a manual–a personal mentor–that will help both students and parents know what to expect, and enable them to meet these new challenges head on.  Watch the video below to learn more.  

If you, your child, or someone you know is going off to college for the first time, this book will be an invaluable resource.  Find it on Amazon, or click here to purchase it now!