October 2011 | Vol. X - No. 10
Q & A With Pat Gesualdo, Pioneer of Drum Therapy
Perseverance and Realistic Goal Setting Leads to Success
Q. What career path did you originally envision for yourself?
A. I always knew I wanted to be a drummer.
Q. Did you ever anticipate working with children’s products?
A. No, not at all.
Q. How did you come up with the idea for your first product?
A. The idea for my non-profit organization D.A.D. (Drums and Disabilities), came from my own severe battle with a disability as a child. Drumming helped me to alleviate my disability by the time I graduated High School.
As a top drummer, I pioneered Drum Therapy. Having had the great opportunity to work with various major artists and record companies, I wanted to be able to give back to help the kids, their parents, and their teachers.
The concept of the program was based off of a major research study that I did, which showed how drumming helps to fight disabilities. From there, New York City Mayor Bloomberg and his administration helped me launch D.A.D. as a special education pilot program in the New York City Schools. Now, years later, the D.A.D. program is featured in hospitals, mental health facilities, and school systems throughout the world.
In an effort to help reach even people, I developed the Drum Therapy Kit, which includes A Drum Therapy Manual, A pair of Drumsticks, an Instructional DVD, and a Drum Pad. The Drum Therapy Kit is produced and distributed through PlayAbility Toys, which is one of the world's leading companies that creates and manufactures toys for children and adolescents with special needs.
Q. How long did it take to go from the original spark of an idea to actual production?
A. I came up with the idea for the Drum Therapy Kit and designed it around October 2011. I displayed it at a booth at Toy Fair in February 2011, and was asked to sell the rights to it by PlayAbility Toys in March 2011.
Q. How much money did you need to create the first prototype and come up with a business plan?
A. It took about $200.00 to create the first prototype and go into production. I have been involved in my industry at a major level for many years, so it only took a couple hours to develop the entire business plan.
Q. How did you raise it, and how long did it take to raise it?
A. Thankfully, since it was only $200.00, the initial prototype and production was affordable.
Q. How quickly did you spend your initial funds?
A. I spent the entire prototype and production funding as soon as I ordered all the parts.
Q. Any regrets?
A. None at all. I am extremely grateful to be able to give back to kids something that I was fortunate enough to have received. If it's wasn't for a few very special teachers, and the love and support of my family, who knows where I'd be today.
Q. What were the top two or three best pieces of advice you received, and from whom?
A. I have gotten the best advice for this project from the entire PlayAbilty Toys team. I am extremely grateful for the opportunity to work with them, and for all their support and leadership.
Q. The worst two or three pieces of advice?
A. Well, there was much of that to go around, and by a lot of people.
A. The most significant obstacle to overcome was fighting a severe battle with a disability as a child. I had a severe battle with Dyslexia, but the doctors thought I might have had Cerebral Palsy, because I had no fine motor skill or coordination. I had braces on my legs from my heels to my knees because I had issues with my heel chords. I stuttered severely, and couldn't speak in sentences. I was diagnosed at 9 years old, and thankfully, through drumming, I completely alleviated my disability by the time I graduated High School.
Q. What one unique quality makes your product better than your competition?
A. I am extremely grateful to have developed and pioneered Drum Therapy. Since I created it, there is no competition to speak of on the Drum Therapy side of things. On the musical and special education product side of things, which is a major market for us, there is a huge amount of competition. But thanks to the help and support of so many people with the D.A.D. Program, we are pretty much our own thing. I also own all the rights to the terms and the use, so no one can use it without my permission.
Q. What aspect of the toy industry most surprised you when you first started?
A. Having just started in the toy industry over the past year, I am surprised by how extremely difficult it is work with major retail stores. Just the product information forms alone are difficult to fill out. I was also very surprised to find that most major retailers want a large amount of product delivered immediately, which can be hugely difficult for an upstart company in terms of funding and availability.
Q. How do you hope your product/s will affect children's lives?
Having made history in special education, music, and drumming all at the same time by pioneering Drum Therapy and training and certifying doctors, teachers and therapists throughout the world in it, we already know how much it helps the special needs population, which includes myself as well.
I’ve also made Drum Therapy available to parents and teachers via the Drum Therapy Kit, so they can help their children and students themselves. I truly hope this product will help give them a basic start to Drum Therapy Intervention. The Drum Therapy Kit can help parents and teachers give children access to Drum Therapy without the burden of the hourly cost for a Drum Therapist.
Q. Where and what did you study?
A. I started taking drum lessons at 9 years old, which was extremely difficult for me because of my disability. Thankfully, I was able to overcome it by the time I graduated High School. I then got a certificate of music education from Middlesex County College, and went on to study Creative Arts Therapy at NYU.
Q. Where did you grow up?
A. I grew up in New Jersey, and still reside there.
Q. What hardships did you have to overcome during your formative years and how did they help you persevere as a business owner?
A. Overcoming a severe battle with a disability while growing up, and wanting to play the drums at the same time, was extremely difficult. However, the process of teaching myself to play drums not only helped to me totally alleviate my disability, but also led to me bringing Drum Therapy to the medical, education, and drumming industries via the D.A.D. Program. My battle not only allowed me to help these professions develop a new therapeutic intervention, but also helps me to express to parents and teachers just what their children and students are going through. It also enables me to help special needs children all over the world, and help guide them in their fight with disabilities, which I am extremely grateful to have the opportunity to do. I could never have done this alone, and it is the love and support of a few very special teachers, and my family, who enabled me to not only overcome my disability, but to be able to do what I do now.
Q. What is the most disappointing thing that you have to live with as a business owner?
A. Honestly, I face disappointing situations quite often, with running a non-profit organization for special needs children. Many businesses and people often tell me that what I do is not important, or they just aren't interested, or they have no time or money to help bring our free therapy services to special needs children in schools and hospitals. I understand that many people who do not have loved ones with a disability can't relate to what I do. Or, have one favorite charity that they work with, and that's it.
This is why I network with as many other organizations as possible, because to me, it's not just about one disability, it's about helping children with all disabilities. D.A.D. is all about the kids. I will never let a lack of funding or support stop me from helping a child. I was one of those kids, and I know what they go through. At the same time, there are many people and organizations that want to help, and have helped D.A.D. reach special needs children on a global level. So, I am often told "No, can't help," but I concentrate on finding those parents, teachers, schools, and doctors who do amazing work, and work together with them.
Q. What one piece of advice would you offer to someone just starting out in the toy industry?
A. Just keeping moving ahead, anyway you can. Believe in yourself, and don't let negative opinions effect you. Be realistic in your goals and management of your project.
Q. If you had to start over, would you do anything differently?
A. Not one thing. No way!!
Drum TherapyŽ Kit by DAD (DRUMS AND DISABILITIES)
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The Drum Therapy® Kit, designed to help autistic and special needs children and adults develop retention, coordination, self-esteem, fine motor skill, sensory integration, social skills, and physical and cognitive functioning, can also help children get better grades in school, and make homework much easier. "[Used by] Doctors, School Systems, and Therapists throughout the world," Pat Gesualdo, President/CEO of DAD, told TDmonthly.
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Writer's Bio: Justina Huddleston graduated Magna Cum Laude from Emerson College with a BA in Writing, Literature, and Publishing in 2009. After graduating she was the on-site director of the Boston Children's Museum gift store for a year, selling educational, developmental, and creative activity toys that tied in with the museum's exhibits. Justina also interned at children's book publisher Candlewick Press before moving from Boston to Los Angeles, where she is now Editorial Director of TDmonthly Magazine. Read more articles by this author
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