Jacob, 37

My name is Jacob and I am a special educator, musician, and career coach. At birth, I developed a brain hemorrhage, which caused me to develop hydrocephalus. As a result of this, I grew up with a learning disability (LD).

Despite my LD, I had a pretty normal childhood. I had friends, went to public school, participated in extra-curricular activities, etc.  However, I always felt a little different. I saw things differently than my peers. When most kids chose X, I’d choose Y.  It wasn’t until I first heard live music that I fell in love and wanted to learn more.

I was on the 3rd Street Promenade in sunny Santa Monica, CA and I overheard a street musician playing the clarinet.  It was an amazing sound; like something I’ve never heard before.  Now, I’ve definitely heard music before, but this was something else. It was Jazz. I was simply blown away at the complexity of the way the horn could bring the notes up the scale, down, and all around the horn.

After a few years of studying music, I started to make the connection of using the syncopation of music (i.e. the rhythm) as a way to remember and recall information for MYSELF. I had a pretty tough time remembering information (mostly short term). However, I had this strange ability to retain hundreds of short tunes in my head and I could recite them with ease.

In class one day, I was ‘day dreaming’ and the teacher asked the class to take out a piece of paper. I didn’t hear the words, but as students around me were taking out paper, all I heard were what sounded like a beat – it was a group of seven sounds when the teacher spoke. I didn’t listen to the teacher’s words (as I was distracted), but I heard it as a “rhythm” and it made me think of “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” that coincidentally was also 7 sounds (i.e ”how I won-der what you are”, etc  = 7 syllables/sounds = “Take out a piece of paper”).  It was definitely a strange experience. I wanted to tell others about it but I was afraid that I would be labeled as weird or different. I kept it to myself, but I started to use this same formula to remember little things such as math concepts and basic tasks, etc.

I started to tweak the process too by using any song, adding visuals and acronyms, etc.  What it started to do was inadvertently build my confidence in school and in life. Using music to my advantage gave me a feeling of self-confidence that I did not know I possessed. I now use music in any way I can as a method for memory retrieval, behavior management and life skills for students with disabilities.

Music is such a powerful way to communicate; it is no wonder it has been referred to as “universal language”, as it has the power to speak to anyone!

Tell us about your journey with hydrocephalus!

Share your story of hope and perseverance with us! We will feature the amazing individuals in our community who are living life to the fullest regardless of their condition! Stories are reviewed by our staff and posted on our website and through social media. Stories should be no more than 800 words long. Submit your story today!

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