Nursery rhyme lullabies,
Praise and worship melodies,
Lyrics that help us memorize God’s word, and
our silly made up songs that help us remember important information.
In the car, at school, at church,
at ball games, and in the clothing shops.
Music is everywhere around us.
When you have a child with a sound related sensory challenges, almost anywhere you go might send his central nervous system into fight, flight, or freeze mode with the mere sound of mere music notes. The sounds that make other children tap their feet, clap their hands, or drum their finngertips, made our child reach for his ears and twist his face in a look of pain.
Before seeing the world through our sweet boy’s eyes, I only saw music as a gift. Throughout every season, music has helped me process my emotions and experiences in healthy ways. Whether I was singing songs of lament to the Lord for the season we were walking through with Elevation Worship’s music or thinking ahead to the future joy awaiting us in Heaven with Phil Wickham’s songs, the Lord continually brought songs to my mind. Songs that gave my soul the words to cry out to Him for help. Lyrics to praise Him in gratitude when I wasn’t sure how to process the emotions and details of our current season of life.
As I was trying to make sense of how sensory processing challenges might look, sound, and feel like for our son, I read the book The Out-of-Sync Child by Carol Stock Kranowitz. Through Carol’s experiences as an expert in early childhood education, she specifically focuses on how to help all early childhood learners grow in the areas of music, movement, and drama. For the last 25+ years, she explores how to skillfully integrate sensory needs into music, movement, and play. As I read through her experience of working with children like our son, she helped me see how early intervention could be the game changer that could unlock the world of music for our child.
Although our child was hearing the same music the rest of us were, for him, it was like the volume in his ears was magnified to a painful decibel that was hard to dial down. If only I could give him a remote to turn down the noise level in his ears of what he was hearing. The tricky thing about sensory processing challenges is for many children with this neurological difference, they look like everyone else physically, but their internal central nervous system has neurons that respond differently. It was like his ear drums were turned up extra loud while the rest of ours were at a normal, comfortable volume. When you look like everyone else on the outside, then it can be hard for people to have compassion for what is going inside your body.
To be honest, for the last year, I put encouraging our son to grow a love for music on the back burner. Instead I tried to discover how to help him muffle the sounds instead of embracing them. With headphones ever ready in case the music became too loud, I tried to help him learn to be comfortable with music surrounding him.
Then about a month ago, everything changed. As I was throwing together a quick dinner after a hectic evening of rushing kids to sports practices, I looked up to see our sweet boy sitting at the kitchen table, waiting patiently for me to finnish making dinner. The fact that he was waiting patiently should have been a signal of the growth that was happening in his brain. Then, while he was waiting, I heard the sweetest sounds my ears have ever heard. With a voice completely on pitch and in perfect rhythm I hear:
“He’s got the whole world in His hands.
He’s got the whole world in His hands.
He’s got the whole world in His hands.
He’s got the whole world in His hands.”
As he went on to continue singing the other verses of the song, I couldn’t believe what my ears were hearing and my eyes were seeing. Just as the lyrics say, “He’s got the Mommas and Daddies and brothers and sisters in His hands,” God had our family in the palm of His hands in this entire season. As musical notes filled his voice, I was left speechless.
Instantly I set down the spoon I was using to stir the boiling water and macaroni noodles and raced over to the table. Excitedly touching both of his shoulders with my hands and looking deeply into his twinkling brown eyes, I told him, “Buddy, that was the most beautiful sound I have ever heard. Where did you learn that song?”
He nonchalantly replied, “Oh we sing that at school, Momma. Want to hear another song we sing?”
With tears of joy filling my eyes, I told him, “Absolutely! I want to hear you sing any song that comes to your mind.”
When the steam from the cooktop reminded me that I needed to keep finishing dinner preparations, I reluctantly went back to finish making dinner all the while listening to my child sing to me about the love of Jesus and rejoicing in the Lord always. Those songs will forever be more than just lyrics that I have sung hundreds of times with children in the past. Now everytime I sing “He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands,” “Jesus loves me,” or “I’ve got joy down in my heart,” I will forever have this memory etched in my innermost being.
These lyrics represent a year’s worth of answered prayers. This was the day that our sweet boy’s neural pathways that lead from his ears to his brain and then to his vocal cords connected in the most beautiful way and sparked a joy for music inside of him. The extraordinary thing is that since that day, there hasn’t been a day that I haven’t heard him sing since. Singing in the bathtub, singing in the car, singing in the laundry room, or singing in his bedroom-this boy’s world is now filled with music, and for the first time, music brings him joy!
Friend, I am not sure if you are walking a similar path with a child with sensory challenges? Maybe for your child, you are working through different sensory preferences and painful inputs. Maybe your child isn’t diagnosed with anything specifically, but deep down you know something isn’t quite the way it should be. Maybe you aren’t sure how to get the answers you need to begin the process of growth and healing.
First, I want to encourage your Momma’s heart: as hard as this part of your journey might be, your Heavenly Father has you in His hands. He loves you with an everlasting, complete love that can drive away all of the fears and “what ifs” you have for your child. If you let Him, He will be right by your side through each and every moment. Your child is fearfully and wonderfully made, neurological differences and all. With every fiber of my being, I know the Lord has a plan and a purpose for your sweet child, just like He has for mine, too.
So, today, I pray the Lord will bring the right people to your path who can help your child more than just survive this season of life but instead to flourish and thrive. I know this is possible, because I have seen the miraculous power of the Lord creating new growth in our child’s central nervous system firsthand. What may seem impossible for us, isn’t impossible for our Lord. As our sweet boy will now sing and remind us both, God’s got the whole world in His hands. That means you, sweet Momma, and your children, too. And just maybe, you will get to hear your child begin singing with a joyful heart, too.
Although I didn’t realize the significance when our sweet boy brought home this world finger painting, now I realize as he was painting the world, the lyrics to “He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands” were making their way deep inside his central nervous system. This artwork will be something I forever cherish. A sort of “stone of remembrance.” A reminder that no matter what, God has all of us in His hands. Forever held and loved in the arms of our Heavenly Father. No matter where you find yourself, God’s got you in His hands.