Part 2 – Effective Ways to Improve Your Practice with Children with ASD

Drum Picture

Last week, I shared some ideas on how to improve your practice with children with ASD. You can read that post here.

Here are some more tips and suggestions of things that I have learned along the way that have completely changed my sessions with children with ASD (in a good way!):

4. Bring down the key you’re singing in

High sounds can at times be over stimulating for children on the autism spectrum. I have found that if I simply bring the key down a few half steps, it can be much more tolerable than when I sing in a high range.

5. Don’t forget to use other accompaniment instruments

In my sessions with children who are in the severe range of functioning, there are times when I never pick up the guitar to accompany myself. The sound of the strings can seem to be extremely overwhelming to them (as evidenced by them holding their hands over their ears when I start to play).

This has led me to explore the use of the drum, maraca, glockenspeil, and even kokoriko to accompany myself. Or sometimes singing a cappella can be just as effective.

6. Go in without a session plan –

I am a planner and organizer. I love session planning. So to go into a session with no set plan was a challenge for me. But I have seen some incredible results when I go into a session with no set plan and I simply follow the child’s responses and adapt accordingly.

I’m sure in a few weeks or months I will have more to add to this list.

For now, what can YOU share? Leave a comment below and let us know some things that have helped improve your practice with children with ASD.

Comments (7)

  • Mary

    With some experimentation, I learned that one of my ASD clients greatly prefers it when I accompany on ukulele instead of guitar!

    • Amy

      I have found that too! Sometimes the six strings on guitar can be over stimulating, especially if they are steel strings. The children I work with love the uke! 🙂

  • Ashley Lundquist

    One of my clients is a tough cookie! She has been really difficult to understand since I began working with her in January. She has pinched me to the point of bruising and bit my hand to the point of blood. I almost let her go because I just didn’t know what the other MT did that I didn’t. Then I realized that this particular client needed more structure. As soon as I began doing the same 3 activities at the beginning of the session, it changed so much. Now, after those familiar activities, I am able to work in some new activities in the latter half of my session. She had never vocalized with me before but after using the kazoo a couple times, she started vocalizing /ah/ without! I was so excited that I finally got her attention! I definitely have lots more work to do. All kids with Autism are very different. There is not one specific way to handle each. But I really appreciate your posts! I look forward to your future posts on Autism because they are very helpful!!

    • Amy

      Ashley, Thanks for sharing your story! You are right, each child is different – no one cookie cutter way works. That’s why we share different ideas and see what works best. Thank you for adding to the conversation! I love that using the same 3 activities at the beginning of each session provided the structure this client needed. (That’s why we use the same Hello Song, right!) Also, shows us that communication with the previous music therapist (or other therapists) might help us find out these things quicker! Good luck and I will continue to share insights as I have them!

  • Michelle

    I have found singing a cappella is a good way to “cool down/relax” after more stimulating activity. I try to alternate stimulation with more soothing types of activities; I’m hoping this will help with self- regulation. My students like different instruments– for the most part, their least favorite is hand drums, I think because of the percussive nature of the song. Their hands down favorite, even when they don’t like any others is the triangle. Something about its sound is soothing and it is also visually entertaining, because of its constant movement.

    • Amy

      Isn’t it interesting to see what instruments our clients gravitate towards?



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