Friday, April 29, 2011

Play and then...FREEZE!

Today I'd like to share a song I've been using this week incorporating rhythm instruments.

All of us use various rhythm instruments (shakers, rhythm sticks, bells, cabasas, tambourines, drums,etc.), during music therapy sessions. The students love playing instruments, and we can address so many therapeutic goals by incorporating them into sessions,(participating in a group, being a group leader, following the leader, turn taking, impulse control, following instructions,etc). It's amazing how many social skills can be practiced and learned while having fun making music!

Today's song focuses on listening skills, following instructions and impulse control.

First, I offer instrument choices to students. There are many ways to do this with 1:1 sessions and group sessions. To read my post on Making Choices, click here.

After everyone has instruments, I briefly talk about freeze means stop. If I want to alter the tempos within the song, I play my guitar. Other times, I use my own recording of this song so that I can free my hands to model the playing and freezing with a rhythm instrument myself.

The lyrics to this song are simple and repeat over and over. This is on purpose.

The repetition of this song teaches the activity (play, then freeze). If I feel the group is bored or has mastered the basic concepts of play then freeze, I quickly add in things like play loudly, play quietly, have different instruments stand up, boys stand up, girls stand up,etc..

So, here it is. If you would like a copy of the lyrics for this song, please email me at

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Recycle = Use Again!

Yesterday was Earth Day. So, that makes today...the day after Earth Day! :)

It's never too late to share a song that promotes taking care of our Earth. One big way we can do this is to recycle. Even with the amount of recycling awareness that's currently out there and the numerous recycling logos we see each and every day, there are still many people who do not recycle.

We all should try to least a few things that are obvious. Maybe the water bottles you drink from each day, the can you drink a soda from, or unneeded newspapers and magazines you may have lying around in your office. Whatever you may have, there's always something you can recycle.

Below is my recycling song. It covers recycling things like paper, plastic, glass bottles and cans. There are obviously more things you can recycle, but these are the four main items we usually teach the students to identify and sort.

If you would like a copy of the lyrics, please email me at

As always, thanks for stopping by and I hope you have a great week!

Thursday, April 21, 2011

To pick or not to pick?

To pick or not to pick...that is the question.

In the world of Music Therapy, a lot of therapists use their guitars daily. It's such a portable instrument with the type of acoustic sound that you can incorporate within a variety of settings. Children and adults both enjoy listening to guitar and are often fascinated with the mechanics of producing its sound.
I have always wondered about using picks to play guitar. I play an acoustic-electric guitar and also play a few things on a classical guitar.

In the history of my guitar playing (which actually hasn't been as long as you think), I've never been required to use a pick and neither of my college guitar teachers used a pick or instructed us in the use of guitar pick. (Remember, I only play classical and acoustic-electric, so I think a pick might have been introduced at some point if I had been playing an electric bass guitar or something like that).

So, in my wonderings about guitar picks, I looked up some info about it.
Traditionally, people do not use guitar picks when playing classical guitars. They are played with fingers only. Nylon strings are prone to break more easily when played with a pick.

Acoustics usually come with a pick guard in a tear drop shape, to help protect the wood from wear and tear from the pick. (I always wondered what that was for...other than for looks!) Some people play acoustic-electric guitars with the use of a guitar pick. Others play with their fingers.

I don't use a pick. However, I'm not sure why...I'm just comfortable the way I play. I do know that using a pick definitely projects your overall sound when you strum a guitar. In most of the settings I currently serve, I don't think I want my guitar to sound any louder when I strum. I think that that could possibly be overwhelming for some of the students I serve and definitely affect the nonthreatening medium we, as music therapists, try to reflect in our work.

How about you? Do you use a pick for certain settings and/or pieces of music? Do you choose to play with your fingers only?

Please share and comment below!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Rett Syndrome

What is Rett Syndrome?

Rett Syndrome is the most severe form of autism. It is a debilitating neurological disorder that predominantly affects females. It potentially affects one in 5,000 girls.

What causes Rett Syndrome?
Rett Syndrome is caused by a single gene mutation that leads to underproduction of an important brain protein.

Imagine having a normal, healthy baby girl, who develops and thrives and does everything she's supposed to do. You love and care for her and enjoy each developmental milestone as she reaches them. Then, between the ages of 1 and 3 years of age, she begins to lose her abilities.

She doesn't make eye contact anymore, she doesn't babble or talk like she used to, she loses fine motor control in her hands and you see her have difficulty walking and climbing up stairs.

The fact is that Rett Syndrome is the leading genetic cause of severe impairment in girls. Compared to their physical disabilities and numerous regressions, most girls with Retts are believed to be functioning at a higher level mentally.

The good news that offers hope for many families who have girls with Retts, is that scientists and researches from top-notch institutions around the world are studying Rett Syndrome. Rett Syndrome is a potentially REVERSIBLE disorder. Research has proven once protein levels are back to normal levels, symptoms subside.

Researchers and scientists are a long way from curing all girls with Rett Syndrome, but they're headed in the right direction.

Can you help?

Girl Power 2 Cure is an organization that seeks to raise awareness of Rett Syndrome, give support to families affected by Rett Syndrome, and fund research for a cure for Rett Syndrome.

Please check them out here and consider donating to make a huge difference in the life of a girl with Rett Syndrome!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Making Choices

Yesterday I received an email from a teacher in California, named Lisa.

In her email, Lisa shared that she teaches students who have special needs. She teaches children who present a wide variety of functioning levels and degrees.

Lisa emailed several questions in regards to working with children who are nonverbal. She asked for additional suggestions and/or tips to help encourage her students who are nonverbal to make choices and increase their participation.

One suggestion I had, was for Lisa to make a way for the students to choose instruments. The students can learn to make their choices known.

Lisa shared she usually hands out instruments to students based on what she has observed them to enjoy in previous instrument activities. This is okay to do, but it limits students trying out or experiencing something new/different after a period of time. Students gain confidence and independence when they can show/tell you what they want.

I shared pictures of instrument choice cards I use in sessions. I'm posting them here below.

I use these choice cards for all students in sessions. If a student is verbal, I show them the pictures (letting them pick from a field of 2 or 3 instruments), and ask them to tell me what they want. If a student is nonverbal, I hold up the picture cards (2 or 3) and ask them to tell me what they want. The student may use her hand to touch a picture card, eye gaze their choice,etc..

By using the cards for everyone, I'm letting the students who are verbal model choice making with the cards. This also encourages turn taking, waiting for turns, etc. as I make my way around the room to each student. (Of course, there are songs where everyone plays a maraca or stick, and in that situation we hand out instruments to each student.)

What other ways do you encourage students who are nonverbal to communicate?

Sunday, April 17, 2011

How a bill becomes a Law

Happy Monday and thanks for stopping by!

Today's song post is geared for middle or high school students who are learning about government. More specifically, how a bill becomes a law.

When I wrote this song, I decided to leave some details out.


When working with students with various special needs and cognitive deficits, I often have to adapt topics and write songs that reflect the big idea of that topic. Nitty gritty details often become too wordy and the students will not retain alot of that information.

Instead, I try to simplify the topic as much as possible and then represent steps and/or key vocabulary words with pictures to help "tell the story".

So,with that said, here's How a bill becomes a Law.

If any of you are interested in the visuals that I created to go along with this song, feel free to email me at

Have a great day!

Bills are made into laws,
after several steps, you see.
Our government has a process by which laws are made for you and me.

It starts with an idea-an idea you think of in your head.
You send your idea to Congress, where a member of Congress researches your idea.

A member of Congress writes down your idea.
Once it is written, it is called a bill.

This bill is put in a box, called a hopper, and then debated and voted on by one of the chambers of Congress.

Once the bill is passed by one chamber of Congress, it's passed onto the second chamber, you see.

The bill is debated and voted on again, and if passed, goes directly to the President of the United States in Washington D.C.

If the President doesn't pass the bill, it's called a veto.
If he passes the bill then it becomes a law, which is a rule we have to follow-you and me.

Bills are made into laws
after several steps, you see.
Our government has a process by which laws are made for you and me.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Using technology in therapy

Check this out!

I stumbled across this article while reading other blogs online and just had to share!
This is a very interesting article that talks about reaching students with disabilities with the aid of some modern technologies, like the iPad and wii. Check it out!

Berklee apps reveal disabled children’s musical skills -
Berklee apps reveal disabled children’s musical skills -

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Colors...for FREE!

The spring season is full of bright and pretty colors. In light of all the colors we see around, I want to share some of the color songs I use.

I use color songs quite frequently when I work with groups of students and we do everything from naming colors, sorting colors, spelling colors, etc.. I have songs about each individual color and also songs where an assortment of colors are addressed.

I like to introduce all the colors first, across several sessions. This way the teachers can review the colors throughout the week as well. Once I feel that the students have a good grasp on the colors, I like to use a song called Colors, Colors that I posted here.

Below you can see the visual (in windows movie format) that I use for this song. It's a good song to use when trying to get students to answer questions (simple and abstract),too. For example, a more simple question would be, "What color is the cherry?" (and you would point to the cherry when you ask this question).

An abstract question using the visual would be, "What color is the sky?" For many students the abstract questions are hard because we're moving away from labeling items and talking more in depth about them.

Stay tuned for more color songs...FREE color songs!

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Energy, part 3

Welcome back!

Today is part 3 of my songs about different types of Energy.

I posted songs about Wind Energy and Solar Energy a couple of weeks ago and am finally getting around to part 3: Water Energy.

Energy from water is technically called Hydro energy. It is used for many things.

I didn't go into a lot of detail in this song, but mainly explained what Hydro energy is and where it comes from. I hope you like it!

Water, Water Everywhere, in rivers, lakes and streams.
Water makes up our oceans and our seas.

Water moves in many ways. It has kinetic energy.
Water moves in streams, currents, waves and tides, and as it moves it carries energy.


Energy carried by water is called Hydro energy.
It's converted and used to power many things that are powered by electricity.


Sunday, April 10, 2011

In honor of Spring

It's April.
It's Spring!

I'm still waiting on some slightly warmer temperatures here in the southeast, but we have managed to have some nice sunny days so far. If "April showers bring May flowers", we're definitely going to have a lot of flowers around here this year! :)

The signs of spring are definitely here. There are all kinds of bees buzzing around, birds in the trees, and even a few butterflies here and there.

Speaking of butterflies, last spring I shared a song I wrote to go along with the book, The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle. I had no idea that this caterpillar song would be so popular!

Today I'm sharing the song and a visual I made for the song. I made the visual using free images found online and inserted them all into a power point. (Last week I had another idea and printed out each power point slide and made a flip book of the song. It worked great!) Then I made a windows movie from the power point slides and the song that I recorded earlier.

My visuals are only used for educational purposes.

What other songs do you like to use for spring? What other books do you like to use in sessions for spring?

As always, thanks for stopping by!

Monday, April 4, 2011

2011 Academy of Country Music Awards - Darius Rucker - Music from the Heart

Last night, the Country Music Awards were presented and a special performance was given by singer Darius Rucker.
This wasn't just any performance. It was a performance involving a group of individuals who have developmental disorders.

Last summer, these individuals attended a camp and had the privilege of working with music artists in creating, writing, playing and participating in music.

Take a look below at the video.

I think it is plain to is the universal language!

2011 Academy of Country Music Awards - Darius Rucker - Music from the Heart

Thanks for stopping by! Stay tuned for another post this week! :)

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Sometimes I Like to Clap my Hands

Welcome back!
Today I wanted to post a video of one of my favorite songs to use in sessions. I have found this song to work with most age groups and abilities.
For students who are verbal, they can suggest actions for the song. For students who are nonverbal, I have picture cards of actions they can choose from.
I'd love to hear what you think!
Please bear with me...still figuring out all kinks of video and uploading, etc. This video was MUCH clearer on my ipod before I uploaded it. :)

The song is titled, Sometimes I like to clap my hands, and I use it a lot! :)

This song is available for purchase for only $0.99 here.

Thanks for stopping by and be looking for my third post about energy!

Friday, April 1, 2011

Energy, part two

Today's post is the second post on Energy. Yesterday I posted a song about Wind Energy, and you can find that here.

Today's post is about Solar Energy.

Solar energy is all around and is a great renewable resource. I wrote this song to help students learn about solar energy.

When I sing these songs in sessions, I always have visuals to help support the lyrics. I create power points with pictures and song lyrics to support each song.

I also convert the power points into windows movie files, so that the teacher can use the songs with visuals several times weekly. This repetition, along with the visual support, is the key to students retention of the information. In my opinion, by supporting with a song and visuals, I can reach students with a variety of learning styles and strengths, (i.e. auditory learners, visual learners,etc.).

I also wanted to mention that with some classes, the goal is not for all the students to sing the whole song. While some of the students can, I usually focus on the chorus of each song. I introduce it first and point out the visuals they see for that part of the song. I also sing the chorus into a Big Mac (voice output device), so that nonverbal students can also participate in singing the song.

So, here's the song with the lyrics below. Stay tuned for part three...Hydro Energy! :)

The sun is very hot.
It's a ball of fire, you see.
Energy from the sun is called Solar Energy.

Solar Energy has kinetic energy.
We see it all around.
With the help of solar panels, solar energy is all around.


Solar energy is converted into other forms of energy.
There's heat to warm our water, and heat to warm our homes.
There's electricity that helps power many things for you and me.