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Huntsville Music Teacher Conducts Study, Sees Music Help Autism

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Right here in Huntsville, a music teacher thinks she's made a major breakthrough in helping kids with autism. Denie Riggs started teaching them music in a special program a few years ago. Now she's published a case study to show her results.

Music trickles through the rainbow adorned door at Perfect Praise Inc.

Inside Riggs plays the piano.  She teaches music among other lessons.

She says, "We want people to know that there is hope."

She goes on to explain, "When a person plays the piano, the right hemisphere and the left hemisphere flow together and cross over."

Riggs started teaching music to young kids for the intellectual benefits, but she found over time that students with autism benefitted even more than most.

She ran a study with just under two dozen students.  Out of seven non-verbal students, she says five had a breakthrough, either into vocabulary or useful vocabulary.

We met parent Linda Rinkel at the studio.  She tells us, "I just didn't see how music could help autism."

She put her daughter into the case study, but you can tell she didn't have big expectations for this instrument of change.

Her eleven-year-old Jamie changed that too, "She started saying my name. She started saying 'Momma, Momma, Momma.'"

Now she works right alongside Riggs, leaning on the music to make a difference.

Jamie built a double-digit vocabulary in the first few months.

Rinkel  says, "The words are stretched out. It would be like, '' But she said it. She said her first sentence . . . We were just really happy.  We think that music really does help autism."

If nothing else, Jamie seems happy too.

Riggs explains her methods this way, "We have a non-traditional curriculum that we have developed that we use with the children - preschoolers, as well as the children with autism - and it involves singing and playing.  And when they do that, every part of their brain is engaged."

Riggs, for her part, just teaches music.  She writes about what she sees it doing.

She believes, "God made music to have power to enhance us, and it works."

You can find more information about the case study and Huntsville classes here.


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