Drumming Captivates a Child with Autism

This is a clip of me working with one of my clients with Autism. He is nonverbal but he has some emerging language coming. He has a few words that he uses to communicate and he also communicates through an augmentative communication device. As you can see, I had my agenda of wanting to do some drumming with him and work on some communication goals through some drumming but he was not having it. He was very unhappy – obviously you can tell by his body language and his vocalizations. Also a therapist, parent or educator, when something like this happens, you have to really not only try to redirect the child but you have to let go of your own agenda. You have to be willing to improvise, be spontaneous and really use your intuition in finding what might help the child in that moment.

Now, I had never done this body drumming technique before but I just had an intuitive hint that might work and so I started going into it, really reading his body language, and it worked wonderfully. As soon as I had pulled at his attention, then we could work on some of those communication goals. You might have seen this in a previous video. I wanted to point out too that I used that visual phonetic, “mmm”, illustrating the ‘m’ sound of ‘more’. Now, he ended up saying “go” but I really wanted to honor any speech communication and that was a totally appropriate use of ‘go’. So, we went for it and instead of really pushing for ‘more’, we rolled with ‘go’. Again, that’s using that improvisation and spontaneity and really following the child’s lead in a situation like this.

You might have also noticed that his eye contact increased. Whenever I stopped the drumming and was waiting for a response from him, waiting for some communication, that’s when I got this great eye contact. Another thing you might have noticed is that I did very little talking throughout this part of our session. I try in general not to talk too much during our session and with all the kids I work with who are nonverbal, I feel like they get talked to all the time and they’re constantly barraged with words and yet they’re struggling to find words and use words themselves. So, I can’t help to think that it might be a bit frustrating to be in such a spoken language world but not have that ability yourself. That’s one of the wonderful things about music – it can be nonverbal. In general, in therapy sessions with him, I try to use very little spoken language and I let the music, my gestures, facial expressions and body language to speak for me. Another thing that was great was that you saw him starting to smile and even giggle a little bit – I’m always looking for that with clients. What’s going to be fun, what’s going to be humorous and what’s going to be motivating. When you can combine music and something that’s fun and humorous, wow – that is an amazing combination for success and motivation.

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