Feeding The Senses, The Key To Treasure Yet To Develop

I had waited on this blog, unsure what to write. I had had a huge success this week. Last year, when I wrote “Don’t give Up On Speech!” (https://backmountainmusictherapy.com/2011/10/dont-give-up-on-speech/), although all the non-verbal children I had worked with had progressed from no speech to beginnings of speech, to labeling and even complete sentences, I had one exception. This week as I sang “you, you, you” and my one exception sang “oo” back to me, then sang me, me, me and had “eee” reflected back consistently, I felt relief and excitement! As this little boy next got onto the therapy ball to bounce to the music, his first sound was “ba.” This was a great day!
Later in the week, I had worked with a little girl who has a rare chromosomal syndrome which leaves her with severe developmental delays. Although 5 years old, she appears more like a very lean 12-18 month old. As we made music, she just seemed to flourish with unexpected growth! This little girl, who came in haveing difficulty sitting by herself, was bouncing up and down, standing, and holding onto my piano. The little girl quickly grasped objects with one hand or the other and dropped them, then took my shaker with both hands at mid-line for about 1.5 – 2 minutes and played with it. The little girl who could barely wiggle my lightest drum beater, was intentionally hitting the drum head over and over on this day.
This morning I worked with 2 groups of typical children. They were enticed and attentive. This experience of standing up, moving around, singing, playing, and listening was very different than the classroom experience they had been having. Why were all these things working so extremely well today? Would I have to explain myself to the typical children’s teacher?
The answer to both these questions was “teaching with or meeting the senses.” I’m not sure why sensory therapies are questioned so often. Young children, including typical ones, learn best when utilizing multiple senses.
It is a very rare occasion that, when working with individual children in therapy, that I don’t follow the individual initially when they first enter the Music Therapy room. Children come to Music Therapy from many different circumstances: after a bus or car ride, after a long day at school, before the school day even begins, tired, stressed, or anxious. I sometimes know what their day has been like. They first must-be regulated and “Ready For Take-Off” (https://backmountainmusictherapy.com/2012/07/disconnect-to-self-regulation-all-systems-go-ready-for-take-off/). Some days, all I hope to accomplish is to sooth the stress and get to this state of being.
The little boy who sang back “oo” and “ee” to me has spent several sessions bouncing to the beat on a therapy ball and trampoline, and raising his feet as I tap them with a lollipop drum singing “feet” or “toes.” I can’t say how many times he left and I wondered if I was actually doing anything helpful. I always have to look back and give processing its own time (https://backmountainmusictherapy.com/2012/09/the-importance-of-giving-processing-its-own-time/). It took one year, from throwing himself on the therapy ball, never putting out his hands to keep himself safe, to intentionally maneuvering safely on a therapy ball in ways I’m sure I could not do safely. It may have taken this boy more time than others to say “oo” and “ee”, but all the things he has accomplished on the way- the receptive language skills, the vestibular and proprioceptive development, and the increase in social skills- are equally important and precursors to these sounds.
Watching the children, letting them show me what senses needed to be stimulated, calmed, or fed – then reflectively writing and thinking, “Where should we take this?” This has never led me astray. Watching the child, and using deep listening skills to meet, feed, or nourish the senses have never disappointed me, nor the child! Feeding the senses is the key to treasures yet to develop.



Hello, I’m so pleased to see you advocating teaching with all the senses. I work writing educational materials for young people with special educational needs and I often write sensory stories. These are free to teachers and parents, links to various ones can be found on my website. http://jo.element42.org If you want to read a little more about them, TheReadingTub ran an article on me recently called ‘reading with five sense’. It was lovely to read your article, I wish you much on going success with the young people you support.


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