The Gift of Music Offers Joy to Young Girl With Cerebral Palsy

guitarCerebral palsy can cause significant disabilities in children, but it doesn’t have to take away enjoyment of life. Children with cerebral palsy can enjoy many of the same activities as other kids. One victim of cerebral palsy, Randi Gabbert, proves that children with cerebral palsy can do incredible things when they put their minds to it. Randi sings and sees herself as a musician – not someone with a disability.

Meet Randi Gabbert: Musician

Randi Gabbert has never known a life without music. Since the age of three, Randi’s father Randy Gabbert has played in a country-rock band called Southern Exposure. The band mostly plays at its regular venue in Sanford, North Carolina: Big Harry’s Tavern. Randy plays guitar and bass in the band, and would often take Randi to gigs. Randi used to sing along from the audience, but then her father encouraged her to join the band on stage.

Randi’s interest in music really took off after the first time she sang on stage with her dad and the other members of Southern Exposure. Although she was scared to go on stage at first, support from her family and the audience helped her overcome her fear. Motivated by the applause, praise, and tips from audiences, Randi continued to join the band at gigs until her fear of performing melted away. She’s now a regular in the band, and even made it to the “Wall of Fame” at Big Harry’s Tavern.

Today, Randi Gabbert is 23 years old and still singing. She finds immense joy in music, as she has for the last two decades. Singing helps Randi’s confidence, self-esteem, and mental health. It also gives her something to look forward to – performance nights. Tons of cheers and applause always follow Randi’s performances with the band. Now, Randi has just one more goal: to walk onto the stage unassisted. She believes it’s a goal she can attain with hard work and determination.

Randi’s Battle With Cerebral Palsy

Cerebral palsy does not define Randi Gabbert. Yet it has been a monumental part of her life since birth. At 12 months old, doctors diagnosed Randi with cerebral palsy. It is a more common condition in premature infants, and Randi was born three months early. Randi was under two pounds and just 12 inches long at birth. Doctors didn’t know if she would survive, and she spent the first three months of her life in the hospital. Randi did survive, but she suffered brain development problems that caused cerebral palsy.

Randi’s type of cerebral palsy affects mostly her legs. She had to have three surgeries as a toddler to try to straighten her legs, as well as braces and other medical devices to aid in healthy development. Although doctors were not sure if Randi would be able to walk, she proved that determination can overcome almost anything. She went from crawling to walking with help from a walker, and today Randi only needs crutches for support when she walks. She aims to someday be able to walk on her own.

Music has a special place in Randi’s heart. It is engrained in her upbringing, and something she can look forward to every day. Singing with her father and his band provide Randi with physical and cognitive benefits, including greater self-esteem. To Randi, singing is almost therapeutic – as music can be for children with cerebral palsy. It has given her a way to define herself outside of her cerebral palsy diagnosis, and a reason to set goals for her future.

Musical Therapy for Children With Cerebral Palsy

Randi has discovered, as so many other children with cerebral palsy do, the magic of music to help with symptoms of cerebral palsy. Although conventional therapies can be very beneficial for children with cerebral palsy, they aren’t the only option. Alternative therapies such as recreational, aquatic, and musical therapies can help children in unique ways. One study in Spain found significant functional improvements in children with severe cerebral palsy after receiving neurologic music therapy.

The improvements were most pronounced in arm and hand position, as well as activities from the Locomotor Stages and Chailey Levels of Ability. Improvements in these areas persisted after four months, while the control group showed no improvements. The Spain study, along with others like it, prove that music therapy is useful in improving the functionality of children with cerebral palsy.

Music therapy can help children connect physical and cognitive skills in one activity, enhancing the learning experience. Musical therapy and playing instruments can potentially improve a child with cerebral palsy’s coordination, balance, communication skills, muscle strength, and gross motor function. The most effective musical therapy is customized according to each child’s unique needs and skills. As Randi proves, music can work wonders for children with cerebral palsy. Whether you enroll your child in musical therapy or encourage him or her to get on stage, music could change your child’s life.