Responsibility and Freedom Look a lot Like Sensory Integration

My kids grew up on the phrase “Freedom and responsibility go hand in hand.” Throughout their teen years, they probably heard this more than they cared to. It was a great measure for me when it came to decisions of “Should I let them do this, should I give them money for that, or should I say no this time?” What were they doing currently and how are they already responsible for this? There is no hard and fast rulebook for this either. It is individualized. What can this teen do? What does this teen need? How do certain leisure activities support a need?

I think well-functioning sensory integration looks a little like this. Which sensory areas need attention, or maybe a sensory area needs more when x happens, can be left alone when y is a factor, or needs something entirely different when z happens? Sensory integration is another very individualized plan of action.

When music is part of the “plan of action” for sensory integration, music can be a catalyst. What comes form within is usually more effective than something imposed from outside. Music mirrors a child’s reactions and behaviors, helps a child that is not integrated find or know where or what home is (awareness). Music that mirrors a child with a stable rhythm provides a sensory orientated structure, stability, and predictability, helping a child to integrate possible maladaptive behaviors end in unpredictable environment at least into something understandable (trust in self, trust int he world around them). Once that awareness and trust is established, a child may then begin to reach out and test or possibly join the world momentarily.

  • The child who randomly and rapidly wanders the room, picking up and throwing down items, may begin to wander slowly back and forth, touching the symbol or piano, looking at the singer to hear the last sound of the phrase
  • The child who stares blankly into space begins to look or lean towards the music source, displaying not only awareness but interest
  • The silent child lets out a soft sigh at the end of a phrase. The music is not just something happening around him, but something he is aware of and connected to.

Musically, at this level, rhythm provides the stable, repetitive, predictable “responsibility.” The child’s actions are the freedom. When they begin to interact together, things begin to make sense and are a starting point for more organization and mature development.

Antoinette Morrison, MT-BC

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