therapy for children

How a Music Therapist Adapts Songs to Fit Each Client's Need

I want to share an experience with you from a therapist who used my song, Leaves are Falling Down. click here for song

Nam Kim Kyo, a talented and creative music therapy colleague of mine share with me some of her adaptations of this song. She kindly has allowed me to share these with you to give you some ideas on how you might use this song with children who have special needs.

First check out her art props! She had her clients decorate the foam leaves into smiling life-like characters! What a great idea. Can you tell which one her client made? (You've got to love the big eye expression.)


Client A:

This client has been diagnosed with Autism and has minimal verbal and communication skills. One of Nam's goals was to teach her client to recognize body parts and colors. Nam presented her client with red, yellow, orange and brown leaves made of foam. She then encouraged her client to match the correct colors while providing verbal, visual and musical prompts. She said her client seemed to be very engaged and was able to match the verbal/musical prompt to the proper leaf colors with success!

Client B:

This client has been diagnosed with Autism, Seizure Disorder, is non-verbal and is considered low functioning. Nam is working on teaching him how to reach, grasp and release, as this client often grabs objects but has trouble letting them go. Nam cleverly adapted the song's activity by turning the drum upside down, then having her client pick up the leaves and drop them into the upside-down drum with a verbal and musical cue! Fun!

These are just two ways in which you can adapt this song to fit an activity. I want to thank Nam for sharing her stories and artwork with us and encourage her to keep up the great work. 

How have you adapted songs to help address any of your child or client's needs? I would love to hear from you. Please leave a comment or suggestion below. 


Nam is practicing music therapy specializing in supporting children with autism and teaches music in Vancouver, BC. Canada.




For a download of the song click here.

For a download of the adaptive drum song instructional video click here.

For FREE songs, videos and tips on how to support children with music click here.

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Music Therapy is Not The Same as Music Lessons!

Photo Courtesy of:  Alexandra Stead

Photo Courtesy of: Alexandra Stead

As a parent, you should be sure you clearly understand the difference. 

Music Therapy might seem like a new kind of therapy, but in fact it has been used for hundreds of years.  In the last fifty years, music therapy has become a widely accepted treatment modality for patients with a broad range of illnesses and disorders.

Still, many people have never heard of music therapy, and are unfamiliar with its benefits.  I believe one of the biggest reasons for this is the varying levels of quality we see in music therapists that are practicing today.

Sadly, many parents may be wasting their money on ineffective music therapy treatments.  If you are a parent using the services of a music therapist, you should routinely do a progress check to make sure goals and objectives are being achieved.  This is only possible if parameters are established in the beginning so that you can effectively measure therapeutic progress. 

To better understand the difference between music therapy and music lessons, I think it is helpful to think of the difference between physical fitness training and bodybuilding.   With physical fitness training, the goal is to improve health and proper body function.  Bodybuilders however, have a very different goal, and that is to achieve cosmetic “perfection” by a particular date, such as a bodybuilding contest.  In both cases, the same exercise equipment is used, but for very different goals and objectives.

Music lessons help students attain a high level of performance “perfection” which can be showcased on a particular date, such as a recital. On the other hand, Music therapy helps clients enhance cognitive, social and learning abilities, with no attempt to achieve perfection.  Achieving musical proficiency is not the focus in music therapy, and is certainly not a requirement. Music and the instruments used to create music are simply tools for the music therapist to achieve his or her goals.

Using brain-imaging technology, scientists have shown that when we hear music, we stimulate both sides of our brain.  We believe this explains why our clients with speech difficulties respond so well to music therapy – the part of the brain that control’s speech is also being stimulated by music.  Since music stimulates the brain so broadly, we have seen music therapy be very effective for a wide range of interventions for children with special needs.  Music rewards engagement, and this can be a powerful motivator for children. Therapists can use music to reward desirable behaviours and eliminate undesirable ones.

For children with special needs, their quality of life is closely related to the time of intervention – the earlier the better.  Therefore, we believe children with special needs should begin therapy as early as possible in their development. It is crucial that time not be wasted on ineffective music therapy interventions or music lessons that have no therapeutic benefit.

If you’d like to learn more about how music therapy can benefit your child’s needs, please give us a call for a free consultation. 

As Seen In Autism Parenting Magazine