Therapist Julie Avirett uses songs and instruments to soothe sick children.
Hometown: Staunton, Ill.
Florida Home: Fort Myers
Occupation: Board-certified music therapist at Golisano Children’s Hospital of Southwest Florida.
Early inspiration: The film Stand Up and Wiggle about a cerebral palsy patient who, with the help of music therapy, eventually stood without braces.
Serious training: Her education included a three-year, post-graduate program pairing music therapy with physiology, psychology, anatomy and early childhood development.
She’s got talent: Avirett sings and plays guitar and saxophone.
Applied therapy: She often plays music during procedures, such as the removal of a ventilator tube or insertion of an IV, and she encourages parents and children to play and sing along if they can.
What an act: “It may look like entertainment, but it’s a research-based form of therapy shown to reduce the amount of sedation and length of hospital stay for the patient.”
How it works: The brain’s music memory recall is very strong, and music’s ability to distract the patient is key. “It can reduce the amount of pain that is perceived.”
The power of music: “Children can be crying, sick, throwing up, but if they get a drum, it’s like they’re a new person.”
Rapping with teens: With a Q Chord keyboard and lyrics, she can play modern music by artists such as Beyoncé, Akon or Avril Lavigne. “For it to be effective, you have to replicate it as closely as possible to the original artist. But it’s a real stretch for me to rap.”
What’s next: Avirett hopes to purchase a laptop and software
that will allow patients to record their own music during their hospital stay.
Written by: Shellie Benson
Photograph by: Vanessa Rogers