Virtual music class keeps kids with developmental disabilities engaged during pandemic

Posted at 12:09 PM, May 28, 2020

Music is part of a daily routine for some students in New York. The pandemic may have changed their daily lives, but their musical therapists are going above and beyond, making sure those with developmental disabilities can still have an instrumental connection.

Musical therapists Jill Malloy and Tonia Iadevaia have a special skill set.

“With our job, we work on a lot of social skills, communication, motor skills, all while working on educational goals too,” said Malloy.

And it’s all through music.

“The music is so important. It’s fun, engaging, motivating,” Malloy said. “We can adapt it to meet each child and what they’re interested in.”

The students are from the Brookville Center for Children's Services, a nonprofit that was one of the first schools on Long Island to welcome children with developmental disabilities. Prior to 1967, children with developmental disabilities were prohibited from attending public schools. Now, students from the age of 5 to 21 can attend and have an education in art and music.

Instruments bring light and laughter to so many, despite the fact that the quick virtual switch hasn't been easy.

“We now, all of a sudden, don’t have these instruments,” Iadevaia explained. “I was really holding on to them. They’re an important part of what we do, and now, we don't have them”

“Now, all we have is a computer screen, no instruments,” Malloy added.

Through a lot of trial and error and getting to know the video conferencing program, Zoom, it’s working now for the students at Brookville. And it’s magical.

Eleven-year-old Anthony Metten is completely verbal. He's come a long way since he was diagnosed with autism at 18 months old. He's teaching himself piano now and has a special skill of speaking backwards. He's been to a lot of schools before landing at Brookville, and mom, Dina Metten, says they've never been happier. Well, aside from going to Disneyland, of course.

“For our kids, it’s really challenging for these parents,” said Iadevaia. “I can’t imagine that it can’t be they have a fear of regression and your child has been working on these goals for so long. Many are on the spectrum and already having challenges socializing, and now, they're isolated.”

But they have their music, and even though it's virtual, it's a way to connect, a way to be together and a way to stay engaged. For students whose whole world was turned upside down, music is the one thing that makes everyone smile in tune.