We believe that music can heal, and through our app, we strive to use technology to bridge the gap between those who can provide musical therapy, and those who might benefit from it, especially children with special needs. We are using music as a form of alternate medicine.
As we were researching on a topic for our app, the subject of Music Therapy caught all of our eyes. We were fascinated by the magical healing power of music for patients with mental disordered and brain traumas- at that moment, we knew that Music Therapy will be the topic of our app.
As we dived deeper into the world of Music Therapy and mental diseases, we were stunned by the statistics that 1 in 160 children have Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) while 5.29% have Attention-Deficit/ Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) globally. The National Institute of Mental Health estimates that 3-5% of children have ADHD, or approximately 2 million children in the United States. In 2018, the Centers for Diseases Control and Prevention determined that about 1 in 59 children is diagnosed with ASD.
Biologically, metal illnesses tend to be associated with abnormal levels of neurotransmitters, like serotonin or dopamine in the brain, a decrease in the size of some areas of the brain, as well as increased activity in other areas of the brain. Research shows that pleasurable music increases dopamine levels in the brain.
What does the app do
Our mobile application, MUSETTE, provides soundtracks and animations that acts as follow-along guides for patients to carry out activities. Our application intends to help children with special needs in the following ways:
Practical methods For children with ASD/ ADHD, early intervention cultivate their social skills and strong family bond. These factors are important to the development of the SEN children. However, there is a lack of support service for them. Other than community support services and professional help, parents, teachers, and social workers may not know what else they could do to allow SEN children to reach their full potentials. MUSETTE provides practical ways for caregivers of SEN children to aid the healthy growth and development of the children by cooperating with music therapists in engaging in the music therapy activities outside of therapy sessions.
Financially affordable In contrast with the relatively expensive therapy sessions held by music therapist, MUSETTE is a free app that allows parents to engage their children in music and activities designed by music therapists, helping the children retain what they have learned at the therapy sessions, and even make progress. Moreover, caregivers can rate the performance of children, which helps music therapists assess the overall improvements of the children. These could increase the overall effectiveness of music therapy, and after the initial period, reduce therapy sessions and thus, alleviate the financial burden from families.
Improve relationships between caregivers and SEN children Children with ASD/ ADHD may find it difficult communicating their feelings and thoughts, as well as understanding other people. Through engaging in the music activities, caregivers and their children can communicate through specially designed activities, which helps foster better relationships.
Connecting stakeholders Many people are involved in the growth of SEN children, their parents, therapists, school teachers and social workers. It is important for all these stakeholders to be informed of the latest progress of the children. This can increase the efficiency of the overall treatment, allowing professionals to adjust treatments to suit the children's’ condition.
Description of the app
First time user may sign up using their google account. Users may identify their role among our options provided, namely: Kid Family (for parents) Music Therapist Social Worker Teacher Others
Information related to selected roles will be asked, For example, name, age group, phone number will be asked for music therapists; kid’s name, age and sex will be asked for kid family. In case the user has more than one child using the app, each child will have to use a different Gmail account.
Users are able to change their profile or logout in the "Profile" page after signing in.
There are four main features of MUSETTE:
1. Activities A list of music (with activities) suggested or designed by music therapists are displayed. Easy to follow animation and instructions enable caregivers to guide their children. Entertaining animation and videos can attract the attention of the child.
For the two activities designed by music therapists, animations and lyrics will be played in time with the music. They can also choose listening to the soundtrack with or without vocal accompaniment. The speed of the music can be adjusted for non-vocal soundtracks in order to cater for the needs of every children. Instructions of sing-along activity will be provided. The aims for each activity are included in the instructions (e.g. improve the attention span of child). Users can choose to show a white screen to avoid distracting the child.
For other music, users will be directed to a YouTube video. They can play the video and follow along the instructions provided in the videos.
After the activity, caregivers can choose the date of the activity and rate the performance of the child therapy sessions by giving stars.
If the users have multiple connected children (e.g. music therapists, teachers, social workers), they can select the children whom they are carrying out the activity with (from the list of connected students) and input individual ratings.
2. Connect Data sharing between stakeholders enables music therapists to assess performance of child more accurately, increasing overall effectiveness of music therapy on the child.
Under the "Our community" section, caregivers can connect other users through inputting or scanning their personal QR code (Kid Family users can only connect with non-Kid Family users and vice versa). Connected users will be shown in under this section. Users can remove connected users by tapping onto the name of the connected users and press ‘disconnect’.
Under the "Music therapists" section, a list of professional music therapists in Maryland (whom we found online) is displayed here. Their emails, phone numbers, and credentials are shown for other users to search for when they wish to seek assistance from professionals.
3. Statistics This page shows previous records of the selected child's performance (in a week, a month, 3 months, or 6 months), which enables music therapists and caregivers to proactively address strengths and weaknesses of the child, as well as measure progress effectively .
4. Resources This page provides credible information from professional music therapist point of view to users.
Under the "Helpful articles" section, information related to children with special needs will be provided here. Our team hope to consult music therapists and regularly update the most recent and useful information.
Under the "Other activities" section, a list of activities related to music therapy that can be conducted without provided music, such as requiring children to compose a melody, is shown here.
How we built it
We used MIT App Inventor 2, a cloud-based app development tool to build MUSETTE. Data such as user information, performance of children, song lists, and article lists are stored in Google Fusiontables. Google Fusiontables API is used such that users can access these data on the app.
Whats Next for MUSETTE?
1. Cooperating with music therapists to launch a diagnostic test for users It has been observed that even though music has healing properties, some children might also prefer silence to increase focus. Music has different effects on children as their needs and preferences vary. Therefore, we believe that the right way to get started with music therapy is to get a ‘Musical Diagnosis’. We hope to partner with music therapists to curate a form that allows users or parents to fill in information about their children, the symptoms and anything that they have particularly noticed which may be of help. Based on the entries to the form, our app can suggest them special playlists to get them started on their musical journey. Alternatively, they can also schedule one-on-one appointments with the therapists to talk to them about their children and their needs.
2. Adding more songs for users to purchase We hope to collaborate with music therapists to launch more music activities for a larger range of mental disorders.
3. Create a version for iOS devices Currently our app is programmed using AppInventor, and is for android devices only. In near future, we also hope to develop our app using Unity for iOS devices, such that the app can reach more people in need.
Challenges we ran into
Our team consists of three first-time participants of a Hackathon, which makes finding the right direction for the app a big challenge. We had difficulty in estimating the time needed to complete an app and logistics of HopHacks, but we are glad that we manage to finish the app and all the submission documents on time.
Accomplishments that we're proud of
Each of our team member has a different programming skill set: one in java, one in C++, and one in app inventor. We acknowledged the fact that we cannot work on the coding part of the app together from the start. However, our division of labor allowed each of us to perfectly complete our parts, and deliver the best version of our project when all efforts are combined.
What we learned
We have learned that cooperation is the key to accomplishment. In such a limited time, no one person can finish all the work by himself/ herself. We learned that the appropriate division of labor is crucial for the success of a project, as only by doing so, each member of the team can concentrate on doing what they are most skilled at, so as to produce the most desirable product. With an open mind during cooperation, we have also learned to respect each other's opinions. We became more active in voicing out our views when we are in conflicts, which allowed us to take others' comments into our perspective and improve our insights as a whole. We have also learned the importance of persistence- without it, we would have been defeated by the temptation of sleep and would not have been able to finish this project.