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

adaptive music lessons, autism, music therapy, music therapy for autism, special needs

Music Therapy Groups for 2013 at West Hills Music Therapy Studio


January 2013 Music Therapy groups are now open for registration


As december approaches and families begin to prepare for 2013, West Hills Music Therapy Studio is creating more music therapy groups.

It’s hard to believe, but we just celebrated our three year anniversary of providing free monthly music therapy groups for children diagnosed on the autism spectrum! We’ve learned a lot and are excited to share some changes with you.

In  addition to the free monthly group that allows many families and children to experience a music therapy group for the first time, we’re creating monthly groups for a small fee ($10-$20 sliding scale) for families who have been to three sessions.
Click here for more information and to register.

We are also starting weekly groups in January. Weekly music therapy groups offer the opportunity for growth and musical community for a consistent group of matched clients over an eight week span. These groups will focus on individually assessed needs, and may include self expression, communiction, and/or social interaction. In order for us to form groups of children who are compatible by age and/or level of verbal functioning, please contact us before registering. More information about our weekly groups can be found here.

 We are very excited to introduce our new intern, Marie Durfee.

Marie Durfee recently finished her Music Therapy coursework at Marylhurst University and is working hard to prepare for her eight month Music Therapy Internship with us.  She will begin in January and is excited to be on the path towards her vision of working with children and young adults with autism. When she is not playing with music with friends or going to see music performed, Marie can be found adventuring in the woods with her dogs.

What has Emily Ross been up to?

I play French horn in the Portland Wind Symphony – Oregon’s premiere wind ensemble currently celebrating its 25th anniversary. I have played in a band, orchestra, or quintet every year of my life since 6th grade (except for the two years I served in the Peace Corps).

I am preparing 28 children on the autism spectrum for their Winter Program at Victory Academy. The program includes Braindance-inspired movements, sign language, and instrument playing to engage the nonverbal participants, and singing as well as solos for those who are verbal.

What has Angie Kopshy been up to?

In addition to practicing music therapy, I love being a singer/songwriter. My band, Stoneface Honey, just released a CD of my original music on November 17th! I’m also learning how to scuba dive and am preparing for an exciting scuba diving adventure in Mexico before Christmas. In my spare time, I also indulge in bikram yoga.

As Vice President of OAMT (Oregon Association of Music Therapy), I am spearheading our state’s annual conference that occurs at the end of January. We’re bringing a keynote speaker all the way from Florida for this event. I’m also playing a large role in a regional music therapy conference that will bring music therapists from nine Western states to Portland in 2014.

West Hills Music Therapy Studio wishes all of you a wonderful December. We look forward to enjoying 2013 with you and thank you for your support!

Copyright © 2012 West Hills Music Therapy Studio, All rights reserved.
Email Marketing Powered by MailChimp
autism, music therapy, music therapy for autism, special needs

Music Therapy in the Classroom: Creating opportunities for your child to succeed in a peer setting

I see most of my clients in an intimate one-on-one setting. Goals and objectives are created especially for each client based upon his or her strengths and challenges. These private sessions allow the opportunity for a more client-centered approach, which enables me to address the needs and desires of my client in that very moment. So if my client is having a bad day, I may throw my session plan out the window, forget most of my goals and objectives and simply spend time assisting my client in becoming stable and grounded, both physiologically and emotionally, through music. But typically, the sessions are planned in advance while the exact timing is frequently created with the client at the beginning of the session in order to reduce and alleviate anxiety about the next 45 minutes.

The Development of Music Repertoire: Over time, our individual sessions become stronger and more consistent as our relationship grows. We develop a repertoire of musical experiences and as my client masters an experience, we’ll add another. The goal is to enable my client the opportunity to feel successful with familiar experiences while always adding new challenges.

The Practice of Successful Musical Experiences to a Peer Setting: The families of some of my clients want  me to assist in creating more opportunities for social interaction as well. Most of the schools in Portland do not have music therapy in their budget or curriculum, so families actually pay me to go into their child’s classroom. This provides the opportunity for my client to share some of the music repertoire we’ve created together with his or her peers. In addition, I get to see a bigger piece of the puzzle when  I am able to observe my client in a group setting. Finally, a classroom of students is able to experience music therapy, observe their peer in successful musical experiences and gain greater respect and insight for a child who may frequently appear aloof or ambivalent. The experience is bonding and really fun for everyone.

Consider Creating This Opportunity For Your Child: If you have a child receiving individual sessions, consider creating an opportunity for therapy to happen in a group setting. Some schools may allow tax-deductible donations for a specific activity or may be able to co-sponsor a session. Even if the sessions don’t happen every week, they may prove to be extremely beneficial for your child’s relationship  with his or her peers.

Angie Kopshy, MM, MT-BC

Neurologic Music Therapist

<p><a href=””><img src=”; width=”104″ height=”17″ style=”border:0″ alt=”Add to Google Reader or Homepage”/></a></p>