Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Music: The Ultimate Learning Tool - Part 2

Thanks for visiting topics and conversations. Here I want to address music therapy issues and concepts as they relate to preschool, autism and special needs children's needs. Also, I want to let everyone know that my new site: is in it's infancy. Right now there is only one music album available. Very soon I will have my second offering, Lyrical Imagery. This album's history, purpose, etc. is explained on my home page section "free song download."And yes, grab the free download of "The Ocean,"one of the songs on this upcoming album.

Music: The Ultimate Learning Tool  - Part 2

I will start part 2 by briefly summarizing last weeks post, i.e., in my experience the purposeful use of music provides preschool children including those with autism and other special needs feelings of control and safety. Because music is so emotionally and physically engrained in us, and when heard often and repetitively, music can be a comforting complement to teaching and learning.

Now, more specifically about how and why music is the "ultimate learning tool." Yesterday, again at S.A.I.L (the autism school where I am the music therapist), a youngster had spent the whole morning needing to be calmed and redirected as he was very upset. At 11:30AM it was time for our music therapy (MT) class. From the moment of our first music piece he sat down, was direct-able and engaged very actively and happily for the duration of the class. The 30 minutes of our MT class had the youngster more settled and ready to learn - than the whole morning prior to the MT class.

As I said in my previous post... "So what's going on here? What is it about music that elicits such responses?"

An aspect of music that I see affect people often, no matter what the age, is that of music being a primary cognitive experience. What this means is that when we hear music we have no control over the feeling and emotions it gives us. All sensory experiences are like this. When we hear, see, smell, feel and taste things, again, we have no control over the feeling and emotions sensory experiences give us. For example... if we are in a mall and a fragrance that reminds us of our grandmother gets our attention, whether we want to think of our grandmother or not, we will think of her. We can not control the thoughts that come about due to the sensory experience.

So, back to S.A.I.L... Remember from part 1, the music pieces presented in the MT classes are most often repeated so the children know them, often very well? With music being a primary cognitive experience, the first reaction the upset youngster had to the music was that of being attentive, engaged and happy. Why? Because those are the feelings and reactions he associates with music in general and to certain songs specifically (apart from the feelings and emotions that were upsetting him). And I know he has positive associations to those “certain songs.” Therefore when a music therapist, parent or teacher knows specific music will elicit desired responses, that music can be purposefully used. It is very common for teachers to report to me that when a child has “had a rough morning” then settles and actively engages in music, the rest of the day ends up being productive and positive.

I will end part 2 by summarizing that in my experience the purposeful use of music provides music therapists, parents and teachers a means to divert a child's attention towards learning and positive engagement. Also, once attentive, the child can learn and experience success from goal oriented music experiences, i.e., familiar music chosen purposefully.

Part 3, coming next, will address more specific reasons why music is an ultimate learning tool.

What do I suggest??? Identify specific songs or music experiences that you know your children have positive responses to. If you can't, start to use songs or music experiences repetitively and observe.

***What do I mean by music experiences??? Music experiences (apart from songs) can be: playing instruments, dance, humming, games with music, etc.

My next prescription???   Think of a sensory experience that reminds you of something very pleasant, a taste, smell, etc., and re-visit it!!! Then think about what we said about primary cognitive experiences. Try not to think about your pleasant association when, for example you're smelling pine or listening to ocean sounds. Good luck!!

Thank you, David

AND!!!! Please share with others, like us on Facebook  and follow us on Twitter ... Thanks, David P.