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Easy Ways to Make Music with a Child with Special Needs

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Autism and Music Therapy

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The following music therapy video with a child with autism teaches you how to:

  • Use simple percussive instruments to connect and bond with a child
  • Create music with a child with autism to increase eye contact and facial referencing
  • Use motivating instruments to help a child with special needs gain communication skills
  • Adapt traditional melodies so that you can personalize them to your child's or client's needs
  • Create rhythm to further engage a child while singing with him or her

Ryan Judd is a board certified music therapist. He has a master's degree in Music Therapy and a bachelor's degree in Psychology, with an emphasis on Child Development. He has been working as a music therapist with children with special needs for more than 16 years. In addition to working one on one with clients, Ryan also leads groups focused on the development of social skills.  His services are available in Southern New Hampshire, Northern Massachussets and Southern Maine.  He lives in the Seacoast region with his wife who is a 1st grade teacher.


  • Anne, MT-BC Wednesday, 13 February 2013

    Beautiful work!!

  • Ryan Wednesday, 13 February 2013

    Thanks Anne!

  • Gwendolyn Edwards Wednesday, 13 February 2013

    I enjoyed watching this amazing video!

  • Ryan Wednesday, 13 February 2013

    Thanks Gwendolyn, I appreciate your feedback!

  • Becky Carr Thursday, 14 February 2013

    Good Tips for anyone needing to put music into the life of a special needs child.

    Drums are also great and easy to use. We have several toy drums plus some bongos. There is a really neat snare drum type with a drum head that comes off and contains drumsticks, small instruments inside...tambourine type, maracas (2egg shapes with stuff inside), and percussion things to shake with bells on them. My teacher-daughter gave this to our 5-year old for Christmas. The drum has a big soft handle on one side and a strap with velcro to put the drum around the child's neck so he can march and play! Everything is extremely colorful and sturdy soft plastic material...very good quality. He loves it and plays with it all the time plus if other kids come over (usually family), they can share the instruments. I've seen it on the Internet before and my daughter found it in Austin. It's great for preschool kids. It has a captial B on all the pieces and says on it.

    Also if you have a piano in the house, let the child play on it. It may not sound that great at first, but they might really enjoy it and continue to want to do it and that is a great first step in introducing music to these kids.

    The main thing is to give them access and exposure to musical things/instruments...even if just toys or even if it's just a toy horn, a xylophone, a toy guitar that plays songs, tapping sticks, or the old standby...turning a pot upside down and hitting it with a spoon! And sing with or to them. My little one often says "Sing me a song" now and wants a song whenever we are at the playground, swinging, taking a bath, or just doing whatever. I introduced children's CDs early on (just months old) with lullabyes and all the classic kids songs and he learned them and sings them all the time now at 5 years. Plus he notices songs on the radio and tells us not to turn it off that he "likes that song". He is high functioning ASD-Aspergers and very verbal but has lots of other issues.

    Thanks for a good site.

  • Ryan Thursday, 14 February 2013

    Hi Becky, thank you so much for commenting and giving your own suggestions and feedback! You made some excellent points and suggestions. Thanks again!


  • Julie Tuesday, 19 February 2013

    Hi Ryan
    I am a Danish music therapist working in Copenhagen with special need children and adults. It am deeply inspired by your work.
    Thank you so much for sharing:-)

  • Ryan Tuesday, 19 February 2013

    Hi Julie, thank you so much for the comment! I am so glad that you are enjoying the video posts. It is great to hear from my international colleagues. Thanks again!

  • Erica Friday, 12 July 2013

    Thanks for the ideas and videos! I'm an SLP at a hospital in Washington, DC and have found your videos to be really helpful for inspiring therapy activities for sessions with kiddos today!

  • Ryan Friday, 12 July 2013

    Hi Erica, you are welcome! I am so glad that you are finding my videos to be helpful. I have always loved collaborating with SLP's. There is so much great overlap between our fields and I have learned so much from working with speech therapists. If you know of anyone who might be interested in my DVD and Music package, please pass my info along. Thank you!

  • Care4Cads Wednesday, 16 May 2018

    It is really great info! Appreciate that you share this information

  • Ryan Judd Tuesday, 22 May 2018

    Thank you!!!

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