Songwriting is such a great tool to use with patients of all ages and abilities. Recently, I was challenged to make it more accessible to a patent that is re-gaining cognitive ability after having a stroke. Providing that extra visual cue was crucial in order to meet her where she was at. After some thought, I created these songwriting tiles to use in mad-lib style songwriting interventions. Down below, I go through my step-by-step implementation and include PDF's for you to download and print your own!
1. First, I printed and laminated all of these and sorted them into categories of person, place, thing, verb, and adjective. I placed each category in a zip-loc bag so my patent could reach in and select one at random.
2. Next, I chose what song we would re-write by filling in the blanks with our new words. (I used "Best Day of My Life" by The American Authors.)
3. Then, I had her pick one at a time from the bag and placed them in order of how they would come in the song. Depending on the ability of your patient, you may want to chain the song and sing each time another one is chosen starting back at the beginning. This is also a way to work on short term memory recall by remembering what the picture is and to practice verbalizing it.
4. Finally, we sang the song with our new lyrics. I would point to the picture when we got to it and help prompt her as needed to recall what she had chosen.
This can obviously be adapted depending on your needs, and can also be done in a group setting. Happy Songwriting!
Drawing to Musical Directions
Goals Targeted: Following Directives, Sustained Attention, Fine Motor Skills
Pass and Draw to Instrumental Tracks
5. You can also use this to discuss different emotions and how the various songs made them feel or what emotion they felt like it depicted.
Making a Thank-You Card and Song
Goals Targeted: Social Skills, Fine Motor Skills, Self-Expression
Music Therapy is a treatment modality that will not only allow your child to enjoy their session but achieve their goals across multiple areas of need.
Why does Music Therapy work?
Mindfulness based relaxation exercises are a great thing to introduce to a child that they can utilize for the rest of their lives. Often times in a music therapy session we guide the patients through relaxation exercises. We can pair music with guided breathing and stretching in order to help them achieve a relaxed state. It is a great way to help them focus in on the present moment or de-stress from an event that has happened in their day. Since we can’t be there every time they need to reach that state, here are some apps that can be used at home. Completing a relaxation/meditation exercise can also help kids wind down and fall asleep faster at the end of the day. Below, I have reviewed three different apps and highlighted what I believe to be the strengths of each one so you may choose which might work best for your child.
1) Head Space: This is one of the original mindfulness apps out there. It can guide you through the basics of mindfulness and begins with short sessions of 3 minutes. This app is definitely a little more mature and mainly geared towards teens and adults, but does have a kids tab as well with categories by age. It does however require a subscription to unlock a lot of the content though.
2) Smiling Mind: This app has a cool feature that will track your meditation data for you throughout the week. They offer a variety of programs that have multiple nodules in each program and are sorted into categories based on age and length of time.
3) Stop, Breathe, and Think/ Stop, Breathe, and Think Kids: Both of these apps are developed by the same people and are free. They have a check-in component, information on how to begin meditating, and a data tracker.
Overall, the Stop, Breathe, and Think apps are the most appealing to me with the check-in. I think a large part of learning to incorporate mindfulness into your life is self-awareness and the check-in helps develop that ability to examine your current state in order to know what is going to be most beneficial for you in the present moment. After using one of these apps at home, it also can be beneficial to play some relaxing white noise or background music to continue that relaxed state or help promote sleep!
I have been practicing yoga for the past five years and have found so many benefits in my personal life. Recently, I have been reading “Asanas for Autism and Special Needs: Yoga to Help Children with their Emotions, Self-Regulation and Body Awareness,” by Shawnee Thornton Hardy to learn how I can incorporate yoga into my music therapy sessions.
The foundation of yoga is your breath. While there are many forms of breathing used in yoga, they each have specific benefits for your body and should be utilized to achieve specific goals. For example, there is a way to use your breath to build heat as well as a way to use your breath to cool you down. Below, I have outlined a couple of different methods of breathing that can benefit children with special needs and the goals they focus on. Both of these breaths should be repeated 4-5 times in a row to see the benefits.
Balloon Belly Breath:
-First sit in a cross-legged position or lie on your back.
-Place your hand on your stomach.
-As you inhale through your nose, fill up your belly like a balloon causing your hands to move away from your body.
-As you exhale, open your mouth and let out all of the air.
Benefts: This breath targets first and foremost awareness of breath and can help the child realize how to take a low belly breath to promote relaxation and digestion.
-First kneel or sit in a cross-legged position (can also sit up tall in a chair).
-As you inhale through your nose, raise your hands up toward the ceiling like a dragon’s wings.
-As you exhale out of your mouth making a “haaa” sound, fly your arms down and back away from your body.
Benefits: This breath helps the child let out anger and release any tension or frustration they are feeling in the moment. This can help the child calm down and be ready to complete some low belly breaths to further relaxation.
I hope that this gives you some things to try with your child and I look forward to learning more about pairing yoga with music therapy to give my patients the best possible experiences.
Improvisation is defined as, “the art of creating music spontaneously on the basis of nondirective activity.” This can be done in many different ways including drumming, singing, playing piano, or any other instrument we use in music therapy. This can be especially helpful in achieving goals with children diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder.
Sara Knapik-Szweda conducted a study to determine the effectiveness and influence of vocal and instrumental improvisation on children diagnosed with autism. She discussed the reciprocal interaction between the therapist and patient and how meaningful that is to the musical improvisation. Improvisation provides a safe environment within the musical structure for the patient to be creative. The main goal of her study was to determine the influence of improvisation on communication, social development, and reduction of repetitive behaviors. She found that nonverbal communication, social skills and cognitive goals including joint attention, concentration, memorizing and imitating were all improved in the patients who participated in improvisational music therapy sessions.
Incorporating improvisation into music therapy sessions allows children with ASD to foster creativity as well as get closer to achieving their communication, social, and cognitive goals.
Source: Knapik-Szweda, Sara. (2015). The Effectiveness and Influence of Vocal and Instrumental Improvisation in Music Therapy on Children Diagnosed with Autism. Journal of Education Culture and Society (1), 153-166.