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:, 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.

music therapy for autism

Back to School Tips for Children Diagnosed with ASD

Whether your child has already started school or is still anticipating that first day of a new year, school can be a big source of stress. All children experience some anxiety when beginning a new year, but it can be particularly stressful for children diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Below is a list of tips we believe could help reduce your child’s anxiety as your family transitions into a new year of school!

Create a Resume for Your Child: A great way to inform teachers and staff about your child is to create a one-page fact sheet or “resume.” This sheet allows your child to better communicate his or her needs, strengths, and any relevant information to adults they may work with during the year. This also assists the teachers in better understanding how they can best accommodate your child through the learning process. Even though you will probably meet your child’s teacher before school begins, there are many other people with whom your child will interact during their time at school that you will not meet. Having more information about your child on file than just grades, date of birth, height, and hair color, will help others who interact with your child to do so in a more positive way.

Set and Keep a FUN Routine: Routines are very important to those diagnosed with ASD, as they limit the amount of anxiety-producing surprises. FUN routines can be especially helpful! There are different ways to reduce anxiety related to school, and one is to ensure that your child has a very positive experience waking up and getting ready each day. A morning could include singing a favorite song, eating a good breakfast, or even playing a game before they leave. Reviewing a schedule can be very helpful as well, as it allows your child to understand what to expect while not with you. If your child has trouble getting supplies together in the morning, use a simple song to help them remember the list!

This is an example set to “London Bridges.” This song is also helpful in transitioning your child from home to school by reminding where he or she is going and that it is almost time for school to begin.

Let’s get ready to go to school,

go to school, go to school.

Let’s get ready to go to school,

Go to school.

Pencils, Erasers, Homework,

Notebook, Lunchbox.

Pencils, Erasers, Homework,

Notebook, Lunchbox.

Reinforce Learning with Music: Most parents of children diagnosed with ASD notice their child has a unique learning style that isn’t always met in a traditional classroom setting. Sometimes, this means that their child will have a harder time remembering material they have been taught. Fortunately music can make all the difference in the world! Using music can help a child perceive, understand, memorize, and retain information they learn in school. As a parent, using music to help with homework is very beneficial and not as hard as you may think. Simply singing homework questions can help a child better process the information. Every child wants to have fun when they are learning, but for children diagnosed with ASD, fun is required!

Relaxing: Sometimes we forget how important it is to have down time, but it is especially important for kids diagnosed with ASD. When in school, children are told all day what they must do, and sometimes coming home to more rules and requirements can be anxiety provoking. To help your child to relax, play some music that they like, encourage them to read, or let them have time to play a game of their choice. To use music that encourages relaxation, choose to play something very familiar to your child and strive for a tempo close to 60, which is usually an ideal heart rate.

I hope that these tips will help you and your child have a successful, anxiety free school year!


Kate Harris, MT-BC

Music Therapy Services of Portland

music therapy for autism

Music therapy groups for July

The Clapping Song by Oliver Bevan

Hello, families! We hope your summer is going well. Here are the dates for music therapy groups in July. If you’re a new family interested in joining one of these groups, please reach out to us so that we can meet your child and determine which group may be a better fit.

All groups are held at Music Therapy Services of Portland on SW Barbur Blvd. and co-facilitated by board-certified music therapists, Angie Kopshy & Kate Harris.

Music Therapy Group: The Littles: July 18, 10-10:55am

Music Therapy Group 2: July 18, 11:10-11:55am

Music Therapy Group: The Littles: July 25, 10:10-10:55am

Music Therapy Group 2: July 25, 11:10-11:55am

Group dates for August will be August 8th & August 22nd. Registration information coming soon.