Thursday, May 07, 2009

I'd Like To Teach My Son to Sing.

One of the types of therapy Max receives through Blue Balloon is a combination of Music and Speech Therapy. It is a group session with another child who is the same age as Max, and also has a diagnosis of Autism, so Max also gets to work on his social skills. This past week, the other little boy was sick, so Max got to have a solo session. Since this is also the beginning of a new block of sessions, there are new therapists running the group. I wasn't sure how Max would react to Rob & Irene (no offense meant to them) and was I feeling a bit tense about how the session would go. It took Max eight weeks to get used to Sandy and Lauren, so how was this going to work?

Max started with a mini-melt down in the lobby of Blue Balloon. He loves his IBI therapist Brian so much that whenever he is at Blue Balloon for Speech, Music or Occupational therapy, he gets upset because he really just wants to hang with his best bud Brian. I'm hoping that as he develops relationships with other therapists he'll have an easier time of it, but for now, it's a big scene when we arrive and Brian is nowhere to be found.

Rob and Irene decided to start the session with a highly motivating activity so that we could get Max to cooperate. Rob starting playing the piano, and we asked Max to come play as well. Rob has a much louder voice than Lauren (Max's previous music therapist), and plays piano a lot louder too. For this reason, I was convinced that Max was going to shy away from him. Not only did Max tolerate Rob's volume, he really got into playing the piano (which is mostly just plunking on the keys). Max also enjoyed it when Rob played the guitar and let Max strum the strings. He played the chimes, and seemed to smile when Rob accompanied him on piano as he ran his fingers back and forth over them, making quite the racket himself.

Bubbles got a new spin as Irene caught the bubbles on the bubble wand for Max so he could pop them at his own pace (he doesn't like it when the bubbles rain down on him from above). At the end of playing with the bubbles, Max looked at Irene and said "pop". We had probably said the word "pop" to him over a hundred times in the previous 10 minutes. It was an important reminder to me that Autistic kids need to hear a word many more times than a neurotypical child to be able to process it and make it their own. I'll take a single "pop" any day. It was music to my ears! It might be a single word, but one day he'll say two words. One day he'll sing.


  1. Anonymous7:32 p.m.

    That is great Max! Very touching

  2. Anonymous8:22 p.m.

    way to go max!

    what is it about bubbles and children on the spectrum? my son's first word was "bubble".


  3. I'm not sure what it is about bubbles...they are magical!

  4. Anonymous10:22 p.m.

    A great story to read before bed time. One day he will say two words and he will sing!!!

  5. I wish my parents had supported my love of music. I played piano when I was 12, but quit because I didn't want to take the time to practice. Then, senior year of HS I auditioned for choir and made it. My parents made me take Spanish again (4th year in a row)! I still cannot speak Spanish. But even worse, I can't sing either. I really wish I had trained my voice early on.

  6. Anonymous12:54 p.m.

    I am so pleased you enjoyed the session yesterday. It was a real pleasure for me to meet Max for the first time. He really does appear to be motivated by music and is more then willing to participate fully. I must confess, I never thought I would end up in a blog but I am absolutely thrilled to be included.

    I do tend to have a rather robust style of music therapy. Personally, I have come to realize that over the years this approach has allowed me to achieve greater clinical results. Given the sensory issues ASD children can have it’s always a tricky thing to find the balance of too much or too little music. For me a more intense approach clearly works. Generally speaking a child will soon let you know if your approach is too over the top. As long as I am keenly listening and making observations any unintended results can be easily managed. To break through the communication barer it is often necessary to be very engaging and “in your face.” I would rather anticipate a higher level of engagement / acceptance to stimuli then to underestimate a child’s abilities. It all comes down to your expatiations. If you seek out a high response chances are you will get it.

    Thank you once again for speaking so highly of our team here at blueballoon. I will be sure to pass on the feedback to Brian and Irene.

    WAY TO GO MAX!!!!

    Robert W. Harris B.M.T., M.M.T
    Music Therapist

  7. Anonymous8:17 p.m.

    Sorry about the spelling errors. I guess I should have run a spell check first.

    I wanted to write:


    IT ALL COMES DOWN TO YOUR “EXPECTATIONS” and not “expatiations.”



  8. Rob - not to worry ;-) Thank you again for your wonderful work with Max! I am so excited that he is going to be in the Music Express camp and we should definitely see if we can get him in with you again!

  9. Anonymous8:18 p.m.

    Noreen asked me today if I would take over the Music Express group begin this Wednesday May 13th. So it looks like I will be seeing Max again this Wednesday and thereafter.


  10. Rob - that is wonderful!!! How lucky are Max and Michael? Can't wait to see you on Wednesday!