As I mentioned, I attended the Alvin/Pearland Autism Conference this weekend, and one of the three session that I went to was about music therapy.
I wanted to learn more about it because while I’ve heard of it, I didn’t really know how it worked. I thought maybe it was just incorporating playing music/participating in music, sort of how equine therapy is about riding horses and using horses to get kids to do stuff.
And that was sort of/mostly right.
The woman who gave the session was extremely interesting and shared a ton of great resources – one of them that I’m going to link to here is Barefoot Books, which has a YouTube page with things I’m going to do with Simon.
But I thought one of the best things that came out of the session, for us, was the idea of “piggybacking” on songs to create things to help work with Simon. Piggybacking, as you can probably guess, and as you’ve probably already done, is to use an existing tune but change the lyrics to say whatever you want them to say. When Simon was a baby, for example, I would always change around lyrics to song to try to convince him to go to sleep at night. (It never worked then, FYI.)
The idea of piggybacking is that the new songs you create can help to work on learning, on language and speech development, on physical skills, on social skills, on sensory integration, and even on behavior.
I tried the first piggybacking song with Simon this morning.
I was attempting to sleep in, but Simon was bored or something, and so he kept coming in and trying to climb into bed and “sleep.” (Sleep when it comes to him hanging around in bed generally involves a lot of echolalia, demands for hugs, and some more echolalia.) To keep myself amused since I was awake anyway, I began giving him Eskimo kisses – you know, when you rub your nose on someone else’s nose. Well, Simon really enjoys that, and he also enjoys when I “catch” him because he has a bit of echolalia from a show that he repeats that says, “You can’t catch me! You can’t catch me!” and I always grab him and say, “But I caught you!”
So this morning, as he lay there repeating words, I gave him Eskimo kisses and sang, “I caught you with my nose, I caught you with my nose, hey ho the dairy-o, I caught you with my nose.”
Yeah, it was Farmer in the Dell.
But he giggled, thought it was funny, and would even fill in the words (and the tune) if I stopped singing.
Interesting, I thought.
Well, he’s still stuck on going to a dance.
It’s come up at least a dozen times today, and I’m sure it’ll come up at least a dozen more tomorrow.
I came up with another song.
Using London Bridge is Falling Down, I sang, “We are waiting for the dance, for the dance, for the dance. We are waiting for the dance, and it’s in May.” (I really, really, really hope that it turns out the dance *is* in May, or I might wind up renting out a hall to have a fake dance…)
The idea behind that song, though, was that I could substitute in other words. Like if he’s waiting for the school bus, we can sing, “We are waiting for the bus…it’ll be here soon.”
The first time I sang it to him, he kind of looked at me weird, but then walked off, not saying anything else about the dance.
Now I can sing it to him, and he seems to get it, or at least get that is going to be the response, and it calms him down a lot more than when I say, “Yes,” or when I tell him, “We’re waiting.”
Music therapy. It works. Maybe.