Moana made a big splash when it was released this Thanksgiving. Not only does it have a powerful message, it has incredible music written by Hamilton creator, Lin-Manuel Miranda. I myself have watched Moana several times, and play the soundtrack on my long commutes. As I was belting out “How Far I’ll Go” in the car one day, I thought “what better way to spend this summer with my clients than having fun moving and grooving to the sounds of Moana!”
Here’s a taste of what I have planned for this summer. I hope you will use these ideas in your sessions, classrooms, and homes to work on critical skills areas with your children over the summer!
I wrote this song for one of my original musicals, but I love its versatility in the music therapy setting. The song has a pirate theme, and I like to think the Kakamora from Moana are little coconut pirates. Pirate Jive goes through the motions of the hand jive in a clear sequence, which is an excellent way to work on following multi-step directions with prompts. The song also teaches the concept of handshakes and appropriate greeetings, which can be a critical social skill for your children or clients to learn. This is also a fun song to use as a brain break to get your kids' brains and bodies focused.
Hula dancing can be used in many ways in music therapy sessions. You could use hula dancing to work on motor/physical skills, but I am using it to target cognitive skills like executive functioning because hula dancing is less about movement and more about telling a story.
To introduce the concept of telling a story through hula dance, you can watch this video filmed on one of Disney’s Polynesian-themed properties and have your children sing and dance along.
I created visuals of some common hula moves that I found here.
My clients then have to choose 4 of the visuals and create their own story with the dance moves that each picture represents.
For example: Move 1. Happy Face, Move 2. Volcano, Move 3. Scared Face, Move 4. Rain
I would then tell the story of the 4 moves I chose:
We then all perform the hula dance created by the 4 visuals with some hula music in the background.
This intervention can be used to target executive function skills such as organization, planning, decision-making, and problem-solving.
One of the areas I most like to target in my sessions is auditory processing. Because auditory processing is such a tricky skill to work on, you really have to make it fun and engaging for the client. Many of my clients love the music of Moana and can’t wait to sing-a-long when I play the songs. I took this idea of a sing-a-long and made it into a very tricky intervention, but they don’t even realize it because they are having fun!
I created a visual that asks “wh” questions about a story and asks the listener to sequence events of the story. You can download a copy for yourself and arrange the visual however you like.
I play a song from Moana such as “You’re Welcome”. I sing one verse and chorus of the song, and then ask my clients the questions on the visual. “Who was in the story?” “Where did the story take place?” “What happened 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and 4th in the story?” “How did the story end?”
If my clients can’t remember the answers to the question from the song, I will sing certain portions of the song again. Some of my clients are readers and writers, so we write in the answers with a dry erase marker. With my non-verbal or non-reader clients, I print out pictures of the characters and events, and have them place the correct character and pictures on the visual as I ask the questions.
While many children will sing-a-long with the song, the story and information isn’t always getting through to the brain. This intervention forces the listener to process the information they are hearing, which is an excellent way to target auditory processing skills, as well as attention skills.
Make Your Own Instruments
I found so many cool resources on Hawaiian instruments that I had to share them in this post. You can use these rhythm sticks to play drum patterns of traditional Hawaiian music, working on sustaining attention while playing the pattern for the duration of a song.
You can use these Kakamora print outs to make shakers, then use the shakers to work on body part identification while shaking the Kakamora on different body parts along with the song “Head, shoulder, knees, and toes.”
You could also make the classic ukulele and work on fine motor skills such as finger manipulation or grasp while strumming along with your favorite Moana songs.
Mindfulness and Meditation
I lead several yoga groups at Dynamic Lynks, and they are a hit for children of all ages and abilities. Not only does yoga aid in sensory integration and gross motor development, it is also an excellent strategy to use for deescalation and regulation. When I found this lesson plan, I knew I would be doing some Moana yoga this summer!
However you end up using these activities, I hope they will be a hit in your sessions, classrooms, and homes this summer! Music and movement is an excellent way to keep kids engaged and learning all summer long. Let me know how these interventions went for you, and share your Moana ideas as well!
Lynk up with us for more autism tips and tricks on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter