Pat Gesualdo: Drum Therapy 
Zone: Drum Therapy For Cognitive Development

Drum Therapy and the DAD Program help the special-needs population with cognitive development and cognitive restructuring by replacing negative thoughts with positive thoughts. Children with learning disabilities often develop negative thought patterns—and rather easily, I might add, because they are aware that they lack the same abilities that their non-disabled peers have. As a result, they often compare themselves to others and rate their own level of ability, or lack thereof, to that of their peers. This can cause the special-needs child to easily develop depression and/or anxiety.

The modalities of Drum Therapy help in several ways. First, they help to replace negative thoughts with positive ones. The negativity that surrounds the special-needs child can be overwhelming. Most of these children are told they are stupid, dumb, or lazy by their parents, teachers, and/or friends. This can occur on a daily basis. I experienced this myself from many school teachers, peers, and drum teachers. Thankfully I had love and support from my family and a few very special teachers who were dedicated to helping me. Many special-needs children, especially those from the inner city, have no support system at all. This creates a huge problem for them and for society as a whole. Negative thoughts become a major cause of low self-esteem, which then turns into negative behavior.

Drum Therapy also helps an individual develop a positive outlook. If a person keeps thinking the same negative thoughts, they will keep finding themselves in the same negative situations. Drum Therapy helps people to develop and keep a positive outlook. Advertisement

In addition, Drum Therapy helps a person to develop positive and successful early milestones. Early negative experiences can impact a child’s life negatively when they get older. Children, especially those with a disability who grow up with pessimistic people around them, usually make bad decisions as adults. Drum Therapy helps develop positive social skills, especially with early intervention.

Drum Therapy assists disabled children and adults develop physical and cognitive functioning and a positive outlook. It does this by replacing their negative thoughts with positive ones. This helps them to attain higher goals in drumming and in life. All Drum Therapists are trained to help Drum Therapy participants to replace negative thoughts with positive ones. In order to do this, a person must become an objective observer of themselves.

The drummer, by nature, often views drumming and the drumset with a “me against it” perception. It’s important that the special-needs student does not develop this outlook, though, because they often feel they are “fighting themselves” to begin with. The combination of “me against the drumset” and “me against myself” can make it extremely difficult for a special-needs student to advance their physical and cognitive development, never mind their drumming skills. Drum Therapy sessions help all participants to develop physically, cognitively, and emotionally. Advertisement

Drum instructors must always remember that special-needs students are fighting a constant battle with physical and cognitive functioning. In order to help the special-needs student avoid developing the “me against it” relationship with the drumset, drum instructors must reinforce that the drummer is always in control of his sticks; the drummer is always in control of the sound his drum will make; and the drummer is always in control of the immediate area surrounding his drumset.

Drum Therapy also helps all participants to set goals. Though your special-needs drum students do need more help, you should have them set the same goals as mainstream students. Don’t treat your special-needs students any differently. Special-needs students want to be treated like everyone else, and can definitely sense when people feel sorry for them. Setting goals will help the students, and it can help the drum instructor to identify one or more drumming problems, such as coordination or speed development. It will also help the special-needs drum student “see” the goal that the Drum Instructor is trying to help them set.

Remember, reaching for goals and becoming a better drummer is much easier to attain when students can see that there is finish line to reach, and that they are not merely playing rhythms and patterns. Advertisement

As always, please feel free to contact me at with questions or for further information on becoming a certified Drum Therapist.

Pat Gesualdo is an award-winning drummer, author, and clinician who has performed and recorded for various Columbia, Warner Brothers, Atlantic, RCA, and Paramount Pictures artists and special projects. He was nominated to Who’s Who In America and was an associate voting member for the Grammy Awards. He is the author of The Art Of Drum Therapy. For more on Gesualdo and the D.A.D. program, go to,,, or