How I Feel

How I Feel

Lots of kiddos with autism, including many of my past and present clients, have a hard time expressing how they are feeling both physically and emotionally. Some are non-verbal, while others don’t have the language to adequately explain their feelings. As we know, this can leave them feeling frustrated and even more upset, especially if they need help or are feeling bad.

One of my clients was struggling with this issue, so her mom came up with the idea to compose short, simple songs based on familiar melodies for her range of feelings. The hope was that when my client was feeling a particular way, she could express herself through song rather than words.

The approach to making these songs effective communicative tools involved first introducing them to my client, singing them again and again so she became familiar with them (she picks up songs very quickly). Then, when her behavior obviously reflected a particular feeling or emotion, her family members and teachers would begin singing the corresponding song and prompt my client to sing along.

She has already made some great progress expressing herself through these songs, and hopefully they are useful to others out there. Have you used a similar technique for helping non- or less verbal kiddos express how they are feeling?

First and Last

First and Last

I work a LOT on names with my students. Saying, spelling, and identifying their names are common goals in music therapy, and I have songs for all three. However, I didn’t yet have a song for the latest name-related goal that was recently brought to my attention: identifying and knowing the difference between first and last names.

Up until now, the focus has always been on the first name…but one student in particular has mastered this and is moving on to bigger and better things. So I came up with a no-frills song about the different parts of our names.

Although knowing her middle name is not included in the current goal, I threw it in so that when I use this song with her or another student down the road, the option to include it is there.

I’ll be using “First and Last” mostly in individual music therapy sessions, but it could easily be utilized in a group setting, as well. For more name-related songs, click here and here.

The Five Senses

The Five Senses

Writing this song was meant to be, as I found out upon returning from Europe last week. First, my sister-in-law asked me if I had a song about the five senses (for my nephew’s classroom) on the way home from the airport, and then I came home to an email from a reader requesting this very topic. Fate, I tell you!

I had fun writing this song, and envision it being used interactively. During the middle section, the verse just SCREAMS for the song to be paused so that students can identify what they see, hear, smell, taste, and touch. You’ll understand what I mean once you take a listen:

With school in full swing for most kiddos, I’m expecting lots of requests for songs that are educational in nature. That makes my job much easier, since it takes a little more effort to come up with new and in-demand topics during the summer months.

The Goodnight Song

The Goodnight Song

The end of the summer means getting back into the routine not only of waking up for school in the morning, but also of going to sleep on time. I remember being a kid and dreading the earlier bedtime that came along with the start of a new school year, and I know children everywhere are feeling the same right about now.

This is the first “goodnight” song I’ve written, and while I wanted it to be appropriate for bedtime, I didn’t want to go all out lullaby. It has a bit of a groove to it, but the overall vibe is chill. I know it makes me want to do exactly what the little girl in the picture is doing!

I’m not in school anymore (nor do I work in one any longer), but I still find myself going to bed earlier once the end of August hits. I suppose it’s just one way of showing camaraderie with my students :)

It’s Okay to Cry

It's Okay to Cry

As a kid, I was never a crier. My mom used to say that she could count on one hand the number of times she saw me cry when I was younger, and she was probably right. Something always stopped me from letting my feelings out.

I see the same thing happen with my students quite often. Music therapy and even music lessons can be emotional at times, and I can tell when a child or young adult is on the verge of tears. They usually try to hold them back and keep themselves together, but I always encourage my students to share how they’re feeling — even if it means letting the tears fall.

I remember feeling embarrassed every time I cried as a child, even if it was just in front of my parents or best friend. But as I say in the song, everybody cries and it’s nothing to be ashamed of.

I’ve learned that crying can be cathartic…it really does help us face whatever we’re feeling sad about. I wrote this song so that we can teach that to our students and children. Choking back tears is no fun, as I know all too well!

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