By: Anne Zachry, PhD, OTR/L
As an OT, I’m always looking for different ideas and techniques to add to my therapy “toolbox,” and I recently discovered an amazing music therapy website that provides a ton of wonderful tips, suggestions, and videos! Ryan Judd, Board Certified Music Therapist, created TheRhythmTree.com and he recently began offering a wonderful DVD kit that includes a variety of songs, 3 sets of instruments, and a guidebook with song lyrics.
After completing a bachelor’s degree in Psychology, Ryan discovered the field of music therapy. It was a perfect fit because it combined his love of working with children with his passion for music. While working on a master’s degree in music therapy, he started an internship at a hospital pediatric rehabilitation unit, and had the opportunity to provide therapy to children with special needs. Ryan shares: “As soon as I started working with the kids, I was hooked! I knew I had found my calling and I have dedicated myself to these children and their families ever since.”
I recently contacted Ryan and asked him, “How can OTs, PTs, and SLPs effectively incorporate music into their therapy sessions?”
“Anyone, regardless of musical training or ability can use music to help children with special needs. Whether you are a PT, OT, SLP, educator or parent of a child with special needs, there is so much you can do with music to bond with a child and help him/her reach therapeutic goals. Here are several examples and feel free to visit my educational video blog and sign up for my newsletter for more suggestions.
A great way to help a child develop finger individuation and extension skills, pincer grasp and a tripod grasp is through fingerplays. One of my favorite fingerplays is ‘Where is Thumbkin?’ In addition to isolating the thumbs, index fingers and pinkies you can sing a verse of ‘Where is Kitty?’ while using your thumb and pointer to create the kitty and also ‘Where is Doggy?’ while using your thumb, index and middle finger to create the doggy. Be silly and humorous by making crazy cat sounds and barking and howling sounds! I usually sing ‘Where is Kitty, where is kitty, meow meow meow…meow meow meow’ and ‘Where is Doggy, where is doggy, ruff ruff ruff…ruff ruff ruff.’ You can even incorporate emotional recognition into this fingerplay by substituting and acting out different emotions during the ‘How are you today sir, very well I thank you, etc.’
Incorporating live or recorded music into PT activities such as jumping or balancing on one foot helps keep things lively and motivating. You can use some fun dance music and make these gross motor skills part of your dance moves or sing a song about these actions. For example you change the words to a familiar melody like ‘Wheels on the Bus’ and sing ’This is the way we stand on one foot, stand on one foot, stand on one foot. This is the way we stand on one foot, all day long,” and ‘This is the way we jump up high, jump up high, jump up high. This is the way we jump up high, all day long.
You can work on a common speech therapy goal of learning prepositions by using some maracas or shakers and a drum. Chant or sing ‘Where is the shaker, where could it be? Where is the shaker, please tell me?’ Hold the shaker over drum, under the drum, next to the drum, etc. When the child gets the correct response, you can sing or chant the answer for repetition and teaching like ‘It’s under the drum, under the drum, under the drum, it’s under the drum.’
Most children love music and therefore it can be an effective tool when used in a therapeutic context. I find that in particular, playing instruments such as maracas, tambourines, and rhythm sticks can be fun and motivating and can be used to address therapeutic goals. However you go about it, I encourage you to start incorporating music into your work. It will keep things fresh, creative and fun!”
Featured Contributor: Dr. Anne Zachry, OTR/L PhD
Dr. Anne Zachry is a pediatric occupational therapist with over 18 years experience providing quality OT to children, along with caregiver instruction and support. She has a PhD in Educational Psychology. She’s had articles published in her profession’s trade magazine and in peer-reviewed journals. She is currently employed as a school therapist, working with students having issues ranging from mild fine motor problems to severe physical disabilities.
Please support our contributing authors and visit Pediatric Occupational Therapy Tips