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Beauty Therapy is the new Sensory Therapy

I spend a lot of time in my car, driving to/from projects, and have become a bit of a TEDTalk junkie. Actually, we regularly listen to TED Radio Hour as a family on long drives. Heading to the Virginia mountains the other day we heard a program on Beauty. One of my favorite aspects of these programs is that they encourage you to think about the everyday in a new way.

The “new” for me from this program was actually a strengthening of a previously formed opinion. We need beauty in our lives. The feeling it gives us is not based on thought or reasoning, but is rather innate. The feeling comes first, then the thought. We seek beauty to seek the feeling.

I talk often about sensory issues and “input”. One of Kimberly’s favorite forms of sensory input is music. Music Therapy is a fascinating and effective means of regulating behaviors in a sensory sensitive person. We have only dabbled in it formally. What I see in our sensory seeker is a deep love and appreciation of music. She has specific tastes but they are varied. She requests certain songs or artists, and rarely accepts substitutes for what she needs at that time. Her ability to memorize lyrics and tunes is remarkable – particularly in light of the many other areas she struggles with cognitively. It has always amazed me.

Music can truly be medicine. One of the speakers in this TED program on Beauty is the violinist Robert Gupta. He has experienced first hand the power of music as medicine. I have witnessed it too. I watch as it transforms an agitated, fidgety, frustrated child…struggling to maintain control of her emotions and convey her needs…into a calm, thoughtful person. It brings her into the moment and allows her peace.

Her remarkable sense of timing related to music and ability to keep a rhythm is so contradictory to her often clumsy, erratic mannerisms. I want so badly to know more of why this is and understand what is happening in her brain as she listens. What I do know is that I like what it does for her and so does she. I believe in my heart that the music brings beauty to her in a language she understands better than most.

Beauty can reach us through so many different vehicles: a photograph, a phrase, a deed, a landscape, a fragrance, a texture, a song…it is present all around us. Our job is to be open to it and allow the reaction, the feeling that comes before the thought, to take hold.

Witnessing and accepting beauty is pure “sensory therapy”. All too often we are made to feel that therapy must be exercises, physical and/or mental. I am proposing that an even more effective and intense therapy can be the exposure to and openness to receiving beauty in all forms. And as the speaker Richard Seymour says when it comes to Beauty….

Form is Function.

Just as our food shouldn’t come in a box, neither should the experiences we allow ourselves and our children. Open up. Beauty is everywhere.

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  1. Beautiful post; made me smile. Thank you. 🙂

    • My pleasure 🙂

  2. Ah, you have touched on the basic need we all have-to experience beauty in our lives. I don’t know the neuroscience, but there must be neurons that light up when we connect and relate to beauty. Maybe it is visual-a painting or a sunset, auditory-music, a belly laugh or nature sounds, the smell of Christmas cookies. Whatever makes us smile. Thanks for reminding me how much I need beauty and strive for it everyday.
    Did anyone say ART is needed in our educational systems?

    • Not specifically in these presentations but I certainly agree. Art in school should be much more central to the curriculum than it currently is…

  3. I have always said that music is what got me through my childhood and college:) Do you remember me mentioning that Joshua and Shea’s mom was a professional violinist? I wasn’t sure if I also mentioned she is getting her PhD in Music and Autism. She is now in the process of traveling the globe to speak about her passion. Listening to her play is so inspiring…although when she plays at our parties we add in a little rock and heavy metal to her repertoire:) I know her well if you ever wanted to talk with her.

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