JERSEY SHORE - A national nonprofit program soon will be available locally to help children with their disabilities.
Called Drums and Disabilities, or D.A.D. for short, it lets children take out their aggression while improving their motor skills simply by banging on drums, said Mike Wrench, certified drum therapist.
The program has certified drum therapists all over the country and the world, teaching children with a wide variety of disabilities - such as dyslexia, autism and bipolar disorder.
Certified drum therapist Mike Wrench practices on a drum pad at his home recently. Wrench uses drumming therapy to treat children and adults with disabilities.
Wrench knows from experience what it is like growing up with a disability. He had attention deficit disorder and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.
Like Wrench, D.A.D. founder Pat Gesualdo grew up with disabilities. He had a severe battle with dyslexia.
"Originally, they thought it was cerebral palsy," Gesualdo said. "I didn't speak until I was almost 5 years old."
When he did begin speaking, he had a stuttering problem.
On top of that, he had no fine motor skills. He had to rely on braces on his ankles and knees to help him walk.
"At the same time, I wanted to play the drums," Gesualdo said. "It was ironic. I couldn't read. I had to work very, very hard."
He worked three to four hours daily on the drums from when he was 9 years old to at least high school. It took an entire year for him to coordinate his left hand and left foot, developing the cognitive skills.
"I really beat my disability by the time I was in junior high school," Gesualdo said. "By about 10th grade, I completely beat my disability, primarily through drumming."
After graduating college, he did research studying how what he did helped him beat his disability. He began helping other kids, teaching 100 students a week.
"Many of them had disabilities," Gesualdo said. "I never advertised that way. It was just fate."
He did a study, had it published and wanted to turn it into a program to help students. The New York City school system launched a special education pilot program that kept spreading.
"The D.A.D. program is never about me," Gesualdo said. "It's all about those little boys and girls and their families."
Psychologists, neuroscientists, speech therapists, behavior therapists and drummers kept calling from all around the country to learn about the program. Since he could not be everywhere, he designed a system.
He began training the interested people but decided that he wanted to be the only one who trained them.
He explained it was not an ego point, but the program had to be implemented correctly to maximum the outcome and potential.
"Our guy in Serbia knows the exact same way (as) the guy in California," Gesualdo said. "It's much easier that way."
Wrench learned the same system after contacting Gesualdo in January, saying he was interested.
"I wanted to be able to help children in that way," Wrench said.
He begins working with the students on
snare drums, letting them hear the different sounds.
Wrench had been looking for an organization to help before he came across D.A.D.
"I felt my goal in life is to help people," he said. "If I can help someone, I have to. That's who I am."
Since he already loved playing the drums, he thought it would be perfect.
"The biggest reason I'm doing this is to help people succeed and get better with their daily lives," Wrench said.
Wrench will work out of the Jersey Shore YMCA after its renovations finish later this month. He anticipates starting around November. He hopes to also work out of a Williamsport location until he has enough clients to open a business downtown.
He can work individually with students or with as many as 10 children in a classroom. Each student receives a different rhythm, so they're working together and hitting their drums at separate times.
It gives the children a confidence boost because Wrench said they're creating something.
For children easily frustrated, such as those with obsessive compulsive disorder, it helps to be surrounded by people in similar situations to help stop the frustration, he said.
Recently, Gesualdo also has been helping senators and congressmen write disability laws.
"What a great honor that is," he said.
For more information, visit dadprogram.org.