Starting the week of June 18th, campers from 14 states across the nation came to Nashville to participate in the ACM Lifting Lives music camp for people with developmental disabilities. “The residential camp has the dual purpose of studying Williams syndrome and other developmental disabilities and providing music enrichment through performance and education” according to the ACM Lifting Liveswebsite.
Campers participated in a fun-filled week of activities around Music City. They did what many people come to Nashville try to do, they started the week off in a songwriting session with Brett Eldredge and David Lee Murphy where they created the original song “We’re Having A Party”. This was followed by a recording session with Luke Bryan and Paul Worley 2 days later. Then, had a fun evening out at Winners singing karaoke with Lauren Alaina. The next day they were treated to BBQ with Jana Kramer. Finally, they concluded their week with a performance with Big & Rich on the stage of the Grand Ole Opry.
After a week of covering these different events with the campers, I was touched by their enthusiasm, spirit, and musical talent. It was both an amazing experience for the campers and those of us lucky enough to cover it as media. I know it was for me. It was such a special experience to see these people who have to overcome so much in their lives get to live out what is a life-long dream for many that come to Nashville. To watch the expressions on their faces as they came into contact with the different country stars and see their proud faces as they stepped on the Opry stage to sing their song…it’s a memory that I won’t forget and will always treasure. I cheered for them and even shed a few tears in pride for them as I watched them perform on that legendary stage.
I am grateful to have been given the opportunity to cover the different activities of the week because I was given a small glimpse into the lives of these very special people. It is hard to put into words how special these campers were/are. I had many opportunities to interact with them and came out each time being touched by them in so many different ways. Their enthusiasm is infectious, their sweet spirits touched my heart, and the way they are moved by music along with their musical talented is astounding. It’s truly a great thing that the ACM is doing for these people each year and I hope to take part in it again next year.
For more information about ACM Lifting Lives, go to the website: www.acmliftinglives.org. The week-long camp is a partnership between ACM Lifting Lives and Vanderbilt Kennedy Center for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities.
About Williams Syndrome:
What causes Williams syndrome?
Individuals with Williams syndrome usually are missing a small piece of chromosome 7. This rare genetic disorder occurs spontaneously in 1 out of every 7, 500 births. It is not a result of an inherited characteristic from the parents. First recognized in 1961, Williams syndrome affects males and females at equal rates and has been diagnosed in all ethnicities and socioeconomic backgrounds.
What are the effects of Williams syndrome?
While every individual is unique in how they look and act, people with Williams syndrome have some traits in common. They may have some or all of these characteristics, which include:
• Small, delicate bones and features—small teeth spaced far apart
• A white star shape in the iris of the eye • High sensitivity to loud noises • Trouble nursing as a child, slow weight gain, and
colicky behavior as a baby • Anxious or nervous behavior—including “picking”
behavior • Heart, blood vessel, and stomach problems
• High levels of calcium in the blood • Learning or cognitive disabilities • Preferring to spend time with adults instead of peers • Musical talents and/or intense connection with
music—ability to learn though music • Large vocabulary,well spoken • Extremely friendly,caring behavior—cannot
identify bad intentions in other people
Can Williams syndrome be treated?
Individuals with Williams syndrome benefit from early intervention and lifelong physical and psychological therapies. Any medical problems that develop should be monitored closely by doctors experienced in working with individuals with Williams syndrome. To help alleviate maladaptive and social-emotional challenges, try to:
• Keep distractions to a minimum—manage auditory and visual distracters.
• Manage sensitivity to sound—provide comfort and explain loud noises.
• Encourage positive thinking—teach skills for reframing negative thoughts.
• Alleviate anxieties—reassure and aid transition into other activities or topics.
• Monitor sadness—be aware that depression can hide under a cheerful exterior.
• Provide social skills training—practice interaction with others, taking turns, and how to be appropriately cautious of strangers.
Children with Williams syndrome probably will have special needs in their education. The best education programs will be collaborative team approaches, and those that build on and encourage a child’s strengths. Children with Williams syndrome generally respond well—both cognitively and emotionally—to educational programs that use music as a tool. When writing is involved, allow extra time and support and recognize that using computers, calculators, and audiotape recorders may be beneficial.