Autistic Children; Watching for Developmental Learning Cues

I have talked in many of my blogs on behavior being communication, stim behaviors as being useful and each person being unique, label or not. In today’s blog, I would like to show you an example of how utilizing music therapy has helped put these concepts into practice.

In October 2011, I acquired a four year old , non-verbal, autistic little girl. I will call her Emily. Emily came into Music Therapy for the first time squealing  with delight at all that was happening. The very first session, several pop out words were elicited. This is what her IEP (written five months earlier ) stated: “Emily was seen for a complete speech/language evaluation. She is non-verbal and does not utilize gestures or pointing to communicate… Emily does have tantrums and likes to line up objects. She also likes to turn pages in books… Emily does not request items at home or in the community. Emily has a tss worker who is currently working on motor imitation, categorizing pictures and objects and manding for (4 specific words), by signing for these items. Emily requires models for these mands and also hand over hand assistance. Emily is not currently working on any receptive language tasks at this time. Expressively, Emily had difficulty with the following: imitating words, utilizing 5-10 words; utilizing vocalizations and gestures to request, and babbleing short strings with inflection patterns.”

It was evident, with her attraction to the music and how easily words popped out, there was a very good chance at acquiring language in Music Therapy.

In the classroom of behavioral, developmentally delayed and autistic children, Emily came in the classroom daily crying and whining . This continued on and off through her half day stay for months. After about the second Music Therapy session, Emily found my crate of books. Emily is now working on two word phrases. This is a video clip of her six months (March 2012) after beginning Music Therapy:

Emily’s mother told me the only change she has had since this language explosion is her participation in Music Therapy. At this particular session, I had planned to video tape, Emily had previously taken out Eric Carle’s “Does a Kangaroo Have a Mother Too?” Never before could Emily wait long enough for the question to be asked. Today was a new day and a very good one. She has been labeling items in Music Therapy but today was beginning to answer questions. Notice how repeated tones in a repeated phrase helps Emily to get the word “Yes” out when it becomes stuck.

Some sessions are better “language” sessions than others, in which case Emily remains at the piano with her books. When Emily is having a difficult day getting out what she wants, she leaves the piano and books and just plays music with me allowing pop out word to flow out continuously. She has developed this habbit of stress releif after Christmas this year.

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  10 comments for “Autistic Children; Watching for Developmental Learning Cues

  1. Mel Humphrey
    March 11, 2012 at 10:57 pm

    That video was amazing. Emily is luck to have your expertese

    • March 11, 2012 at 11:27 pm

      Thank you for your compliment (3 times)

  2. Mary Carla MacDonald
    March 19, 2012 at 5:35 pm

    This is a lovely blog. Nice work! I linked here from your LinkedIn post so I thought I would let you know that I was looking. Bravo!
    Mary-Carla

  3. March 22, 2012 at 5:25 pm

    I also followed the link from your LInkedIn post. What a great article! I shared it on the Earthtones Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/EarthtonesMusicTherapy
    Emily Murer, MS, MT-BC, Neurologic Music Therapy recently posted..Antoinette Morrison, MT-BC, shares the story of "Emily", a preschool-age girl wi…My Profile

    • March 25, 2012 at 2:00 am

      Thank you so much Emily for your comment and for sharing my article!

  4. Vicki Gross
    March 23, 2012 at 12:06 pm

    I loved watching the music therapy session here. I have worked with children on the spectrum and know that musc makes a huge difference in their language skills. I had something similar happen with a child I worked with several years ago. She has since graduated from high school and participates in musical theatre.

    • March 25, 2012 at 2:01 am

      Thank you Vicki. I enjoy working with young children who have speech difficulties, music makes such a difference!

  5. Becky Carr
    April 4, 2012 at 2:27 pm

    Music therapy is a miracle for these kids in my opinion. My own 4-year old is high functioning and VERY VERBAL, but has lots of rocking and social issues plus some fine motor skills issues…doesn’t want to write or color. He is VERY SMART and totally loves trains, Thomas the Train, physical activity, and MUSIC. He has memorized probably hundreds of songs by now from his music CDs. He plays on the piano and tries to play the harmonica, sings all the time and likes to dance with me. He loves certain songs and likes to hear me play them over and over (Davy Crockett, BeBopalula, Mr. Sandman, Honeycomb). He loves John Denver music. And we have Lullabye Beatles music that he goes to sleep with and tons of other traditional childrens CDs. IF he’s upset, the only cure is music. Music makes him happy and changes his attitude and behavior more than anything else in his life! Music has always played a big part in my life and my husband’s as well so we’ve always had a lot of music in the house (rock and roll, blues, country, alternative, Texas Austin sound, movie soundtracks).

    So many kids I know don’t have music in the home…music is not an integral part of their family life and they don’t have music CDs and don’t learn to sing and listen early on and it’s such a shame and such a lost opportunity!! I really believe that the lack of music in one’s life can have a lasting negative effect on the person. It’s just hard for me to understand how someone could go through life without music…I think I would just die without music in my life and I know it’s SO IMPORTANT to kids with AUTISM. To everyone who has not tried MUSIC…this is something that works. It’s a no brainer and it’s easy. And you will find that you enjoy it as much as the kids do. I urge everyone to let MUSIC into your life on a daily basis.

    • April 4, 2012 at 9:59 pm

      Becky,
      Thank you, comments like this from moms who know are very helpful! Your an intuitive and smart mom! Continue to listen to your heart when it comes to your child! Bravo!
      Antoinette

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