I’m currently on maternity leave, and many of my colleagues have been kind enough to share their expertise via guest posts throughout the summer. The following comes to you from Amy Kalas, MM, MT-BC.

Child on therapy ball

I am constantly on the lookout for ways to improve my skills as a music therapist, aren’t you?

I find it fun and motivating to discover more and more effective ideas for engaging children in music therapy and connecting with them through music.

The children I work with at both my full-time job at UCP’s Early Beginnings Academy and in my private practice, Wholesome Harmonies, are primarily diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).

One of the main things that enhanced my work with these children is co-treating with occupational therapists who specialize in sensory integration. Through these co-treatments, I began to learn about the unique sensory needs of children with ASD and brainstorm how I can address those needs in a therapeutic music experience.

In a session where I have children who are “sensory-seeking” (those are the ones jumping and crashing into things, seeking sensory input), I always ‘start with sensory.’I’ve found that if I “feed” that sensory need by providing the children with a sensory integration experience such as jumping on the trampoline or bouncing on the therapy ball, they are better able to attend to and engage in the subsequent music therapy activities.

Here is a video showcasing an example of one sensory integration experience I use in my sessions with children with ASD:

In this video, the children are receiving proprioceptive and vestibular input by bouncing on a therapy ball, while the music is organizing the whole experience. The lyrics cue the children to bounce and stop; and the rhythmic beat and tempo tell the children how fast to be bouncing. All these elements work together to create an experience that is appropriate and beneficial to the children.

This activity can be extended by having the children move in different ways on the therapy ball: they could lay on the ball on their stomach and bounce up and down, or they could lay on the ball on their stomach and roll front two back, using their arms and legs to push themselves back and forth (I hear a nice 6/8 accompaniment in my head for this one!)

The ideas are endless…why not meet with an occupational therapist and find out some other ways you can utilize the therapy ball in your music therapy sessions?

This is just Part One of a series I am starting on Music Therapy & Sensory Integration on my blog, Wholesome Harmonies. Want to stay up to date on the next installments? Click here to hop on the list!

Amy Kalas, MM, MT-BCAmy Kalas, MM, MT-BC is a board-certified music therapist with eight years of experience working with children and adolescents with special needs. She received her Bachelor’s degree in Music Therapy (2005) and Master’s degree in Music Therapy (2010) from University of Miami. Amy has been employed at United Cerebral Palsy of Miami as a music therapist, practicum supervisor, and internship director since 2006. She recently accepted the position of Interim Professor of Music Therapy at University of Miami.

Amy is also the owner of Wholesome Harmonies, LLC, where she provides music therapy services in the Miami area. She is the author of two E-Books: Tuneful Teens: Creative Ideas for Engaging Adolescents in Music Therapy and Sensational Songs & Ideas: Sensory-Based Ideas for Music Therapy. You can visit the website and blog for Wholesome Harmonies at www.WHmusictherapy.com.

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