Thursday, December 11, 2014

Annual Baptism Celebrations

Happy Baptism Day! This day does not quite have the hype of turning a new age and celebrating a birthday, but the kids can have a great time celebrating a new year as a member of our church family and find it exciting too.  We have been evolving our celebration over the past few years that we started making sure that we celebrate their special baptism anniversary.

I really want them to know that this day is a big day.  I started by making sure we mention the date of their baptism often to help them learn it, and we do special things on that day.  Both of my children's baptisms happen to be during the summer which makes it easy for us to do a special breakfast for them. We make it special  by using the nice place mats and put out a few decorations, etc.  We also light their baptism candle during the breakfast and put out there baptismal framed photo and photo album of the day. They enjoy looking through it during breakfast. And of course we say special prayers asking for blessings over them and remind them that the sign of the cross reminds us of our baptism. We finish up with reminding them that one day they will make their confirmation and continue the "yes" that we said for them if they choose to. 

Enjoy your baptism day!

Dropping Paper...Ever Have the Urge?

Dropping paper and cards on the ground does not happen to be my urge personally, but it does happen to be something one of my students finds greatly interesting.  In fact, it is something he will walk off and do any time he feels he needs to or wants to. Yes, this student does have autism.  When I first started doing an evaluation with him, I was searching for ways through music to keep him distracted from the things he desired or felt he needed to do.  The team was searching for ways to keep him engaged so he could get his school work done.

In the middle of the evaluation process (which takes a few weeks), I was asked to read the book titled, The Reason I Jump, by Naoki Higashida, a boy with autism. I believe he was about 13 when he wrote it (and when I say write, I mean he had someone help him get the words out that he wanted to say in a much different way than we would write).   Even though I was aware of the sensory differences in all sensory systems that those with autism experience, this boy changed the way I approached my techniques. I realized that many times, they cannot control the urges they have to do different things and sometimes cannot even realize what their limbs are doing.

Naoki explained how much detail they see in objects upon first sight.  For many of us, we see the object as a whole and then begin to notice details over time.  This gave me ideas about my own student.  If I have to guess, I would say he processes visual sensory information much differently than I. He sees something I do not see, constantly looking towards the ceiling with his hand moving slowly in front of his face.  He has a great fascination with airplanes and things moving through the air, hence, the dropping paper and cards and watching them fall to the ground.

Well, I had completed all of my observations and information gathering. I was now on the third day of assessing his IEP objectives WITH music and comparing them to how he did WITHOUT music. It had served well as a memory and information recall tool for this boy, but it was not keeping him focused and less distracted from any stimulation urges he had.  The music was not motivating him and motivation to work with music is usually the first sign that music therapy would be a good therapy for a student, and we were down to one more objective of learning his phone number. He is great at matching pictures, letters, and numbers which is what we were having him do to the melody I was singing, but he had no interest whatsoever to leave his ceiling gazing and paper dropping.  

The teacher and I sat for a minute both of us thinking.  Think outside the box...think outside the box...nothing in the box has been successful...what message would Naoki be giving to me here?  Well of course. An idea came.  Stop fighting the urge....use them in the objective. I tossed some of the numbers he used to match his phone number on the floor with some of the extra numbers that he didn't need. I saved some for him too and made sure he noticed when I tossed them on the floor.  "Here, your turn," I told him.  He took some and let them fall to the floor.  On his face we could see signs of pleasure.  "Find the number 2 like this!" I showed him and then sang the melody.  And he found it and placed it in the correct spot. Oh thank heavens. It took a few more drops to the floor with the numbers, but we managed to get the phone number matched and in addition were able to get him to recall the numbers afterward through the melody. Success? I definitely felt like it was.

He received music therapy services following, because of how well it worked as a memory tool and conveyor of information. Another yay for music. Keep the music in you!

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Suggestions to Try at Home to Stimulate Speech Using Music

While I am still working towards getting some music videos of ways to use speech and music up here, I thought I should go ahead and just post a list of common suggestions I give to parents to try and stimulate and improve speech at home.

The great thing about music therapy is that when the client's are engaged in the music, they often forget that they are doing work! The brain cannot process information when it is stressed, so music can be a stress reducer and allow the brain to take in more information. Between pitch, rhythm, and lyrics, their are constantly new ways to explore music and create new experiences.  Clients also have an opportunity to try new things and they are set up for success in creating their own music or inputting their own ideas. In addition, music is providing alternate neuro pathways in learning. 

I am not a speech pathologist. I do work with them in my job in the schools.  I do know that speech is complicated. Our brain is very busy when we listen to speech and say it ourselves. In order to process one word like "hello," our brain has to:

  1.  "catch" all of the sounds (h, e, l, oh) 
  2. learn each sound, 
  3. learn how to recreate each sound, 
  4. put them in order
  5. store them in memory
  6. know the meaning behind the word (hello is a greeting you say when you see someone)

Here are a few ways to try music at home to encourage speech using music.

Last Lyric
Sing familiar songs and have the child fill in the last word of a line.  The last word of a line is often a point in the music that compels a person to sing/hum the last pitch.  A very basic example is, "Row row row your boat gently down the _______.  Merrily merrily merrily merrily life is but a _______."  It feels very strange to leave off the last word. 

Vowel Singing
Pick a vowel sound and sing it to a familiar tune.  I often use Little Bitty Pretty One.  Oh oh oh oh oh or ah ah ah ah ah. 

Syllable Singing
Pick a sound or syllable to practice such as "ba," "do," or "me" and sing it to a familiar tune instead of the lyrics.  ba ba ba ba ba ba ba ba ba baaaa.
This is much easier on our auditory tracking. Our brain has time to "catch" the sound being heard and learn the sound because it's only two sounds rather than the large number of sounds that fill up a sentence.  For instance, "Row row row your boat gently down the stream" has about 19 different sounds that the brain has to sequence and put in order after catching each one.  In the word "row," it catches the "r" sound and the "ow" sound and puts it in order. Our brains do a lot of work to make a sentence! 

Sound Sequence
Sequence 2 or 3 sound together (after mastering example 3) and sing it to a familiar tune.  For example, "ba bee ba bee ba bee."    When that is mastered change the consonant in the second syllable, but use the same vowel again (ba da ba da ba da).  The next step may be to do two different consonants and two different vowels (ba de ba de ba de).  

Have opportunities to break up syllables in words by tapping them out.  I frequently use this for rate of speech.  One student I worked with had unintelligible speech because of articulation and also how fast she tried to fly through her words.  Having her tap out each syllable on her leg helped tremendously.  When I demonstrated tapping while I spoke, she was also able to better hear each sound of each syllable.  I highly recommend this for rate of speech and articulation.  Use drums, shakers, and other creative ways to make sounds.

Blowing Instruments
If breath support is an issue, try having the children try out recorders and then kazoos.  

Songs that have Repeated Syllables
Lemondrops and Gumdrops (ah, ah ah)
Little Bitty Pretty One
Menahmena (Sesame Street)
Down on Grandpa's Farm (animal sounds that echo)
Little Green Frog (Ah Ah said the little green frog)
Runaround Sue (hey)
Crocodile Rock ( la la la la)
Biddy Biddy (Music Together)
Stick Tune (Music Together)

More Advanced
Do Wah Diddy
Ooh EE Ooh Ah Ah
Trashin the Camp- Tarzan Soundtrack

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Apple Texas

Our family just loves autumn...but really, who doesn't? We don't get near the beautiful changes in color of trees here in Texas but it's still a beautiful time of year. We also love the idea of picking our own fruits and veggies. Unfortunately we don't have our own apple tree or pumpkin patch. I tried pumpkins many years. We just don't have the space to give them adequate care.  We have picked our own apples when we visited friends in Washington and that was incredible.  There's not any farms to visit around here that I know of. Peaches in the summer, but no apples in the fall for the public. 

So this month, my kids expressed a great desire to pick apples.  I was really wanting to make their requests possible, but knew the only place we they could "pick" their own apples was at HEB and right off the shelf.  But I wanted them to have a fun fall apple experience and thought about how we could have fun with apples.  And it came to me. The kids know that we pretend Santa is real. We write pretend letters, we pretend that we are preparing for his visit, we leave out real cookies for the pretend why not pick apples off of a "pretend" apple tree?

We have a Live Oak in the front yard and a Crepe Myrtle in the backyard.  Good enough for me. So here is what I did. 

I bought some nice looking apples that I "picked" myself at HEB and wrapped them individually so they would stay clean.

Looks okay, right? Pay no attention to that sticker. 

I placed them in the tree so that they would stay secure.  

And put a few low enough for Adelyn to reach.  They were pretty low when we picked real apples in Washington.

I then told them we were going apple picking, handed them bags, and led them out the front door and on a "hike" around our front yard to the backyard "orchard."  As soon as we got in sight of the tree they sprinted to start their picking.

They both loved it. My 4 AND 7 yr old.  They knew it was pretend, but pretending is fun!

Look at my apples!

Good thing I washed them before wrapping! Someone couldn't wait to chow down.

If we don't have access to the real thing, that is okay. We can still have provide great experiences in our own homes and backyards.  Imagination is fun, fosters creativity and path to further invention, and it gives hope. 

Here is the rest of our story.

Washing her apples!
Washing his apples!

Preparation for pie.  Apple tower. 3 apples up on top!

Peeling apples for our apple pie!

Pie before baking in the oven (with our neighbor friend).

They helped with the lattice work. Now it just needs to cook!  

It's done! We love pie. That was fun!

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Print Motivation: Tracing with Chalk

Adelyn has become very interested in writing her name.  She was really wanting to write in on the driveway when we were drawing with chalk.  Long story short, I picked the orange and she picked the green. I wrote her name with orange and then she traced over it with green.  

We have many of our sensory systems working here and many skills developing! It's fun to see some of the many many things happening in our brains while we do some of our daily activities. The large letters and bright colors are taken in by our visual system.  We can hear the sound of the chalk making each line and curve.  We don't realize it, but our auditory system does play a part in our writing.  The very sounds of the markings on the surface as well as the sounds each letter makes that we hear in our heads.  We have got our proprioceptive system working here as we figure out how much pressure to use to hold the chalk in our hand, move the chalk and push on the concrete. Our vestibular system is keeping us upright and balanced as we lean over.  Last and still important, the tactile is system is at play.  The wide piece of chalk may work well for young kids who have not refined their fine motor skills yet.  They may also really like the texture of the chalk although some do not.

Writing can be a very frustrating skill for young children to learn so don't get discouraged if your child is not into this whole writing thing yet. Creative ways to write and imaginative play like pretending to mail letters are great ways to spark an interest!

Space Shuttle and Astronomy Play

I love and value those exceptional opportunities of being in the quiet moments of night, when you find yourself standing outside in the backyard, the neighbors have shut off their outside lights, there are no street lights in view, the moon is no where to be seen, the crickets are chirping, the breeze blows in your face and you glance up at the magnificent beyond.  A black sky full of millions and billions of bright specks stands before you and continues to creep into the corner of your eye no matter where you glance or turn your head. My husband and I just love it and find ourselves time after time in continuous amazement.  Quite honestly, it eventually makes my neck hurt.  It leaves me in awe as an adult and definitely did as a child!  You may be able to think back to how small you felt as a child, standing in front of the big dark beyond. It's just amazing and it's no wonder that kids love to dream about space shuttles, outer space, or blasting off to the moon to a place of wonder and adventure.  It probably explains some of my Star Wars excitement too.

This spring we had a fun week of outer space amazement and exploration.  We got to think about being in the shoes of an astronaut blasting off facing the ceiling, imagine just how big our solar system is, take a ride on the Magic School Bus with Ms. Frizzle, learn about how our earth moves, listen to some astronomy songs, and make some "astronomy" themed food too.

 Getting ready for lift off!

Getting the controls ready.  Navigation system is ready!

Stars and planet jello jigglers!

 Making the planets go around the sun!  Check out our cool video below!

I even have on an astronomy shirt!

Solar System Pizza!

Thursday, June 5, 2014

First Time in Forever- Dog Version

While driving back from the Scorpians soccer game, our family was listening to everyone's new favorite soundtrack... you likely have had on in your house or car in the past 12-24hours if you have young children. Yes, of course, Frozen. During For the First Time in Forever, we decided to be silly and change the words.  It was a really fun activity for our family to do together and it encouraged plenty of thinking and creativity.  

We tried out different themes and then tried to make it fit a soccer game with an offensive player vs a goalie using terms like "window" and "back door."  While I was thinking about it, I thought, "You know, this would really fit our dogs really well! "A window is open so's the back door!"  And voila, ideas for a song about dogs came pouring. There are many words we used that are in the original song.  So here it is...

My Dogs Version of For The First Time in Forever

The window is open, so’s the back door.
Let’s go in and lick the floor
And clean off all those lovely scrap-filled plates.

The couch is at the end of the hall. 
Let’s go lounge and then play ball.
Finally we got past the gates!

With the smells all of our people
And the scents in the trash.
This pillow is so fluffy I could crash.

For the first time in forever
I’ll nap by window light.
For the first time in forever
I’ll run through the house all night.

It’s fun getting muddy or grassy,
But I just love this zone.
For the first time in forever,
I’m running here alone.

Tonight imagine us groomed and all
Fetchingly drooling on my new baseball
Embarking on a sophisticated chase
Suddenly I see it sitting there..
A beautiful hotdog, tall and fare.
I want to stuff it all in my face!
But then I nibbled it all evening.
Which is totally bizarre!
Nothing like the lunch we’ve had so far!

For the first time in forever, I’ve got food in plain sight.
For the first time in forever, I’m taking slow bites.
And I know it’s totally crazy to think we have this chance.
For the first time in forever….we're doing an indoor dance!

(Cat in the backyard)
Don’t let them out
Don’t let them see
Be the sneaky cat you always have to be
Don’t reveal
I have their steaks to go!
Make one wrong move and then the dogs will know.

I’ve got to eat them all today.
(dogs) The house is ours for today!
(cat) Let’s eat before it’s too late.
(dogs) Let’s eat before it’s too late.
(Cat) Tell the kids to close up…the gate!

For the first time in forever….(don't let them in, don't let them see)
we’re getting what we’re dreaming of! (Be the sneaky cat you always have to be)
A chance to leave the outside world. (conceal) A chance to be where we love!
(conceal, don’t reveal, don’t let them know)
And I know it all ends tomorrow, so it has to be today!

For the first time in forever…..nothings in our way!

Monday, May 19, 2014

The Calm-Down Spot


We have reached a point where the kids are learning the need to calm down and have time away rather than a spot of punishment or time-out.  This one is also a little different because it's for us parents too. We recently made a deal with both of them, that if one of us is getting upset, irritated, losing patience, not speaking in the nicest tone or just plain frustrated with someone else then we need to take it as a clue to step away and go calm down.  It is also used when the kids are starting to misbehave because they want to be in control and do what they want and speak inappropriately to us or their sibling.  I let them know that they I will speak with them when they have taken time at the calm-down table and are talking in a nicer tone.  There have been times when they are just feeling like they do not want to be told what to do at all, have refused the suggestion to go there and I then resolve to let them know that they can choose to go there on their own or to have me bring them there, which keeps the ball in their court.  

It hasn't worked in a couple of cases, but I would say that this new system is working very well.  This table is covered in an ocean style colored cloth with peaceful pictures to browse through on top.  You will also see two pinwheels and a calming bottle.  
  • The pinwheels can be enjoyable for kids to watch but it also requires deep, focused breaths to make the wheel go round.  These same type of breaths are also what we need as humans to calm our bodies down.  For kids it can be fun and relaxing at the same time. 
  • The calming jar is a jar filled with a glitter paste and water.  When the kids shake it, the glitter slowly glides to the bottom.  It is enjoyable to watch and it requires one to stop and visually track the glitter as it floats to the bottom, distracting one from the frustrations that were occuring.
  • Cabasa is a musical instrument with beads.  Rolling the Cabasa on skin can be calming and can also invoke sensory stimulation.
  • Drums can be helpful if you don't mind the banging and if they are directed in the right way.  It has not proven to be helpful if we re-direct kids to hit drums instead of people.  Hitting anything generally continues the negative emotions, however drums can be used when using deep breathing.  When exhaling, drop your hands on a drum.  Ocean drums do not require hitting and can be effective in calming.  
  • Rain sticks of course, can remind us of falling water.   Some are louder than others but it also might be an option. 
  • Calming recorded music is another option.  Different styles of music have an effect on everyone differently.  Maybe having family members choose a few agreeable selections of meditative or instrumental music if this is something desired for this spot. 
  • Words are another option as they learn to read.  Calming and positive words are good to train our brains to think about to help the calming process.  For example, words like, "breathe," "encourage," "help," "I'm sorry," "share," or "forgive."
I do suggest considering safe objects.  Some such as sea shells or rocks could be used instead as a projectile before the calming occurs. 

This spot is meant to serve for calming with things that are enjoyable and calming for the kids, but not to the point that they want to stay there all day (for instance, Legos might not be the best choice).  The hope is that it serves as a place to lower stress hormones and help them recognize the signs to look for when we get experience negative emotions. 

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Kids Handling Stress

This past week in a facilitator training, we talked a lot about handling stress and the difference between how kids and adults handle and show stress.  I thought about how my own kids handle stress, how my kids at work handle stress, and then of course how I handle it.  I know I've posted on this topic for adults before, but I have been thinking very heavily about helping kids to handle stressful situations.

What do we do?
When adults are stressed, we see a variety of signs.  We show it first on our face with signs of being "flustered", maybe withdrawn, strained, sad, solemn, or serious.  We might also bury our hands in our face, sigh constantly, have little patience when explaining something, have short words with people, say things we really wouldn't say if we were feeling good, blame others, yell.....

What do kids do when they are stressed?

Things I think of are cry, throw tantrums, cling to people they love, or just act out in a negative way.  

We as adults may be able to figure out what it is that is causing our stress.  We can re-trace those thoughts and think about what thought it was that we got to that caused our stress or what situation or event is causing it.  Kids often do not have a clue what the cause is, but they know they do not feel good.  

Positive ways to handle stress and prevention

I have thought a lot about the things that help me as an adult.  I love running around, especially at soccer, dancing/exercise workouts, talking it out with someone, sitting outside, stretching, playing the piano, guitar or drums, singing, journaling, and praying.


There are many things we can teach kids.  It's hard to do a stress release activity in the middle of an anger spell or tantrum, but if these are things they practice ahead of time, they will be more likely to respond to it during the moment.  Our brains love patterns and the brain normalizes repetition/ things that are repeated.  Some of these things are great prevention methods too.  Keeping kids in sports or something active may help stress to not escalate so much. 

Sensory- Running, jumping (trampolines), drumming, pushing a wall, pulling up on the bottom of a chair, petting animals, baking, Play Doh, clay, sensory buckets, bubble wrap popping, looking at calming pictures or watching a  calming jar.

Deep breathing- blowing bubbles, blowing pinwheels, lifting arms and dropping on drums

Sports- gymnastics, karate, soccer, baseball, basketball, football, dance, hiking, biking, swimming, horseback riding. 

Artistic- art, music, dance, drama, blocks. Legos

Kids can also learn more about the causes of negative emotions and how to handle them through dramatic play.  My kids love to watch me "talk" their stuffed animals and puppets. These animals can pretend to have a rough day at school or not know what to do in a social situation.  Brainstorming together with the child and "animal friend" can really help with motivation to solve the problem.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

This year for Valentine's Day, we tried out a new family activity.  It involved a family mailbox, little heart-cutouts, and kind words.  When someone did something kind or we thought of something we appreciated about another family member, we wrote it down on a heart cut-out and put it in our family mailbox (made by Zac and me a few years ago).  We called it words of appreciation or compliments. 

We gave each other these Valentines starting from February 1 all the way to February 14. There was no limit to how many compliments or appreciative words we gave each other so we left plenty of hearts on the kitchen table throughout the 14 days.  After our special Valentines family dinner while we were all eating dessert, we pulled the hearts out and read them out loud. 

When I first announced our special activity on February 1st during the commotion of dinner, "Daddy" responded with an uncertain, I'm-not-sure-I'm-on-board, "um.....what?"  He did however, participate and get into it as the two weeks went on, which included requesting more hearts when we ran out.  Adelyn needed a little help.  I encouraged her a couple of times each day to think of something that someone else did for her and wrote it down for her.  She would put it in the box herself. I think Scott and I both really enjoyed the excitement and joy on the kids' faces when they listened to a compliment addressed to them. 

This worked well for us because not only did we all try to dwell more on the positive attributes of others, but we also tried to make sure we were being appreciative material worthy of a heart! Happy Valentine's Day!

This activity is great for

  • Tactile/Sensory motor- cutting out, writing, hands-on putting hearts in the box
  • Visual- Seeing the family mail box reminds us to think about the topic
  • Auditory- listening to the family members read what is on the heart for them

Monday, January 13, 2014

A Continents Song with Spatial Awareness

As a second grader, I remember really enjoying the unit when we studied the continents.  Zachary has been interested in the continents since my brother n law taught him a song about the continents when he was 3. Adelyn is now 3 and she is acquiring her own interest in maps so we pulled out the large world map and taught her the song (thank you again Kev!)

Both of the kids had a great time jumping from continent to continent as each one was called out during the song.

This activity is great for:

  • spatial awareness
  • sensorimotor
  • auditory skills
  • visual skills


Shaving Cream and Glue Earth Day

Pinterest helped me find something for Adelyn to do for Earth Day last April.  I'm just slightly late posting this.  This idea came from the blog, "No Time for Flashcards" at this link  

You can find the recipe there.  You mix shaving cream with glue and food coloring.  The kids play in it and then smear it all over the paper.  It's a great sensory activity and then you can pick your favorite Earth songs to play along.

Alphabet Sensory Buckets

One week this fall, Adelyn and I were learning letter S.  We made a letter to hang on our wall and then we decided to go on a scavenger hunt for things that started with letter S.  We walked around the upstairs making the S sound while looking around and here are a few things we found!  Snoopy, soda, slide, stethascope, square, strawberry and skunk (he's next to the basket).  After we hunted she got to use explore her items in her basket.