How to Use a Simple Song to Work on Expressive Language

This month, many of the national autism organizations are featuring awareness/action months, and here at The George Center we wanted to feature some specific ways music can address some of the most common goal areas for clients with autism.

Today, I'm happy to feature a simple musical intervention that addresses expressive language skills (an area frequently focused on in therapy for people with autism) and is simple enough that parents with no musical training can practice this at home with their children.

Many of my clients struggle with using full phrases in order to request desired objects and activities. I frequently see children with speech and language deficits using one word utterances and pointing in order to make requests. This act alone is an important developmental milestone, but eventually we want to move children to using more complex language, namely, a full sentence.

In order to practice this skill, I take three of the coolest, awe-inspiring, OMG-I-want-that instruments that I have in my office. Perhaps a nice loud cymbal, some bells, or a vibra-slap (that cool rattling sound at the beginning of "Crazy Train" by Ozzy Osbourne).

I set the instruments out in front of my client, and explain each one and how to play it. I then sing this quick, simple tune to provide structure and explain the game.


I then model the desired behavior (using a sentence) for the client, before grabbing an instrument and playing it.

"I want to play the cymbal!"

I'll then sing the song again, and give the client a chance to use a full phrase (or ask a question) and grab an instrument, which they can play while I accompany them on the guitar.

There you have it! Simple, straight forward, and effective! You can find some fun instruments/noise-makers in the $1 bin at Target, so pick up a few and try this one at home!

Our music therapists design treatment plans an interventions individuals to your child's needs. Talk to us to find out more!


Image source:

Jamie George


Jamie founded The George Center for Music Therapy, Inc. in 2010 in order to expand and increase access to quality music therapy programs in the metro Atlanta area. She is a licensed and nationally board-certified music therapist. Jamie holds additional certifications in Neurologic Music Therapy (NMT) and Neonatal Intensive Care Unit Music Therapy (NICU-MT).

Jamie received a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from Western Michigan University, and a Master of Music with a concentration in Music Therapy, from the University of Georgia. She completed her graduate research studying music therapy and its effects on children with sensory processing disorder. Jamie completed her internship working with exceptional children in the Fulton County Schools Music Therapy Department in metro Atlanta. Jamie specializes in autism and other neurologic conditions. In addition to teaching and treating, she actively consults with parents, therapists, allied health, and therapeutic and educational programs across the country.

Jamie serves on the Ethics Board for the American Music Therapy Association, and serves as Government Relations Co-Chair for the Southeastern Region of the AMTA. She serves as Reimbursement Chair for the Music Therapy Association of Georgia, having previously served as Treasurer for the organization from 2007 – 2012.  Jamie also serves on the Georgia state task forceand the Georgia Secretary of State appointed Music Therapy Advisory Committee.

Jamie is an accomplished vocalist, and comes to Atlanta after having performed for several years in New York City and Walt Disney World in Orlando, FL.

Check out some of Jamie’s work over on the blog!