Julio’s Story: JoyRx Music Gave Him a Voice

Despite being a charming teenager who loves to crack jokes for his family, Julio, who lives with Trisomy 21, or Down Syndrome, struggled to connect socially with others, an issue that was exacerbated during the pandemic. He had been working on this with Child Life Specialist Allison Moore at Dell Children’s Hospital for two years before COVID-19 forced Julio into isolation.

While Allison continued to see Julio virtually for therapeutic play sessions, spending his days in quarantine was only making Julio feel more disconnected from others. She quickly realized that he needed additional opportunities for engagement and added JoyRx Music to Julio’s treatment plan. That’s when Allison noticed a positive change.

“JoyRx Music began offering Julio weekly virtual music sessions with myself and their music specialist, Emily, and he lit up in ways that I had never seen,” says Allison. “As soon as we logged in, he’d be so excited and say, “I’ve got something to tell you!” He was using so much more expressive language and blossoming before our eyes.”

Allison and Julio’s mother, Claire, quickly noticed that the songs Julio chose reflected his mood or how he was feeling that day. Music became a language for Julio—it gave him a voice. It was a way for him to process and express the feelings that he was experiencing.

“It was incredible to see,” says Allison. “Music opened a door for him and really helped me understand him better from a therapeutic perspective. Relationships are healing and music was a perfect tool to help Julio feel safe and develop those social connections.”

Claire noticed how empowering the sessions were for Julio because JoyRx Music is truly interactive. No one was telling him what to listen to or creating playlists for him—Julio was choosing. He was in control, something that can be a rare occurrence for a child facing extended treatment or hospitalizations.

“Julio has always loved music, but to hear him start to ask for songs that he wanted to hear, and direct the interactions, was amazing,” says Claire. “He’d choose songs that have meaning to him, songs that reflected his mood, or songs that helped him feel how he wanted to feel, because like Allison says, he speaks through music. It really made a difference, and it was a beautiful experience.”

As studies show in Music As A Medium, JoyRx Music is an important complement to the medicinal side of treatment because music promote healings and feelings of happiness.

“Music is a universal coping tool for all ages, developmental levels, abilities, and cultures. During times of stress, music helps to decrease a child’s rapid heart rate and respirations. If they are in pain, or a family receives difficult news that day, music can really shift the tone of a room,” she says. “Music medicine sessions can be tailored to whatever the child is feeling and reach them in ways words alone cannot. It evokes emotion and memories that have the power to transport children away from where they are in that moment—away from the hospital, for example.”

Or away from the house you’ve been spending all of your time alone in during a pandemic. Claire mentioned that she enjoyed the JoyRx Music sessions as much as Julio did while they were stuck at home.

“JoyRx Music virtual sessions filled our entire home with music and joy. I loved to listen in on his music sessions with Emily, because they were so silly and playful,” she continued. “It’s hard to overstate how happy it made me to hear him be so engaged with the music, to hear him being truly social and expressing himself through music.”

The best part? Julio graduated from high school and is now living independently in a residential community for adults with developmental delays.

“For any 18- or 19- year-old teenager to feel healthy enough to move away from home is amazing. But especially for Julio, his doing so shows that he has grown so much and gained so much confidence at such a young age,” says Claire. “I think, at least, partially, that’s because he learned to communicate and express himself through music. JoyRx Music helped him find his voice. Thank you all so much for making JoyRx Music possible—and for filling homes like ours with Joy.”