Legenda: "Melissa St. John, Board Certified Music therapist, plays music while Cade Thai 5, who Williams Syndrome and Autism pushes his "Ocean Drum" toward his dad Jeff Wiggins left of San Gabriel, at Pasadena Child Development Associates in Pasadena Thursday August 13, 2009. "
" PASADENA - During his recent one-hour music therapy session, 5-year-old Cade Thai strummed a guitar, ran his small fingers over piano keys, and tried to sing along to "Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star."
It's remarkable progress in the eyes of Cade's father, Jeff Wiggins, who said when his son first walked through the doors of a the Pasadena Child Development Associates two years ago, he was a shy and speechless child.
"He's able to now repeat certain words, recognize words and is more verbal," said Wiggins, whose son is autistic and also has Williams syndrome, a genetic condition that slows his development.
He attributes that progress to the organization's music therapy program, which uses music as an educational tool. Parents and children work in private sessions with on-site music therapists like Melissa St. John, who has worked with Cade since May 2008.
Since then, she's noticed he now "imitates the rhythm, smiles more and is more engaged."
"There is so much more interaction," St. John said.
But now the program is in jeopardy, a victim of state budget cuts, said Diane Anand, executive director of the Frank D. Lanterman Regional Center, which refers families to the Pasadena program.
The Department of Developmental Services, which funds the Pasadena Child Development Associates, received a $334-million cut in its funding, and the ripple is being felt across many programs that serve disabled children, officials said.
AbilityFirst, a local nonprofit that sends disabled children to its annual summer camp in the San Bernardino Mountains, recently announced it has suspended the camp for next year because of funding cuts by the state, said spokeswoman Carolyn Aguayo.
The Pasadena Child Development Associates gets about $13,000 a month from the state to provide the music therapy program to about 60 children and their parents, Executive Director Diane Cullinane said, adding that the cuts will force the organization to seek out private donations and grants to keep the program going.
The program needs at least $20,000, which would provide weekly music therapy sessions for 40 children for six months, she said. Even so, parents would still need to pay a small fee of $30 for what formerly had been a free program.
"It is so discouraging," Cullinane said. "I think it is so sad, because we see the children and their families benefit from the music therapy."
Pasadena Child Development Associates
Families in the program are being notified of the changes. Cullinane said her staff is working to raise private funding so that the program can be offered in October. A fund-raiser is scheduled for November.
Music therapy program that helps local autistic children open up falls victim to state budget cuts
By Caroline An, Staff Writer, 08/16/2009
"We have nothing now, but if we get $3,000, we'll start the program and keep it going," Cullinane said.
Wiggens said he'll pay for the program out of his own pocket, because it has benefitted his son so noticeably. But he likely will cut down Cade's sessions to once a week, he said.
Cade loves music, Wiggins said, a characteristic common among people with Williams syndrome. When Cade gets cranky at home or at bedtime, jazz and classical music and lullabies help soothe him, he said. The family also has purchased several instruments Cade plays at home to duplicate his music sessions at the Pasadena Child Development Associates.
"We want to have the least disruptive impact on Cade," said Wiggins. "Luckily, we can pay for (the services), and coming here is the most convenient for us." "(PASADENA, CA )
PHOTO GALLERY - Pasadena Child Development Associates