National OT Month: With therapist’s help, patient makes music

Stringing the pieces together

By Stephanie J Parken, MS, OTR/L
Children often dream of playing a musical instrument and six-year-old Cecee is no different. But Cecee’s diagnosis of Dwarfism presents multiple challenges to realizing this dream.

 With an infectious personality and wide smile, Cecee has discovered how to manage everyday life with minimal adaptations. From being in a classroom to managing responsibilities at home, she functions quite successfully. Playing a musical instrument, however, had remained an activity reserved for other children until recently.

Cecee desired to create music of her own shortly after I began her occupational therapy sessions. April is National Occupational Therapy Month, and as a pediatric occupational therapist, I have the privilege of assisting children to fulfill their roles and realize their dreams at home, school and society.

In this case for Cecee, that meant finding the right instrument for her arm length, finger size and overall stature. Through the generosity of Pasewicz String Instrument in Raleigh and my knowledge as an OT and violinist, Cecee tried several instruments. The instrument that provided the best fit is a viola adapted into a cello.

This accommodates both her physical abilities and the specifications of the instrument. We initially tried a violin, but could not find a neck piece wide enough for her fingers without compromising the sounds. We then tried a violin as a cello, but cello strings were too difficult to use on the violin.

We did consider a standard cello, but even the smallest model was too big for Cecee. The viola as a cello, however, worked perfectly. She immediately began singing and “playing” the day she received her instrument. Cecee and I have continued to work on proper body positioning, finger dexterity and overall upper extremity strength and endurance to play her cello. She plans to start taking lessons and we all are anxiously awaiting her first concert!

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