By Wendy Harron - September 22, 2011
Why I choose to use the Interactive Metronome (IM)
Hi there! My name is Wendy Harron and I am an Occupational Therapist. I have worked at A.I. duPont Hospital in Wilmington, DE for the past 20 years helping kids suffering from Developmental Delay, Down Syndrome, Cerebral Palsy, Learning Disabilities, ADD/ADHD, Sensory Processing Disorder, and various other genetic and developmental disabilities.
When heard about the Interactive Metronome words like "Technology", "Computers", "Cowbells", "Clapping" and "Tapping" flooded my ears. How could any of these help a child who has special needs? It seems that there are tons of techniques and modalities out there to help our children. How do you know which one to choose? Therapeutic Listening Programs, Astronaut Training Protocols, Captain’s Log, Brain Gym…. the list goes on and on. Each one different and requiring investigation to see which one will work for your family and your child. I had been reviewing research about a program called Interactive Metronome, seeing its positive impact on not only children with special needs, but adults with special needs, children in school, musicians, football players and even golfers! This was something that I needed to check out!
Several years ago, I decided to take the Interactive Metronome course. Prior to taking the course, I was given the opportunity to attend the annual conference in Orlando, Florida. I went to the course and listened carefully. Rewiring the brain….how does timing impact our skills…It was a lot to take in, but I plunged forward to the actual training. I began the course skeptical but hopeful to find something that would help my many patients at the children’s hospital that I have been working at my whole 20 year long career. I have seen many techniques come and go and even come again, what could this program offer that would be different? Helping kids with special needs is my passion, my drive and my life.
I learned how to hook the IM unit to the computer, go through the testing and exercises in the software etc. But what really got me excited and hopeful was that this program required a response. Not just a look or a listen, but a motor response AND it was going to give instant feedback so I would know how to adjust my movements! At first it was very confusing and oh so tiring! What I had seen in videos was people happily clapping or tapping their toes. How difficult could that be? So easy to say until you try it yourself!
I tried the exercises that I would be asking the children to try in my clinic. I put on headphone and heard a metronome beat that sounded like a cowbell. So I practiced clapping hands, tapping toes, alternating a hand tap with a toe tap – things got more challenging. I began to work up a sweat and then some ideas! Clapping hands together – that would be so good for my kiddo’s with hemiplegia. Tapping toes would be awesome for my kiddos who had CP and would drag their toes or even trip on them. Alternating hand and foot movements would be wonderful for my children with motor planning issues. And all of the auditory processing skills that would be worked on was a bonus!
Over the years, I have stuck with IM. It hasn’t faded from my treatment repertoire or gotten shoved back into a closet with dust and old testing manuals on top of it. In fact, here we are 9 years later and using it more than ever! I have learned how to use switches in very creative ways to help the children I am working with and also to help spark their interest. We could tap switches, clap switches, bounce balls on switches, jump on trampolines to reach switches, poke switches and on and on it goes. People who say that IM is a rigid tool with no flexibility or no creativity allowed have not experienced IM.
From my patient’s point of view, 99% are intrigued and very interested to try something new and different! And from my observations, parent observations and clinical data it is helping our kids reach their old goals and gain new ones! As one mom put it “It helped my child to turn the corner”.
From a parent’s point of view, it is a labor of love and an investment in time if you are going to go through the whole program in the clinic. The therapy is intensive in general, but only for several weeks. The changes they have reported to me have been just amazing. And once they start seeing a change, excitement keeps them going. They have reported a wide variety of improvements in their children. Reports of improved coordination, focus and attention are at the top of the list. Other improvements have been everything from improved reading and math skills, increased socialization with friends and family, improved language production, self care skills and handwriting. Parents have also observed improved sleeping patterns, willingness to complete homework and participate in play with siblings and peers.
If you have a child who has special needs it would definitely be worth your time and theirs to investigate Interactive Metronome, it could make a great difference in their life. And now IM can be done without having to go to the clinic, with IM-Home. When I am talking to parents I always remind them that IM is a noninvasive, non-pharmaceutical modality – something definitely worth trying with their child.