Music is the key to Anais Martinez’s education.

Imagem: Ray Charles

"Anais, who is blind, relies on her ears to channel notes that make her fingers flutter on piano keys. The 11-year-old’s affinity for the piano stirred community leaders in March 2008, when she performed for the Northeast Richland Lions Club in North Richland Hills, Texas.

So the club, which helps youngsters with sight issues, has worked to keep music central to the fifth-grader’s academic and social learning.

“That’s what the Lions are all about – trying to serve our community,” says Richard Davis, secretary of the club.

Anais has been blind since birth and is also diagnosed with pervasive development disorder in the autism spectrum, explained Debbie Dacus, board-certified music therapist in Birdville Independent School District in Tarrant County, Texas. The American Music Therapy Association describes music therapists as healthcare professionals who use music to “address physical, emotional and cognitive needs.”

“We are trained to deal with students who have learning differences or have physical differences that do not allow them to learn from traditional methods,” Dacus says.

The Lions gave Anais a piano that they repaired. They also paid for private music therapy sessions to complement the sessions she gets at Snow Heights Elementary in North Richland Hills, Texas. When the Lions learned recently that family car woes were keeping Anais from private sessions with Dacus, they stepped up to help again.

The Lions bought $750 worth of auto parts that were used by the auto technology department of the Birdville school district and a local mechanic to fix the car.

“They really have been extraordinary,” says Dacus, adding that the private music therapy lessons will resume soon. “They have really gone out of their way to help this family.”

Meanwhile, Anais is improving her music talent and academic skills at Snow Heights.

Anais and Dacus use music to build speech sounds. The music therapy helps with social, conversational and fine motor skills, which involve small muscle movements.

Anais performed at a Christmas concert and the annual dinner hosted by the Birdville school district for families with autistic students, Dacus says. She is playing music of increased difficulty, including Bach, Beethoven, and Ivanovici.

Dacus says that Anais, of her own volition, plays a five-note scale before starting her performances.

“She went on a field trip to hear the opera and ever since then, everything she sings is in operatic style,” Dacus says.

Future goals include incorporating voice lessons and helping prep Anais for middle school, where she can join choir. She continues to work on reading and writing in Braille under the instruction of Kay Boland, who teaches visually impaired children at Snow Heights.

Boland and Dacus are impressed with by Anais’ talent and academic growth.

“It’s our responsibility to make sure this gift is nurtured,” Dacus says."

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