How Music Therapy Became Our Next Best Step

Posted by Deborah Grauzam on

For those who have been following our story on this site, you know that Elizabeth has struggled with speech and language throughout her life due to her disorders of Dyspraxia and Sensory Processing Disorder.

And because of this, we have had some form of speech therapy throughout most of her life. I say a form of therapy because early on we did a great deal of oral-motor work. Later in life, we worked on articulation for her words to be well understood.

When I remember hearing her say no words and now I hear her saying so many words, I know how far she has come. There are still misarticulations but these are habits now, not words she cannot say. And because of her disorders, sometimes volume control is an issue. Even taking complete full breaths needs to be worked on. I always say “we are a work in progress.” But truly, we all are.

The thing is, she is 19 years old. So traditional speech classes are not necessarily the best fit for Elizabeth due to her age and maturity. So for us, we needed to find the next best step. So when a former therapist steered us to the area of Music Therapy, we took a good serious look.

The look led to a meeting, then to a class, then to several classes and now we have officially welcomed this therapist to the ever growing and ever changing “Team Elizabeth.” The best thing is seeing how excited Elizabeth is to go to the class. She loves the therapist, she loves music and asks to sing every night (we get homework each week) and it could not be a better fit.

I, myself, did not know as much about music therapy when it was first mentioned. But with some research prior to going, I found out some really great things. So I wanted to share it with you. Please check out the American Music Therapy Association's website. There is so much information about what music therapy is and what a music therapist does.

I am so glad our therapist could take some time to answer a few questions. So here is the interview. I hope it helps someone who is looking for the next step or even to add something into their current speech schedule. I thought I would share them with you, in the words of our therapist herself.

Can you tell me a little about music therapy?

What is most important for me as a music therapist is the personal connection that I make with my clients. If there is not a feeling of trust and security between the therapist and the client, there is little hope for growth. I feel so fortunate to be able to use music as the tool in which I help people make change. Music is a motivator for so many people, which makes this form of therapy successful when other forms may not have been. It can be used with ultimately any population or any goal area as long as the person is motivated by music. Whether the goal is speech based, emotional, or range of motion, music therapy can be successful.

What kinds of speech or language difficulties does Music Therapy most likely help with?

The beauty of music therapy is that it can be incredibly versatile. Whatever the area of need may be for an individual, music can almost certainly be used to address these goals. Examples of how it may be utilized are pronunciation, by making words rhythmic, oral motor goals, by playing wind instruments or utilizing a preferred song to address difficult words. These are of course, not inclusive, as music therapy will look different for every client.

What is Music Therapy?

Music Therapy is the clinical and evidence-based use of music interventions to accomplish individualized goals within a therapeutic relationship by a credentialed professional who has completed an approved music therapy program.

Music Therapy is an established health profession in which music is used within a therapeutic relationship to address physical, emotional, cognitive, and social needs of individuals.

How would a person go about finding a music therapist?

On the American Music Therapy Association website, there is a directory to locate all certified music therapists.

-Michele Gianetti

 

Michele writes for TalkTools Blog every month about her experience caring for Elizabeth, her daughter with Sensory Processing Disorder and Dyspraxia. Follow her story since the beginning here.

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Time For A Mid-Year Evaluation

Posted by Deborah Grauzam on

It is officially the middle of the school year. Okay, not officially-officially but to me it is.

I find myself looking at the middle of January and realizing that fact and think WOW, that time already.

It is after this thought that I know it is time do my mid year check.

By this, I mean, I take a mental look at all the areas of Elizabeth’s life and see what successes we have seen, what struggles she has had, what changes we should make etc.

For me, it is easier to do check-ins frequently and catch anything that may be amiss than to have small problems grow big. Also, if your school system works like ours, February is the month of the second conference time. What better than to do this mid-year check and arrive at the conference time with clean, organized thoughts.

So with that in mind, here are some thoughts to help if you wish to do the same.

MAKE A LIST OF ALL THE AREAS OF YOUR CHILD’S LIFE

  • speech
  • O.T.
  • Socialization
  • School work
  • Outside activities
  • Things at home
  • Anything else you can think of

WRITE DOWN THE POSITIVES AND YOUR CONCERNS FOR EACH

Here is the time to be honest: if something has been bothering you about a class or therapy, write it down.

ORGANIZE PLAN FOR EACH AREA THAT YOU ARE CONCERNED ABOUT

  •  Some things may be going along great but for those that tug at your heart do the above.
  • It helps to know who you need to talk to about the concerns. Which teacher or therapist.
  • If I had a concern about speech and Elizabeth’s work in a class. I would know I could address this concern with both the speech pathologist and intervention teacher present. This way I could have everyone on the same page at the same time.

WRITE DOWN THE CONCERNS FOR OTHERS TO READ AND KEEP

  • I am a firm believer that something written down and handed to a professional quickly helps them see just what you feel in a nice orderly way.
  • Also, it is such a good idea to have a copy to show you did address these concerns or did discuss them with the teachers and therapist.

MAKE A PLAN TO REVISIT THE CONCERNS

  • I always thought that to check back in with the teachers in about two to three weeks was a fair time.
  • I would watch for any communications that would come home from the school on Elizabeth’s communication notebook.
  • I would talk to Elizabeth about the concern.
  • I would contact the teachers or therapist at the agreed upon time.

I am not saying that there will be a situation or concern at this time of year. But we all know that IEP time is coming, plans for summer are on the horizon and life for our children is one big fluid situation.

So my thought is stay that one little bit ahead so that you and I don’t have to run to fix something for our child.

I wish you all a calm and if it is winter where you are, cozy month.

-Michele

Michele Gianetti writes for TalkTools Blog every month about her experience caring for Elizabeth, her daughter with Sensory Processing Disorder. Follow her story since the beginning here.

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Some of the best presents cannot be put in a box!

Posted by Deborah Grauzam on

“That will be five dollars to get into the game.” Weird how those ten words can make me think.

Okay, perhaps you might need a bit of background information here. I heard those words as I entered my ten-year-old son’s basketball game this past Saturday. I had not heard those words since last year’s basketball season. A full year ago. 365 days ago. But it felt like yesterday.

And this got me thinking about time. Or rather the quickly passing thing called TIME.

When you look at your child’s pictures from years ago…what do you say? For us it is: “Wow, time passes so quickly” or “Where did the time go?”

It is a funny, crazy thing in life, this thing called time. Because it passes so quickly on one hand, but try to fill 15 minutes with a younger sibling while waiting for your other child in therapy and it passes more S-L-O-W-L-Y than you can imagine.

Holidays mark the passing of time better than anything I can think of. We can remember last year’s holidays and hardly believe we are here again. And we can get so into the things we have to do, the places we have to be, and the gifts we have to buy, that we can forget to take it all in and remember. And make those memories!!

I know that when Elizabeth was little, like one or two years old, and deep in the throws of her sensory needs, I spent so much time working hard to keep her “good” that the holidays were in my rear view before I had a chance to enjoy them.

I learned so much about life with a special needs child throughout all these years. Not only about Elizabeth and her special needs, but about how to manage them, encourage her, and help her. And be peaceful myself.

I learned that:

  • We can skip an event because of Elizabeth and that is okay.
  • We can plan something and change our mind if we need to for Elizabeth and that’s okay.
  • We can be proud of the work we have done for her in this year’s time and that’s okay.
  • We can make memories our own way and that’s okay.
  • There is no one way to make Christmas special and that my friends is FREEING.

If you allow yourself to do the above, in my opinion, you can free yourself to make memories and enjoy the holidays to the best of your ability.

Something else to think about:

When you look back on the holiday from last year to this year, you can see the changes your child has made. Gains in words said, clarity of words, new skills mastered or even some good eye contact maintained. Whatever it is, you can see the growth as measured by the time frame of a year. So allow these positives to be a type of Christmas present to you and your family. Some of the best presents cannot be put in a box!

I wish you blessed holidays and more memories than you can count.

Michele Gianetti writes for TalkTools Blog every month about her experience caring for Elizabeth, her daughter with Sensory Processing Disorder. Follow her story since the beginning here.

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Middle School Awaits

Posted by Deborah Grauzam on


TalkTools_Blog_Elizabeth_July1015It is funny but just as soon as you get used to something, that something changes.  I am sure everyone can sympathize with that, right?  Well, this is how I was feeling about Elizabeth’s new school year, her last year in elementary school.

I had managed to figure out a few things: 

 

 

  • How the school worked
  • How to advocate for her needs
  • How to make sure all the IEP goals were met
  • The things I needed to do each day to keep communications open
  • The need for me to visit the school for monthly check-ins

And suddenly, we were looking at our LAST year in this building.   Our last year with this group of aides and intervention specialists….it almost made me scared for the next step.

Being a person who likes control, (I am continually working on this part of my personality), I felt frightened of the next step for Elizabeth, middle school.  At the same time, I felt excited for the next stage of her life and the new challenges that awaited her.

Elizabeth’s fourth grade year was actually quite smooth. I was able to continue my monthly check- ins, incorporate the goals of the IEP into our school work at home, and communications between the school and our home were flowing quite well. I was so proud of Elizabeth and how well she was doing in school.  She had gained confidence in herself and her social skills.  In fact, I received many notes home regarding her gains in social skills.  Those notes made us all feel proud and excited at the same time.

We continued our work with Mary that included asking more thinking, open ended questions such as: “How do you think you should act in church?” as opposed to the previously asked “Please behave in church”, or “Let’s talk about the things you did properly in church”  as opposed to the ever present “Elizabeth, please use good behavior”. I learned that the thinking language was the next step in her growth, as it allows for her expression and language and it is not led by my words. We also continued the oral-motor protocol from before, even if she was not the happiest speech student to participate in this protocol of oral stimulation.

Something new to add to our daily lives was the realization that she is a “tween”, and as such some topics and concerns need to be addressed.  As children progress to middle school, the thought of puberty and all it brings does cross one’s mind.  Something to keep in mind with children with dyspraxia and SPD is that talking about new things early and often is the easiest way to introduce things.  And if you can do this talking BEFORE the time you might be needing them to act on this information, you will be more likely to have success.

With this in mind, Mary introduced a book to me titled “Taking Care of Myself” by Mary Wrobel.  I would quite highly recommend this book to anyone with children at the crossroads of their lives. The book is easy to read and understand, easy to discuss, and full of pictures for visual learners. As you can see, our work with Mary has changed a great deal.  Gone are the gross motor exercises and the work to get any sounds made, and in its place are the higher-level thinking questions and the focus on the typical areas of a middle school child.

It is so hard to believe that Elizabeth is a middle schooler.  It is so hard to believe how far she has come and to believe that our crying, scared, blue-eyed infant has grown into a confident, happy, bright-eyed tween.  As I say in my book, “Middle school, here we come!” Words cannot ever truly express the depth of our love for this special child or our belief in her or even our thankfulness that she is in our lives.  I know those who have a special needs child will understand and may be nodding their heads right now.

For those who have read my book, you will know this is technically the end of the “journey” covered there.  For those of you following my blog or my Facebook page, you will know our journey has continued and Elizabeth is now 18 years old. I look forward to writing future posts about Elizabeth’s life past those covered in my book, because we all know ….the journey continues.

-Michele Gianetti

Michele writes for TalkTools Blog every month about her experience caring for Elizabeth, her daughter with Sensory Processing Disorder and Dyspraxia. Follow her story since the beginning here.

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Overcoming The Unexpected

Posted by Deborah Grauzam on

TalkTools Blog | Elizabeth - JuneLearning something from a previous experience or mistake is a common thing in life.  We all do it.  But putting into action what you learned may take more effort.  I think this is common as well.  As I left off on the last blog, we were exiting second grade and a year that proved full of lessons.

I can remember how happy I was to be in summer that year.  It was refreshing to be out of the school schedule and all the feelings that I had amassed related to the school.  Elizabeth was ready for summer, and I was officially leading the parade out of the school for a much needed chance to relax, regroup, and plan for next year.

But before we visit the school year, we have to talk about our summer.  As I said prior, Elizabeth has a summer birthday, so this year she asked us for a blow-up water slide for her present.  We had seen one in the newspaper, so we got it, put it up, and watched our sensory child have the time of her life climbing this wiggly, wet, cold monster and sliding down about 1,000 times that summer.

The only small problem we had with the slide was that she was a little too encouraging of her toddler brother in his attempts to climb the slide to have his turn.  We had to explain many times why Michael, although crying to try it, was not to be pushed up the ladder to help him get to the top.  In any event, the summer was really fun and a nice respite from the stress of school.

But we all know that all good things must come to an end. Soon August was in front of us, and with it came the awareness that school was on the horizon.  It was time to plan how to handle the third grade year.  I decided the following:

  • Do not assume that information about Elizabeth gets to everyone, do it yourself.
  • Do not assume that work is getting done for Elizabeth, visit the school once a month at least.
  • Keep a daily communication notebook and express any and all concerns on it.
  • Do not be afraid to ask for something for Elizabeth when the need presents itself.

Now I had a game plan and was quite happy to find out we had a very cooperative and kind inclusion teacher.  I communicated Elizabeth’s needs and strengths to her as well as talking to the intervention specialist prior to school starting, and we arranged meeting times.  The communication notebook was ready.  Check, check, check!

All the parts of Elizabeth’s day were going well.  The communication notebook was so helpful in keeping up with her day to day feelings and activities.  So I was enjoying the positive changes….

The thing is, when you have a child with special needs, these needs are dynamic in that they change.  And sometimes, they change quickly and without warning.  One day she came home happy and chatty, and the next day she came home quite angry and stressed.  This went on each day and she seemed to get a bit more stressed each day.  It was like she would JUST make it in the front door before she would meltdown.  Every day, the same way.   So I:

  • Checked the notebook
  • Talked to Elizabeth
  • Wrote notes to the teachers
  • Even visited the school

I was told nothing was wrong at school, so I knew that these were signs of her sensory issues resurfacing, and that she needed some calming activities or brushing to help her through the day.  This was a new twist, because she had never needed this before during a school day.  I wanted the school to brush her during the day and thought about telling them individually about our request, but then I reasoned it would be easier to talk about her needs fully at the upcoming IEP meeting.  We had an IEP meeting set up for fall to sign the new IEP.  I envisioned that I would talk about her sensory needs, make a plan to accomplish this, and then all would be well.

Yes, that is what I thought would occur.  I never thought I would be met with any resistance.  Yes, I heard it even as I wrote it. Just how naïve and trusting I was early on!

The meeting went like this:

  • I thought it was just me, the intervention specialist and OT coming to the meeting - it was the ENTIRE team.
  • I thought it would be an easy meeting - it was very hard.
  • I told my husband, “I've got this, you don’t have to come” - I was wrong.
  • I asked for the sensory diet and oral motor protocol (including brushing, quiet time, and oral motor work) - I was told  “NO”.
  • I explained why these things were needed - I was made to feel foolish and in the wrong.
  • I left with no signed IEP, some pretty bad feelings, and a total realization of how things work.
    I went home close to tears and full of frustration but really quite determined to get these things for Elizabeth.  I think I felt that if we could get the school to do the sensory diet, it would affirm that they understood the disorders Elizabeth has.  I think we realized just how important that understanding is. So John and I scheduled another IEP meeting, one he was sure to attend!   But prior to that meeting, we made sure to do our homework.
    • Our therapist, Mary, and I talked.
    • Our private OT, tutor, speech therapist and I talked.
    • We made a plan of who would be at the next meeting.
    • We contacted an advocate
    • We made a plan for our requests
    • We fought for our daughter

    I am happy to say we got the sensory diet and oral motor protocols put into her school day. But there were some casualties by the roadside for sure, such as many bad feelings and changed relationships.

    But why the fight?  Aren’t we all really on the same side? And that side being FOR the child? I offer out all these experiences, because so many people are just beginning their experiences within a school system and maybe by reading our experiences, they will gain strength in their own advocacy for their child.

    The remainder of the year went like this.  I would visit the school every three weeks to check in.  I made check off sheets for the teachers and speech therapist to use to show that both the sensory diet and oral-motor protocol were being followed.  Between the sensory diet followed at home and the one at school, Elizabeth’s system calmed down and she no longer arrived at our doorstep in the overwhelmed, angry fashion.  She was able to enjoy her school day feeling calm. The things we were asking for were what she really needed, what her system really needed to function.

    Now that we had a sensory diet in place, we hoped all would be well. Our IEP stated when she would have time in the inclusion class, but as the year went on, we noticed she was spending more and more time in the special education room and less and less time with typical children.

    For those who don’t know, Elizabeth is one of the sweetest, kindest, most gentle, and extremely social people you could ever come across. But the truth is, she does need extra support in her school day in the form of reminders, encouragement, and understanding of how she works.  So during one of monthly meetings I asked why this was.  I was told:

    • She sometimes looks overwhelmed.
    • The inclusion class is working on a project.
    • We have something we need her to do in the special ed. room.
    • The work is too much for her in the inclusion class.

    We were unhappy in this area, as we wanted Elizabeth to have the chance to be with and learn from typical developing children.  We knew that the content of the classes needed to be modified for her, but being in these classes would do many things:

    • Give Elizabeth a chance to learn how to act in a typical classroom.
    • Teach her how to engage in group projects.
    • Allow her to feel like part of the class.

    We did not pursue this point with the school this year but had plans to focus on this issue the following school year.  For those who have children in a similar situation, you may wish to be alert to the time your child actually spends in the inclusion classroom.  My hope is that what is on your child’s IEP is actually being done.

    The year wound up with a very positive occurrence, Elizabeth was voted student of the month by her classmates.  It is an award that not everyone receives, and she was the student of the month for April. I am sure when it came home, the neighbors three houses down in either direction heard my happy screams!

    So much good is coming for Elizabeth in her personal growth, talking, and social abilities.  We have always believed in her abilities, but we had to work to understand her disorders. We leave the year feeling like the school understands her disorders and even Elizabeth.  This is a good thing.

    We leave third grade and head to fourth. I will put the “to-do” list away for the summer and focus on fun, sunshine, and keeping Elizabeth from succeeding in getting her brother to the top of the waterslide.

    As ever, the journey continues….

    -Michele Gianetti

    Michele writes for TalkTools Blog every month about her experience caring for Elizabeth, her daughter with Sensory Processing Disorder and Dyspraxia. Follow her story since the beginning here.

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