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.

global music therapy project, music, music lessons, music therapy, music therapy for autism, music therapy group, music therapy groups, neurologic music therapy, singing, special needs

December 2015 Events at MTSP + The Global Music Therapy Project Trailer

Happy holidays, families!

We hope that you all have a wonderful Thanksgiving full of love and laughter.
Please mark your calendars for these December events:

Bi-monthly Music Therapy Group
Saturday, December 5, 11:10am (The Littles) & 12:10pm (The Biggles)

Free monthly Music Therapy Group
Saturday, December 12, 1:10-1:55pm

Bi-monthly Music Therapy Group
Saturday, December 19, 11:10am (The Littles) & 12:10pm (The Biggles)

Winter Recital
December 22, 6:30pm at Classic Pianos
3003 SE Milwaukie Ave., Portland 97202
If you haven’t, please RSVP here. If you’re having any trouble with this link, you’re also welcome to simply send an email to Angie instead! We have plenty of room for friends and family at this recital! There will be a reception after the recital and we’re asking each family to bring a little tray of goodies for this reception.

Our Global Music Therapy Project trailer is finally complete. I wanted to share in order to help you understand the project a little better and introduce you to some of the wonderful people we’ve been working with in South America and Africa. Thank you for your patience, flexibility, and support surrounding this project.

Music Therapy Services of Portland humbly thanks you for trusting us with your family members and supporting all of our music therapy endeavors. As the weather gets colder, we want to encourage everyone to stay safe on the roads and check in if you’re concerned about road conditions. Kate is to the North of our studio and Angie is to the South and our families are all over the map. We’d rather reschedule than risk hazardous road conditions, so send us a text or call if things aren’t looking safe on your end!

P.S. In case we haven’t told you recently, we love photos and videos of your kids. If you ever have the spontaneous urge to share with us, your messages warm our hearts!

Angie & Kate

music therapy for autism

Sietta’s Lumina: Global Music Therapy Project, Phase 2: Uganda

Sietta stands in front of of her house and daughters. Bebian is in the same pink skirt worn by her classmates as we prepare to embark upon the hike to Kagarama Primary School after our night with the family.

She comes from a lineage of impeccable posture and stands tall, yet covers her eyes and hides her young face as she reveals her dream of becoming a nurse. I am slow to respond on the exterior, yet my interior races with all the complications involved in such a dream – the educational costs, the logistics of leaving home and boarding at a school far from her family, the question of where she might work even if she brought this beautiful dream to fruition. I acknowledge that although Bebian may be taller, I stand much higher on Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs and find her perspective nearly unfathomable. I repress the urge to inundate her with queries and smile at her brave answer.

Her widowed mother goes through the motions of hospitality with grace, but I catch a glimpse of  what looks like heartbreak and frustration. The reflections of firelight dance upon Sietta’s face; shiny with a sweat that is rich with the history of loss brought upon by war and disease.

They have a goat I attempt to pet, but it is clear that their lack of affection for this animal is intentional. I tell them that I miss my goats and actually sold them to come on this trip to Uganda. I realize the irony in my choice to become attached to an animal I would eventually have to sacrifice. They preserve their affection for the spade and dark, overworked earth that provides their family with green beans, yams, bananas and maize.

As we sit in a small room illuminated by a puny flashlight hanging from the earthen wall, Sietta shares a fragment of her story. Then she asks us why we are here. The unarticulated answer still swirls within my soul as I struggle to compose a sentence that makes sense in either of our cultures. 

The only explanation I can confidently provide is music. The only gift I can provide that doesn’t feel tied to an agenda thick with corruption or haughty greed is music. I can study the music of their culture and bring in my understanding of a human’s physiologic response to the rhythm, timbre, and harmonic structure of a song. I can combine the evidence provided by advanced technology and intertwine it with this ancient practice and say, “Sing! The wisdom of your ancestors is finally being proven by an fMRI or EEG. Sing and clap and dance as I acknowledge the ways in which you are enhancing neural activity both individually and collectively. Sing proudly and trust that I know you sing not with reckless abandon, but with great intention and unwavering purpose.”

Sietta and her older daughter escort us up the steep trail in the morning. When we get to the main road and it is time to bid this woman farewell, I feel the urge to kneel before her, reach into my ribcage and present my heart  for some sort of blessing. Just one night in her presence has taught me so much and I struggle to express my gratitude appropriately. I take her hands in mine and whisper, “Webale.”


Some of the children we met at the house: Atusasibwe Dorothy, Orishaba Annette, Gumoshabe Jordan, Niwandinda Praise, Akatwijuka Rita, Nisiima Elizabeth, Niwamanya Loyce, Tukwasibwe Yoram, & Nahwera Nancy.

Thank you to our translator, Joshua, and our Police escort, Julius.

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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.

Angie has been working closely with Mike Ricucci of Terra Rising Films. Terra Rising is currently traveling the world, in-production for a feature length documentary exploring the science and cultural impact of music as seen through music therapy.