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LETTERS: Music therapy matters to people with disabilities

Our son, Kyle, was the victim of a train accident on Aug., 21, 2013, while he was working for the Mosquito Control Division of the Grand Forks Health Department. He was very fortunate to have lived through the ordeal, but his mobility, speech and processing abilities will never be what they were pre-trauma.

Music therapy has been an important tool in helping him make continued progress. Not only does he enjoy the therapy, but the rhythms he has learned from the sessions have helped him continue to make progress speaking and walking.

We believe it is essential that he continue to receive this therapy weekly here in his hometown of Grand Forks.

Currently at UND, enrollment of music therapy students is at 48 (30 percent of the entire music department), and the suspension of the degree program would result in a large annual tuition loss. Of these music therapy students, about 50 percent are nonresidents. This brings up the number of out-of-state students at UND and increases nonresident tuition payments to the university.

In addition, music therapy was added to the North Dakota Century Code as a licensed profession in 2012. And of the 14 licensed music therapists in North Dakota, only two completed their training outside of UND.

We have seen the healing power of music therapy. It is a very important therapy for our son. It has improved his neurological/motor abilities and provided a means for increasing breath support, increased gait endurance, coordination and balance, improved cognition and word-finding skills. Music therapy uses music as a means to increase neuropathways and bring about progress through the healing benefits and love of music and instrumental use.

We are and will continue to be very grateful to Music Therapy in Motion here in Grand Forks—the owner being one of UND's music therapy graduates—and UND program interns for their caring, goal-oriented and healing services to and for our son.

Why do cuts to programs and services come at the expense of those who need those services the most? I'm speaking here of people who have conditions such as Parkinson's, neurological impairments, autism, traumatic brain injuries, developmental disabilities, multiple sclerosis, and the list can go on.

Too many times, program reductions and eliminations are made on the backs of people who need the programs the most.

We urge UND to reconsider its decision to remove this element of the music program.

Debra Johnson

Grand Forks