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!


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