autism, music therapy, music therapy group

How sensory integration plays into music therapy groups

At Music Therapy Services of Portland, we love facilitating small groups. The art of creating an ideal music therapy group for children diagnosed on the autism spectrum is a challenge that involves the help of parents, caretakers, and allied health professionals. One of the most important elements that we take into consideration is sensory processing. Linn Wakeford’s chapter in Early Childhood Music Therapy and Autism Spectrum Disorders explains that researchers have categorized sensory processing into three primary patterns:

  • Hypo-responsiveness (under responsiveness)
  • Hyper-responsiveness (overly responsive)
  • Sensory seeking behaviors

Many children are a mix of some hyper-responsive patterns and other hypo-responsive patterns. The sensory systems include: auditory, visual, olfactory, tactile, gustatory, vestibular, and proprioceptive.

As a music therapist, being aware of the sensory systems of each individual in a group is critical and impacts the instruments and interventions I utilize.  So how can parents help their child end up in the most appropriate music therapy group? Consider how your child responds to each of these musical elements:

  • Intensity – Does she prefer loud or soft sounds?
  • Frequency – Does he want the same sound over and over again or new sounds?
  • Duration – How long does she enjoy the sensation?
  • Rhythm – Does he enjoy rhythmic predictability or more variation and unpredictability?
  • Novelty – Does she respond aversively to change and newness?
  • Complexity – Does he enjoy multiple sensations within music like an orchestra or minimal instruments like only voice or guitar?

Many sensory processing theories incorporate adaptations and modifications that are much easier to address in a one-to-one setting. The children who are able to receive both individual and group music therapy sessions are certainly at an advantage because we are able to learn and address their sensory needs better. But even new children can succeed within a group when communication with parents and caretakers is incorporated. Our ultimate objective is to minimize the influence of sensory processing differences at all times.

Share what you notice about your child’s response to music by calling, sending an email, or completing our survey. If you’re a returning family, we invite you to resubmit our survey or provide us with any additional information you’ve observed or received from allied health professionals. Help us make your child’s music therapy group experience as beneficial as possible!

For those of you facilitating groups or individual sessions, consider the following:

  • The lighting
  • The temperature
  • Noises such as cars, the air conditioner, people talking
  • Do the kids need movement, deep pressure, or a familiar songs at a slow and steady tempo?
  • Can you have the child who is up and moving around be an assistant while the child under the blanket plays with the cabasa?

If a child gets up, walks to the corner, and comes back, they may be practicing self regulation. If they’re hiding under a blanket, they may be coping with their sensory needs. Ask yourself whether these actions are important or if you can work around them and possibly address these issues down the road. Otherwise, is there a way to meet these different needs within the various interventions of your group session?  We will address these questions more in an upcoming blog explaining the iso-principal approach during music therapy sessions.

Meanwhile, here are two additional video resources – the first is more for parents and the second is one you can watch with your child:

A detailed video by Chirp on sensory processing needs and strategies.

A Child’s View of Sensory Processing

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, music, music therapy

Music Therapy in Portland September News

2013-08-29 17.35.24Hello, families. I hope that all is going well as your kids transition into the school year. Music Therapy Services of Portland will continue to hold monthly groups on the 2nd Saturday of the month. Registration for the September 14th groups is available here.

If you’re interested in weekly or bi-weekly groups, please send me an email. There are families already interested and we’re just waiting for the right match for a sustainable music therapy group.

Dr. Petra Kern just released the latest edition of imagine, the online magazine dedicated to early childhood music therapy. There is a special section for parents that might prove helpful. Check it out here: Parents section of imagine.

SpecialCare Planning team just released information about Lights Up Sound Down: Sensory Friendly Movies. They’re showing Cloudy with a side of meatballs on October 5th in Beaverton. This event is free for families with a special needs child.

Finally, here’s the latest edition of My Favorite Apps.

Have a wonderful month and I look forward to seeing many of you soon!

Angie Kopshy

Angie Kopshy, MM, MT-BC

Music Therapy Services of Portland

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

My Favorite Apps #1

Many of the children with whom I work are drawn to technology. I’ve started incorporating videos into some of my adaptive piano lessons and we use apps within our sessions. I’ve heard some really great conversations about children and ‘screen time’ that discuss the benefits from using technology with moderation. That is the school of thought in which I’m nestled. So here is the first of a series of six apps that incorporate music and embrace creativity.

I actually got this list while attending a concurrent session at our recent regional music therapy conference. The session was presented by Dr. Petra Kern, the owner of Music Therapy Consulting,  the editor of an awesome online magazine, Imagine, and one of the editors of Early Childhood Music Therapy and Autism Spectrum Disorders: Developing Potential in Young Children and their Families. Dr. Kern went through over 100 apps and came up with her top six choices.

Today’s video walks you through Monkey Drum.  Check it out!