Thursday, April 18, 2013

Routines Presented Visuallly

I absolutely love this portable organizer that I bring with me from session to session.  It works well for a variety of kids I see with special needs but it also is great for my kids at home.  Many children are very visual learners so something like this can bring about great comfort to them, especially when they can see the order of events for the entire day.

This order of pictures is a routine and it's effective for kids who do not yet read or have already begun reading.  Really, it's nice for anyone because we as humans can process the pictures more quickly than reading words.  Words take conscious thought and skill and need more cognition/firing neurons to comprehend.  We have to process what each letter stands for, what it sounds like, put all of the sounds together to make a word, and then process what the word means. I vote for pictures.

I put the first 5 on the front in a vertical column and anymore activities after that on the back which you can see below. 

Why is routine important for kids? Routine gives young children a sense of control.  They know what is coming next.  This predictability gives them self-confidence.  Self-confidence is a key element in becoming an independent human being (Cline and Fay, Parenting with Love and Logic, and Seligman, The Optimistic Child.) 

If they do happen to see that a non-typical event is on the schedule, they can at least also see that the rest of their schedule will stay the same.  This can lower any anxiety that some children might experience regularly.  The children I see who have autism really like being able to see their session schedule and also like the tactile part of taking the pictures down when finished or turning them over.

The difference between a schedule and a routine- Routine does not have to be clock work.  That is the difference between a schedule and a routine.  A schedule is based on a clock.  A routine is based on an order of events which falls in a similar time frame each day.  More about this idea can be found in The Baby Whisperer Solves All Your Problems. 

Does having a routine mean that my children will not be flexible? No, it does not. If children are able to predict what is happening most of the time, then when the routine does change, they often find that it is a special event or a nice vacation from the normal, however it is comforting to know that they will still know what is happening the next day when it goes back to normal.  

As mentioned before, if the children do happen to see that a non-typical event is on the schedule, they can at least also see that the rest of their schedule will stay the same.  

It is important to communicate the change to your children ahead of time whether it is verbally and/or through a schedule such as this.  

Back of the board- the ending part of a session routine.

An example of a morning routine in a home.

This pocket organizer happened to come from Lakeshore Learning.  

What is Music Therapy?

What is music therapy?

Music therapy is the clinical and evidence based use of music (in a controlled environment) as a therapeutic tool by a credentialed professional, to facilitate the accomplishment of individualized goals in order to improve functioning which may be physical, cognitive, communicative, social or emotional.

In simpler terms: music used by a Board certified therapist in a controlled environment to help bring about change in an individual with data taken over the course of time the person is seen.

What is the difference between music therapy and music education?  

In music education, learning and understanding music is the GOAL.  In music therapy music is used as a TOOL to help achieve the individualized goals in the various areas of functioning.  

For example, drumming activities may be used to improve motor skills rather than teach rhythms.  The client may learn rhythms in the meantime which is wonderful, but learning rhythm was not the goal/purpose of the activity/intervention.  Music therapy is also a whole process which includes a referral, assessment, development of goals and objectives, execution of a session, and documenting data in order to track progress.

Where do music therapists work?

Some of the most common settings music therapists work in are hospitals, rehabilitation centers, schools, nursing homes, hospices, psychiatric clinics/hospitals, prisons, juvenile detention centers, client homes and in private practices.  Music therapists often work in conjunction with speech and language pathologists, occupational therapists and physical therapists.

In addition to my stay at home mom life I have continued to practice music therapy by taking on a few clients through a school district in San Antonio.  My clients have special needs and during sessions we work towards achieving targeted goals/objectives on their Individual Education Plan.

      A music therapist working on motor skills, behavior, and cognition.

                        Example of Music Therapy in a Hospital
Gabby Giffords with Speech Pathologist and Music Therapist. The amazing difference between speech alone and adding music is at 1 min. 51 seconds.

Why music therapy?

  • Humans are musical by nature-  Our heartbeat has a natural and constant rhythm.  Babies are soothed from a constant pulse which may include rocking, patting or swinging.  Humans naturally walk at a steady pace or natural cadence.
  • It's non-threatening
    • The music itself creates a non-threatening environment creating a safe way to explore feelings, behaviors, and issues while facilitating feelings of trust. It can be an icebreaker for discussion.  
    • Sets up clients for success. If a client is working towards improving attention span and is interested in piano, they do not have to know the names of the notes to make music during a session. A therapist can choose a color and place stickers of that color on the keys to make a chord.  Other chords can be made with other colors. Therapists can hold up colored cards when it's time for the client to play that particular chord. The client is working towards attention span with something he/she enjoys and frustration can be minimized.
  • Our brains responds to music differently- Music can activate multiple parts of the brain as rather than just one side.  New pathways can be found when others have been lost or previously non-existent.  For example language is found on the left side of the brain.  By using music the right side of the brain can be used to access language, memory, or motor planning.  When I was a student I had a client in rehab for speech who could not say the name of the hospital unless it was sung.  
  • Motivation- Music is just fun whether it's learning, participation, discussion or gaining energy/excitment through stimulation of adrenaline.  I can count on one hand the number of people who have said they do not like or listen to music.  The repetitive physical therapy exercises become entertaining when striking a drum and playing along to a song is now the focus of the session rather than lifting an arm up and down.  
  • Distraction-Our minds are naturally drawn to the most powerful stimulus. Enjoyment of the music may help clients focus more on the music than any pain and anxiety they may be experiencing.
  • Music can address multiple goals at once- Say a client is doing an intervention where he/she echos the rhythms/music patterns of the therapist. This particular intervention could be addressing motor skills (gross or fine by playing the instrument), memory/sequencing (remembering the pattern), auditory skills (listening to the pattern or sounds), or social skills (turn taking).  This can also apply to a group setting which may bring more opportunity for social skills as well.  This could be done through helping each other with assigned music parts, learning to play together and work together, listening to each other for balance, ideas, etc, or communicating through the expression of music.
A music therapist working on multiple goals at once and using music as a motivator. 
  • Relaxing- Music of course can be calming or soothing. It may help relax the mind, muscles or any tension.  Music also helps to lower cortisol levels in the body in a person who has been anxious or stressed.  A lower cortisol level lowers blood pressure. People respond differently to different styles of music and therefore each person may have a different style of music that he/she finds relaxing.  
  • Expression- The powerful stimulus of music can intensify human expression of words or feelings.  When words or verbal communication is not working, music can speak.
  • Bonding-People can share favorite songs or styles of music.  They can write, play, listen to or perform music together.  This also may bring about association of a particular piece of music with another person.
  • Teaching- We learn to make music or learn other concepts through music.  Music can stimulate multiple senses at once which may facilitate the development of skills such as memory. 
If you know someone who might benefit from music therapy and would like to find out how to set up music therapy services visit the American Music Therapy Association at . Our association can help you learn more about music therapy and locate a therapist near you.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

How do you De-stress?

Scott, thinking and looking forward to doing nothing on a camping trip.

To continue on with the theme of maintaining mental stability, I wanted to brainstorm different ideas on how to unwind or de-stress.  The presentation we heard on this topic included the fact that too much of anything is not good, but when used in balance, de-stressing activities are extremely beneficial! 

I know that I love:
  • Playing the piano
  • Doing yoga to very calming music (my favorite is Liquid has no rhythm except the chord change when the songwriter takes a breath...he wrote it specifically to help himself de-stress).
  • Meditating
  • Sitting on the couch while the kids play with a cup of decaff coffee
  • reading
  • watching TV
  • Painting
  • Playing soccer

What is your favorite way to calm yourself??

Taking a nap?

Going for a walk?


Reading a book?


Making music?

Petting a dog?

Splashing in puddles?


Playing in the dirt?

Or better yet, playing in the mud? 

Playing in the sand?

Digging for dinosaurs?



Being a couch potato?

We all have our own ways of unwinding.  Love to hear from you!!

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Maintaining Mental Stability-Putting on Your Own Oxygen Mask

Japanese Tea Gardens-San Antonio, TX

Maintaining Mental Stability-Putting on Your Own Oxygen Mask

Yesterday, a group at my church I help to co-coordinate called 
MOMS (ministry of mothers in service), invited a licensed professional counselor to come speak with us on how to maintain our own mental stability while doing our jobs as mothers and wives.  The information from this presentation does not only apply to mothers and wives.  It can apply to any human being learning to enjoy their life and love who they are.

As I observed reactions around the room and listened to questions and comments, I realized that her words had really touched each of us.  It appeared to me that we could all relate to what she was saying to us.  She heavily emphasized the fact that we need to take care of our emotional and mental stability the way we would our own physical stability.

I took notes however I did not get everything word for word. I just wanted to share the summary of her presentation. 

Maintaining Mental Stability in the Home-Putting on your oxygen mask.

Part I

When we are on an airplane we hear the flight attendants tell us that if something happens on the plane and the oxygen masks drop, put yours on first and then help those around you. Why? Because if you pass out, then you will not be able to help anyone else. The same is true for us. If we do not take care to guard our physical safety and our emotional safety, then we will not be able to provide for our children and have good relationships with our husbands.  

Emotional safety

We  have the right and duty to protect our emotional safety just as you would your physical safety.  If someone were to shove you or hit you in the face you would put up a guard, and say " can't do that. That's not okay".  The same idea applies when you are guarding your emotional safety.  If someone verbally abuses you or in other words, talks down on you or makes jokes about your character you can and should put up that same guard and say " can't do that, that's not okay". 

We do not have to sacrifice our physical and emotional safety. We need to be healthy all around in order to do our jobs as human beings and create a healthy family life.

Part II


What are coping techniques we use to calm our anxieties? Anxiety is caused by cortisol which is a hormone that is released when we are anxious.  Water can physically lower our cortisol levels so this is another reason to drink a lot of water.Deep breathing can also do the same.

Ideas from our moms on effective coping mechanisms: chocolate, bubble baths, reading (books we read have an effect on our mood), stretching and yoga, calming music, Pinterest, and shopping, prayer.

Balance the coping mechanisms
Coping mechanisms are important and can be wonderful but balance is key. Too much of anything can throw off our balance of what's important.  

Cognitive technique to lowering anxiety and solve our issues

1. Stop

2. Think back through the thoughts you just had.

3. At which thought did you notice your anxiety start.

4.Use words- words help us understand the problem which then helps us to solve it. Journaling or just writing down your thoughts can be a way of processing your thoughts and internalizing.  

5.  Is your anxiety or emotional survival being affected by someone else's words or actions or is it the thoughts that you are telling yourself? 

Words help us. We as humans live on words. When we understand the problem we feel a lot better.

Part III

Ways to Resolve

What can we do to predict and prepare for particular outcomes? We watch the weather channel so that we can be prepared for the weather if we go outside.  What can we do ahead of time to prepare for what YOU have control over.  

Sometimes we as moms get anxious about particular situations because our survival of emotional and physical safety comes into play.  How can we use our words to help other people understand why we are anxious about these particular situations such as a husband waking a child at night.  

Use "I feel" statements such as, "I feel like you are not taking my sleep into consideration when you make a lot of noise and wake up the baby. If the baby wakes up then I have to get up and care for the baby during my time to sleep and get the rest I need". 

Moms are natural scientists.  
We do what we do to prepare for something, such as wanting to be the only one to pack a diaper bag because we know what we need and how to do it.  

Sometimes we do not realize that others have ides from another perspective and asking questions in an open and non-threatening way can bring in new ideas.  How can we use our words with our husbands to solve problems that affect our emotional survival/anxiety? your emotional survival being affected by another person? 

Or is it the thoughts you are telling yourself?