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Stories of Ohioans living with disabilities. The series grew out of a training WYSO conducted this spring with four Miami Valley disability advocacy groups: the Access Center for Independent Living, Montgomery County Board of Developmental Disabilities Services, United Rehabilitation Services, and Wright State University’s Disability Services Center. For six weeks, producers April Laissle and Anna Lurie collaborated with people with disabilities to create radio stories. Each story in our series focuses on topics participants said were most important to them.  

URS Uses Drumming Therapy For Kids And Adults With Disabilities

Jerry Kenney
Brandi Battle instructs URS clients through drumming exercises.

Every Tuesday, clients at United Rehabilitation Services of Greater Dayton (URS) gather together and prepare for an excursion in sound. On this day, they’re heading out to the jungles of Africa. A therapist turns on the sound machine while clients hold their drums and wait for their cues to play.

URS offers programs meant to enhance the physical, social, and emotional needs of children, adults and seniors with developmental or acquired disabilities. The adults participating in today’s drum circle offer a glimpse into the variety of clients the organization serves.

On this day, several people who have been given instruments to play are getting help from their neighbors in the circle.

"It's very therapeutic," says Vivian O'Connell, the development director for URS. "The clients are learning a sense of purpose or relieving tension will help with our stress control or it helps our clients to relax to experience music in a different way."

O'Connell says the drumming program came to URS through a program called Health Rhythms in Cincinnati.

"It was developed by a neurologist named Dr. Berry Bittman and we had three staff actually trained in this program. We're also doing intergenerational activities with the preschoolers and some of our seniors and our summer. So it's a really innovative program that no one else locally is offering to kids and adults with disabilities."

The programs Bittman develops stem from the philosophy that, within a health care organization's relationship with its clients, nothing is more powerful than the patient experience.

Program Specialist, Brandi Battle, says her clients feel that power.

Credit Jerry Kenney
Brandi Battle with United Rehabilitaion Services.

"They love it. They get so excited they ask me about it every day. They know that the class is on Tuesdays but every day they'll stop me, "You going to have the class on Tuesday?" Um, yes I am," she laughs. "So, they look forward to it.”

Battle was one of the URS program specialists to take the two-day drum circle training.

"It was great meeting other people and getting their ideas on how they would facilitate their training and their agencies," she says. "It was good being with other adults that like to play the drums, and we did like the guided imagery piece, we were pretending that we were in a rainforest and then having all the musical instruments and then some other people would come and they would sing and act like they were like in a tribe in the jungle and it was just so exciting to have that type of training with all the people."

The Health Rhythms program at URS is supported by grants from the Dayton Foundation and other local funding. O’Connell says they're always looking for ways to bring in new programming.

"This year we funded an art enrichment program that involves performing, visual and all all the different arts. We're bringing in the Muse Machine, Dayton Performing Arts Alliance, we're working through Art Connect, we have music therapy through University in Dayton, so we're trying to bring more opportunities to the Center for the clients that we serve. On a daily basis. We'll have three to four hundred kids and adults involved that we're serving in our center and we're always looking for new opportunities to provide engaging programming for them."

To aid them in their funding needs, URS will hold its annual Rubber Duck Regatta on Saturday during the Hispanic Heritage Festival at Riverscape Metropark. The roughly 20,000 ducks will hit the water at 4:30 p.m.

Jerry Kenney was introduced to WYSO by a friend and within a year of first tuning in became an avid listener and supporter. He began volunteering at the station in 1991 and began hosting Alpha Rhythms in February of 1992. Jerry joined the WYSO staff in 2007 as a host of All Things Considered and soon transitioned into hosting Morning Edition. In addition to now hosting All Things Considered, Jerry is the host and producer of WYSO Weekend, WYSO's weekly news and arts magazine. He has also produced several radio dramas for WYSO in collaboration with local theater companies. Jerry has won several Ohio AP awards as well as an award from PRINDI for his work with the WYSO news department. Jerry says that the best part of his job is being able to talk to people in the community and share their experiences with WYSO listeners.