2006 World Parkinsons Congress Poster Session presented by Heather MacTavish

Use of the drum~story~song method enhances the movement, attention, and communication responses of individuals with compromised neurologic systems such as Parkinson’s Disease.

Supporting literature demonstrates…

♪ Musical interventions enhance cognitive function.

♪ Movement enhances activation of higher brain levels and positively influences attention span and emotion.

♪ Inactive neurons can change functional specificity, allowing appropriation by nearby operating systems.

♪ Seemingly “lost” memories are often accessible utilizing emotional triggers to the limbic system.


After facilitating on-going drumming programs at senior centers, day-health and long-term care facilities, the author (diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease in 1995) recognized a growing need to support and maintain her own long-term interest and mental stimulation. The drum~story~song method resulted.
To enhance the attention, movement, and communication responses of individuals with compromised neurologic systems using a format of percussion, storytelling, and singing.

Data collection

Video records, obtained during the course of the study, range from twenty to fifty minutes duration, per session. Session videotapes were examined by a team consisting of the author, videographer, and various consultants in such fields as care delivery, learning theory, recreation, and music therapy. Each video review process occurred before the next scheduled session, thereby providing guidance for adjustments in content and facilitation techniques.


♪ Within a combined story and quiz show format, residents of a skilled nursing facility received verbal, musical, and metaphorical clues, prompting them to guess appropriate vintage songs. 25 to 40 residents met twice a month over a six-month period with group sessions ranging from 45 to 70 minutes.

♪ Subject responses were facilitated by guiding percussive punctuation of song refrains and encouraging optimum levels of engagement.

♪ Participants were encouraged to use two beaters in order to promote and stimulate bilateral upper-body movement.

Session Elements

Instrument and facilitation tools, fashioned to meet participant unique needs, were designed and tested for efficacy during the six-month program. Primary design considerations were ease of use and promotion of feelings of inclusiveness and empowerment.

♪ ‘Fluffy’ beaters allow full expression while restricting volume output.

♪ Participation by individuals from diverse backgrounds

♪ Lightweight drums on adjustable stands for ease of transportation

♪ Double - headed beaters avoid incorrect use and enhance grasp comfort.

♪ Brightly coloured shoes and socks attract interest and attention.

♪ Rubber grips recycled from bicycle inner tubes improve grasp comfort.

♪ Use of non-verbal communication methodologies.

♪ Individual choice of instruments.

♪ Musical props that include motion and sound.

♪ Exaggerated gestures and speech.

♪ Rolling chairs allow facilitators to meet participants at their level.

Observed Benefits

♪ increased attention and participation levels

♪ demonstrated anticipation of challenge and reward

♪ exhibited improved perception, cognition, and recall

♪ enhanced motor skills

♪ displayed improved sense of identity and belonging

♪ identified opportunities for empowerment and success

♪ provided an outlet for verbal and non-verbal expression

♪ increased interest in challenge to the intellect


Short-term and long-term use of the drum~story~song model enhances movement, attention, and communication responses of individuals with compromised neurologic systems.

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