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Celebrating World Down Syndrome Day

My absolute favorite-est part of being a music therapist is when a kid "gets it" for the first time in a music therapy session. Once I was working with a toddler with Down syndrome and one of our goals was to use music to encourage and motivate this kiddo to say out loud, "hello." After a few weeks of practice and repetition, I started the session like all the others. I sang the first line of our hello song, "Hello Evelyn, hello. Glad that you're here today. Hello, Evelyn, ______..." And for the first time in this kid's life, out came the most beautiful and tentative approximation of "hello!" Of course his mother and I showered him with praise which gave him the confidence to sing along to more and more of our hello song. The best part of the story is when they came back the next week for our session and his mother told me he stared saying hello at home and at daycare. Success!

It's pretty safe to say all kids are motivated by music and I love having the opportunity to use ​​music to help kids reach developmental milestones. Watch this video from NeuroRhythm Music Therapy in Colorado Springs to see another example in action!

Music can also be a really fun way to promote motor skills and reinforce academic

concepts. My clients' families tell me one of their favorite parts of music therapy is that it ​​​​

doesn't feel like work! Watch the next video to see music therapist Ryan Judd's super fun and silly way to help his client strengthen her pincer grasp (the grasp you need to hold a pencil or a fork).

Music therapists are trained to design music activities that target very specific goals, but

there are many ways you can use music therapeutically at home. Here are some examples that my clients with Down syndrome and their families especially like to use at home:

1. Use a song to transition between activities, like from mealtime to playtime or bedtime. I use the old tune Goodnight Ladies to sing "All done (playtime), all done (playtime), all done (playtime), it's time to (go to bed)". Fill in any activity!

2. Make up a song to help remember all the steps of a task, like washing hands or bushing teeth.

3. Got a keyboard, piano, or guitar lying around? Encourage your child to make up songs and melodies while isolating each finger. Sometimes I set a keyboard on a bench or table that encourages kids to stand while they're playing.

For even more examples, check out this handout!

Music therapy is a ton of fun and gives kids and teens the opportunity to promote social skills, communication skills, cognitive skills, and motor skills, but the best part about music therapy? It's evidence-based!!! Wahoo! Music therapy has been proven over and over again to be effective in teaching development-based skills and these skills have been shown to transfer outside the music therapy session!

If you're in the Seattle area and think music therapy would benefit you or someone you know, click here to set up a free consultation. If you want to learn more about my private practice, Life On Music, check out our services. Otherwise, go to to find a music therapist near you.

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