friends or waiting patiently for turn taking). Music therapists working in the early childhood setting can focus on intervention strategies that facilitate generalizing cognitive and social goals into children’s natural environments. Additionally music therapists can create positive approaches for problem behaviors that children exhibit. Music can provide the structure for very smooth transitions when a child typically might become dysregulated.
Incorporating activities that have clear roles for child and partner with balance of turns is also recommended. For example, call and response songs provide a clear role of “leader” and “follower” and can alternate between child/ partner/therapist. Many music activities incorporate this into the structure of the song, or can be easily modified to cue turn taking with instrument play or singing. Activities that promote joint focus of attention and joint interaction as well as repeated and varied opportunities for language learning are recommended. Music therapists are able to select music interventions that incorporate joint attention/engagement and language learning for every music intervention provided in sessions. It is encouraging to note that the activity structures recommended by the National Research Council can naturally occur in the therapeutic interventions provided by music therapists working this client population.
Watch Music as Communication
When providing intervention for children on the autism spectrum, encouraging spontaneous communication during social activities where play skills utilizing appropriate use of toys occurs is a priority (Lord & McGee, 2001). Most preschools, kindergartens and elementary schools still provide music time where all children engage in making music together. Many music therapists in early childhood settings focus on social, movement, cognitive, and communication goals when providing interventions for young children. Children on the autism spectrum can engage in social interactions while playing instruments appropriately with their peers. Songs can be structured to allow spontaneous communication that is appropriate to the social music group setting (e.g., singing songs that incorporate greeting new
imagine l Vol.1, No.1
Developmental approaches for providing interventions focus on naturalistic teaching strategies. This requires interventions to be provided in natural environments. While many clinicians use a clinical setting to provide intervention services, the developmental framework suggests that skills acquired by children in the clinical setting may not generalize to other settings as quickly or easily as if they were learned in a natural environment. Another guideline within the developmental framework is to use a family-guided approach to address the needs and concerns of the family unit. Families are able to articulate their priorities for their child’s development, and can provide very useful and important information about challenges their child faces outside of the therapeutic interaction with the music therapist. The impact of involving families into the intervention sessions is long lasting. Parents are able to positively impact their child’s joint attention skills and language skills through engaging in higher levels of synchronization during play when their child is preschool-aged. Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder were followed and found to have better joint attention skills a year after the parent play behaviors were observed with their preschooler. Additionally, the children had better language outcomes when evaluated 10 years and 16 years after the play observation (Siller & Sigman, 2002). This was attributed to the parent’s ability to respond verbally to their child’s attentional focus without interrupting the ongoing toy engagement. Allowing the child to remain engaged in their toy play was important. This is one area of parent education that music therapists can help facilitate by modeling responses to children’s attentional focus while continuing the activity within sessions.
Watch Music in the Home
Children who frequently become dysregulated or show problem behaviors may benefit from incorporating music as structure into their home routines. Having predictability between home activities and musical cues for transitions provides the support structure many children need to stay regulated. Parents are able to continue the intervention strategies utilized within music therapy sessions between visits.
Additional early childhood music therapy resources available at www.imagine.musictherapy.biz.