As I write this blog post I find myself reflecting about just how far music therapy has come since I entered the field. I could have never imagined an online conference highlighting the work of music therapists worldwide when I was a new graduate of Michigan State University in back in 1981! With that said it is an honor to be a sponsor of this conference and I am so grateful for the opportunity to write this blog post.
I have spent the majority of my career working with children on the autism spectrum. My two special areas of interest have been inclusion and promoting literacy.
The “My House” interactive music therapy songbook was a dream finally realized in 2010. The first few books made their way into a program called The Starfish Project, which was an inclusive music and arts program in the Clawson Public Schools outside of metro Detroit. I wanted to find a vehicle that would bring students with autism together with their peers in general education. The “My House” book provided a missing link to build friendship and camaraderie in a non-threatening way. All of the children enjoyed submitting photos to create their stories about where they lived, who they lived with and the special things and people that were important in their lives. The books were first displayed at an event called Arts Alive, which was a district-wide arts festival held in the school district.
As more interest developed regarding the “My House” book, I decided to take the book to the next level and hired graphic designer John Boissy to help re-design the book. The book is now copyrighted and contains a professionally recorded CD that was arranged by David Appelman. I composed the song in 2010 and the CD was recorded by Ed Sertage in his studio in Ferndale, Michigan in May of 2011. I am accompanied by Stephen Scapelliti on guitar, David Appelman on flute and Brandon Moses on the bass.
The book in many ways is like a “musical photo album.” They are specific pages where the child’s home is highlighted along with photos of family members. Each page has a specific set of song lyrics that correspond with the photos displayed on the page. The book has a fill in the blank feature where students can practice singing and/or saying the following phrases:
This is the ______at my house.
This is a _______at my house.
This is my _____ at my house.
These are my _____at my house.
There is a word list of over 150 words that are included with the book that become laminated word tags that the child can attach to the pages where these phrases occur. The laminated word tags are organized on a menu board the child can use while singing the song. The book can be used in conjunction with the Cd or the music therapist can play the guitar and sing the song “live” with the student or client.
In a review by music therapist, Rachel Rambach of Listen and Learn Music
(www.listenlearnmusic.com) “the song itself is super catchy – my client was still singing it after we were finished.”
The book is organized in a sturdy binder, the pages are in protective plastic sleeves, and the word menu comes laminated with velcro to attach the word labels. There is also an interactive name and address board where the child can practice creating their address.
The book has been very well received and a special grant was awarded to me last school year by the PTA of Burton elementary school in the Berkley schools where I currently work as a contracted service provider, to create books for all the children in the autism program there free of charge. On my website I have received orders from all over the United States and as far away as Australia.
These books have been used successfully not only with children on the autism spectrum, but with children with apraxia of speech.
During the summer months I work at the Kaufman Children’s Center (www.kidspeech.com) where children come for an intensive three week program called SPEAK that address the specific needs of children with apraxia.
Nancy Kaufman, director of the center has offered families the opportunity to create these books by bringing in specific photos from home that are assembled for the children and utilized during speech therapy. The books have been a nice vehicle for practicing key words and pivot phrases in a fun and nonthreatening way.
The “My House” book is available both as a custom ordered book and a downloadable PDF where therapists, parents and teachers can create the book themselves.
You can view the “My House” book in action in the video below.
To order a “My House” book please go to www.songstogrowon.com.