autism, music, music therapy, music therapy for autism, musical stories, neurologic music therapy, singing, special needs

Creating a musical story for ASD

The idea of a musical story for ASD was inspired by social stories that are being used with more and more frequency within the ASD world. Carol Grey officially created Social Stories in 1990 after working with a team of incredible parents, professionals, and students for many years. One of Grey’s first stories was a step-by-step story that described how to follow and complete directions in a sewing pattern.  We were creating a curriculum that would enable us to teach from a distance, one story and social packet at a time. Grey provides an in depth example while writing about a student named Eric in The Discovery of Social Stories (1990-1992).

The three principles of the Social Story philosophy that guide the development of each Story.

  1. Abandon all assumptions.
  2. Recognize that the social impairment in autism is shared, with mistakes made on all sides of the social equation.
  3. When Typical people interact with people with autism, both perspectives are equally valid and deserving of respect.

While embracing the practice of taking the unique perspectives of ourselves and those with whom we are working into account, a musical story also embraces the impact of music upon the brain. An article published in Autism Research revealed that “functional fronto-temporal connectivity, disrupted during spoken-word perception, was preserved during sung-word listening in ASD, suggesting alternate mechanisms of speech and music processing in ASD.” If you’re a visual learner, the images in this article, particularly the one on page 6, may give you a better idea of these implications. According to this research, singing rather than speaking, enhances neural activity.

At Music Therapy Services of Portland, we want to coach parents, caretakers and allied health professionals working with ASD on how to create a musical story. Our workshop will walk you through the process of creating a social story from your child’s perspective.

We will take you through the three primary steps involved in creating a musical story. Come with a challenge in mind that you’d like to help your child overcome through a musical story. Some examples for inspiration:

  • Going to the bathroom independently
  • Eating lunch at school
  • Taking a shower
  • Getting dressed in the morning
  • Getting ready for bed

Eventbrite - Workshop: Creating Musical Stories for ASD

The next workshop is on March 15th from 6-8pm for $25. Register here or contact us with any questions: angie@musictherapyportland.com, 971-221-7144. We are offering 20% off for a group of 3 or more. Please contact us for the discount code.


Angie Kopshy, MM, MT-BC
Angie Kopshy, MM, MT-BC

Angie Kopshy, MM, MT-BC, is a board-certified music therapist and founder of Big Sky Music Therapy. Upon completion of her Master’s in Music from Boise State University, Angie returned to Portland to study music therapy. Before moving to Montana, her work included a private practice that incorporated neurologic music therapy techniques, the supervision of practicum students and interns and a teaching position at Pacific University. Angie is also a singer/songwriter with the band, Stoneface Honey.

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autism, music therapy, music therapy for autism, special needs

Music Therapy Outreach Week #5: Synchronicity for Developing Social Connections

unnamedGroup music is a great setting to create opportunities for developing social connections. Moving together in synchronicity, which in this case is everyone participating in the same rhythmic movement, encourages social cooperation and creates a sense of purpose and togetherness. Singing in unison can also have the same effect. Examples of a couple songs we use are Tap Your Knees inspired by Anne Green Gilbert of Creative Arts Center‘s BrainDance concepts) and Bear Hunt by Michael Rosen and Helen Oxenbury.

Our full example for the week is We’ve Got Rhythm. Try this song every day as a family until you’ve mastered it and are ready to move on to a new song! Here are the lyrics to help you:

Here to share a rhythm. To sing a song on a sunny day. We’ve got rhythm in our hands. Clap your hands. Yes we’ve got rhythm in our hands. Clap your hands.

Here to share a rhythm. To sing a song on a sunny day. We’ve got rhythm in our toes. Tap your toes. Yes, we’ve got rhythm in our toes. Tap your toes.  And we’ve got rhythm in our hands. Clap your hands. Yes we’ve got rhythm in our hands. Clap your hands.

Here to share a rhythm. To sing a song on a sunny day. We’ve got rhythm in our arms. Squeeze your arms. Yes, we’ve got rhythm in our arms. Squeeze your arms. And we’ve got rhythm in our toes. Tap your toes. Yes, we’ve got rhythm in our toes. Tap your toes. And we’ve got rhythm in our hands. Clap your hands. Yes, we’ve got rhythm in our hands. Clap your hands.

Here to share a rhythm. To sing a song on a sunny day. We’ve got rhythm in our hearts. Tap your chest. Yes, we’ve got rhythm in our hearts. Tap your chest. And we’ve got rhythm in our arms. Squeeze your arms. Yes, we’ve got rhythm in our arms. Squeeze your arms. And we’ve got rhythm in our toes. Tap your toes. Yes, we’ve got rhythm in our toes. Tap your toes. And we’ve got rhythm in our hands. Clap your hands. Yes, we’ve got rhythm in our hands. Clap your hands.

Group music also provides the opportunity for children to learn social skills such as imitation, turn taking, joint attention, shared affect, and empathy. We often incorporate several facilitations that involve passing instruments such as Pass the Squishy Ball, Saturday Band, and The Drum Song. Passing instruments provides a structured activity for engaging with the person on either side and helps create awareness of others.

Angie Kopshy, MM, MT-BC
Angie Kopshy, MM, MT-BC

Music Therapy Services of Portland is directed by board-certified music therapist, Angie Kopshy. Upon completion of her Master’s in Music from Boise State University, Angie returned to Portland to study music therapy at Marylhurst University. Music Therapy Services of Portland specializes on working with children on the autism spectrum. Angie is also a singer/songwriter with the band, Stoneface Honey.

autism, movement, music, music therapy, music therapy for autism, neurologic music therapy, special needs

Music Therapy Outreach Week #4: Crossing Midline

For those of you attending our Music Therapy Outreach groups, you may have noticed that many of our facilitations place emphasis on developing motor planning skills. In both one-to-one and group sessions, we work to develop the parts of the brain that deal with movement. Through training, the brain can change both in structure and function, and new neural connections can be made through repetition.

Rhythm can play a huge role in activating the motor areas of the brain and has been found to not only affect the timing of movement, but the total movement pattern. We especially like to implement facilitations that target cross-lateral movement: crossing midline. Crossing midline is very important for brains of all ages! When you participate in cross-lateral movement, the right and left hemispheres of the brain interact, which activates the brain and helps to build stronger connections between the hemispheres.

Cross-lateral movement helps create connections between nerve cells and is critical to the development of complex skills such as the ability to understand what we read or what someone is saying to us (which requires both hemispheres working together and separately). Lateralization is key in reading, writing, gross motor control, and organization.

In this video, we provide snippets of Bear Hunt, The Drum Song and of full verse of the Paddle drum song inspired by Kimberly Sena Moore of Music Therapy Maven.  We encourage you to incorporate more movement into your lives at home, in the car, while you’re in the waiting room – anywhere and everywhere! Tap your knees or clap your hands as you’re reading a familiar book or add some movement to your child’s favorite song. Turn everything into a fancy pattycake affair while paying special attention to getting arms to cross midline without twisting the entire body.

Angie Kopshy, MM, MT-BC
Angie Kopshy, MM, MT-BC

Music Therapy Services of Portland is directed by board-certified music therapist, Angie Kopshy. Upon completion of her Master’s in Music from Boise State University, Angie returned to Portland to study music therapy at Marylhurst University. Music Therapy Services of Portland specializes on working with children on the autism spectrum. Angie is also a singer/songwriter with the band, Stoneface Honey.