Bobby learning to walk again at The Children\'s Trust

A purple box wrapped with a yellow bow. The symbol of the Extraordinary Music Box Appeal by The Children's Trust.Bobby's Story

My six year old son Bobby can take 150 steps now. It’s a miracle as far as I’m concerned. He screws his little face up and concentrates very hard. And off he goes in his helmet in case he falls. My heart jumps every time. I think yours might too if you could see him!A year or so ago, he couldn’t even hold his head up, never mind walk.I’d like to talk to you about music and the difference it can make. It’s extraordinary, and it’s also pretty interesting.You might think that music therapy sounds like well-meaning people playing tambourines to poorly children. I think I probably did before Bobby’s accident. But in the hands of The Children’s Trust, it’s so much more than that and adds to all the physical therapies the children get, with the most extraordinary effect on the children. Think how you learned your times-tables in that sing-song voice at school. How you make your family’s phone numbers sink into your brain in little chunks with the help of a rhythm. Those rhymes you’ve found yourself singing to small children that have never left you because they were learned so early. And the songs from when we were teenagers that make us nod and jiggle in our seats when they come on the radio in the car. ‘‘“He would really let himself go at the Glitter Group and show off shamelessly. It was so precious to see him smile again.’’Carly, Bobby's mumThis is what music therapy taps into. Repetition. Rhythms. Memories.Bobby was run over nearly two years ago when he was five by a learner driver who lost control.He was airlifted to hospital where he had three brain surgeries for his injuries in 48 hours, and I sat with him for four weeks in a coma. They said he had a 10 per cent chance of surviving. When he became conscious, he’d lost the ability to speak or walk, and was being fed through a tube. I could see other parents thinking, ‘Thank God that’s not my child’.
Bobby with his mum Carly whilst receiving specialist neurorehabilitation - including music therapy - at The Children's Trust
When he was moved to The Children’s Trust for rehabilitation, he was so fragile. And I was feeling so bleak. But do you know what? After a few days, I started to hear stories about the progress children had made there, and the focus changed, from saving Bobby’s life to helping him start again. It’s such hard work for children. Day in, day out. They need a fun side. And music brings that. It motivated Bobby and brightened him up so he didn’t even realise he was learning and working.Music therapy is so much more powerful than just brightening a child up, though. It actually helps to create new pathways for moving and communicating in the brain, to get round the connections that have been damaged by a brain injury. So at first, for example, by encouraging Bobby to pluck at a guitar, which produced a sound he liked, Bobby learned without realising it to make that important small pinching movement with his fingers again – the kind you need for holding a pencil or a fork. Then playing simple tunes on a keyboard helped him practice coordination and concentration. Physiotherapy got Bobby back up on his feet, but then the rhythms of his favourite music helped with making his walking better, his steps more even, so that the day we left, he got up out of his wheelchair to ring the big brass ‘going home’ bell with everyone cheering. Can you imagine!

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But brain injury also often takes away a child’s ability to speak, to let you know when they’re frightened or sad or just need a hug. Bobby had always been a chatty little boy, but after the accident he could only make noises. It was so hard.Using music along with speech and language therapy helped Bobby learn to communicate and talk again. It started by Bobby learning to shape the noises he could make into vowel sounds. Jonathan, one of the therapists, made up a song for Bobby using those sounds and a musical keypad Bobby would press along with it. He started singing quietly, but soon he was belting out, conducting the whole family to sing with him. His talking is really coming along now. We don’t need the communication grid he came home with, to point to pictures to help him with what he wanted to say. Now Bobby can tell me what he wants or needs without it.I am still heartbroken though.
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When Bobby was back at school, before we decided to homeschool him whilst he has some more operations, I went on a few school trips. And to see the other kids and what they could do was a reality check. I still can’t look at videos from before the accident.But it’s letting Bobby down looking back at how he used to be. Life won’t be the same again. But Bobby gives me so much strength. I wish you could meet him. Last Christmas was so hard. We’d just come home, we’d just moved into a new house to allow for Bobby’s wheelchair, and we couldn’t stop thinking about all the things he couldn’t do any more. But this will be our second Christmas and things feel different, they are different. And it’s thanks to all the help Bobby has had from the lovely staff at The Children’s Trust, and from people like you who have helped to cover the cost of the therapy that has boosted his progress in such an extraordinary way. We’re looking forward to Christmas so much. Bobby can’t wait. But there are so many children at The Children’s Trust facing Christmas next month with a brain injury and the huge task of learning everything again from scratch. If you’d like to help one of these children, or more than one child learn to walk, talk and smile again, I can’t think of a better way of doing it than giving the gift of music. I know it will be used so well. If you’d like to send a note to one of them, or all of them, The Children’s Trust is putting a little decoration in with this letter that you might like to use. Just pop it into the envelope and they’ll hang it on the tree. Bobby and I will be sending ours too. With best wishes and big thanks,Carly, mum of Bobby

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