I cannot believe it is already the final week of the Broadway themed Music Therapy intervention series! It has been such a blast sharing these posts with you, and I hope they remain an asset for therapists, parents, and teachers for years to come. This week focuses on one of my favorite domain areas, sensory integration. I find that I use a ton of sensory interventions, since I specialize in the treatment of children with autism. These interventions are some of my most popular, and most effective, techniques.
For those of you who are not familiar with sensory integration strategies, they use tools, and in this case music, to access the sensory systems and aid in regulation through input of sensations to the body. In my sessions, I tend to focus on visual (sight), tactile (touch), auditory (sound), proprioception (sensation from joints and muscles in the body), and vestibular (sense of movement, centered in the inner ear) sensory integration. While I have many interventions that focus on these different sensory systems, today I am going to share one that provides visual sensory input and one that provides proprioceptive sensory input.
Hushabye Mountain – Chitty Chitty Bang Bang
For this intervention you will need one of my all-time favorite sensory movement props, a scarf canopy! Simply open up the scarf canopy and have your little one lay underneath it. Yourself and another person will hold the scarf canopy above the child and slowly move it up and down in time with the music. Yes, that is really all it takes! If you want to get particular, you will move the scarf canopy up for 3 beats then down for 3 beats in time with the music, sort of like a slow waltz. This intervention can be easily used at home, in the classroom, or in a therapy session. I often use it as a relaxation activity at the end of a session. It could also be useful during times of dysregulation, or to help your child get to sleep.
1. Visual sensory input – as the child watches the soft blue cloth move up and down, it provides input to the visual sensory system. The movement is simple, repetitive, and set in-time with the music, which assists in regulation for the brain and body.
2. Relaxation – the soothing tempo and melody in the music aids in relaxation for a child who may have a difficult time falling asleep or who is in a place of dysregulation. The music provides an auditory cue along with the visual input to better regulate multiple sensory systems in the body.
3. Tactile sensory input – you can add tactile input by allowing the child to touch the scarf canopy as it moves up and down. For children who enjoy light touch, the scarf canopy is an excellent tool! The breeze the canopy creates as you move it up and down also provides tactile input to the face and any exposed skin.
Circle of Life – The Lion King
This is another one of those simple interventions that can be done at any time and all you need is a yoga ball!
Start the song and have your child lay down on a soft place, either on the carpet or on a mat, and clear the space around them.
With a well inflated yoga ball, you will apply pressure to different limbs of the body in time with the music. For example, begin with the right arm and move from wrist to shoulder slowly for 4 beats with the music, then back down from shoulder to wrist slowly for 4 beats with the music.
Repeat the same slow pattern on the left arm. Try to remain in contact with the body throughout this entire intervention. This helps to regulate the system and eliminate shocking the body when removing the pressure then adding it again suddenly. You can do this by gently rolling across the child’s chest when moving from right arm to left.
After you’ve finished with the arms, you can ask the child where else they would like ball squishes. They can respond verbally or you can provide them with a visual choice board of different body parts to choose from.
If you feel comfortable, you can have the child lay on their stomach after you have completed all areas of need on the front of the body. While the child is laying prone, on their stomach, be careful not to apply too deep of pressure as you do not want to compromise their air supply.
1. Proprioceptive sensory input – this intervention activates muscles and tissues in the body where the ball is being rolled. This sends signals to the brain so the child can better know where their body is in space. This is very helpful for a child that seeks proprioceptive input or has a difficult time regulating their body movements.
2. Tactile sensory input – for children who seek deep pressure, the rolling of the ball aids in deep tactile input. Using this technique in the evening can be helpful in relaxing a child to sleep. Using this technique in the morning can provide children the tactile input they are seeking before their day even begins, which could aid in attention span and cognitive skills throughout the day.
As I said, sensory integration strategies are some of my absolute favorite interventions to use! Providing a child with the sensory input they seek can help them reach their fullest potential in many domains. Using these interventions before a difficult lesson, before bed, or at the end of a session could lead to amazing results!
If you try one of them out, I would love to know how it goes. I hope you enjoyed the entire
Broadway series. Join me next week and learn how to "just keep swimming" in times of challenge and adversity.
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sensory tips and tricks.