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Saturday, 28 January 2012 02:30

One Ear at a Time

"Children can learn almost anything if they are dancing, tasting, touching, hearing, seeing and feeling information." -Jean Houston, Educating the Human Brain

I love this quote. It makes me think of a perfectly happy child spinning in circles as she is singing and dancing barefoot in a field of green grass and wild flowers with an orchestra of musicians playing beautiful music for her. Wouldn't that be the ideal way to learn? Carefree and happy.

Unfortunately that is not the way it usually works out for our children.

So many of my students have a hard time listening. Some can't hear well. Some have trouble processing the information that is spoken to them. Some are so easily distracted they can't pay attention to what is being said because they are off doing something else.

This week I was reading a book that explained that some children can't process information when it is spoken to them. But when the same instructions are sung to them, they are better able to understand and follow through.

Children with attention problems often have hearing problems. And it is possible that one ear is better at hearing than the other. So you need to speak or sing into each ear, one at a time.

In one of my singing classes, there are a couple of 7 year old girls who have a hard time paying attention. I know they wait all week for singing class. They love singing and learning new songs. But when they see each other they can't keep their hands off each other and start doing cartwheels and pulling on each other for the entire hour. Now, in my classes we start off with a lot of moving and dancing. So I am not expecting them to sit in chairs and pay close attention. I understand children need to move and stomp and feel the rhythms with their entire bodies. But when it is time to sing I still want them to sing.

So I decided to do an experiment.


Deliberate Movements

Instead of watching them do random movements such as cartwheels and flips, I initiated the movements for each voice warm-up. During one warm-up, we held hands and swung them back and forth to the beat. The constant movement helped them pay attention to their singing.


Singing and Speaking in Each Ear

During other warm-ups, I walked around the room bending down and singing in each girl's ear. This worked like a miracle! One student, who always sings too high, off pitch, matched my voice as I was singing in her ear. It got her attention and she was able to hear my voice and sing on pitch.

I continued singing in their ears, going from one ear to the other so that both ears got a chance to hear my voice up close. I loved how easy it was for them to then sing on pitch the rest of the class time.


Singing Directions

This week, I also tried singing instructions to my classes instead of just saying them. It did get the children's attention faster and they were quicker to jump up and follow me to the next activity.

Singing for Speech Therapy

I decided to try the ear experiment at home with my 4 year old daughter. She has a hard time saying some of her sounds. We have been working on the" th" sound for words like the, that and this.

I leaned over close to her ear and sang "the" to the tune of "Mary Had a Little Lamb". Then I leaned over to the other ear and sang the same thing. When I was done I asked her to say "the" and she said it exactly how she heard me say it! It was wonderful. She has not continued to say "th" sounds correctly in her regular speech but when I chant them in her ear she will say it correctly. So she can do it! She just needs to keep practicing and hearing it clearly spoken to her.

Some children have a hard time listening. Some can't hear well. Others have a hard time processing what is said to them. Some are easily distracted. One way to help these children is to sing to them, one ear at a time!

Wouldn't it be a wonderful world if everyone sang to their children as they gave directions and taught them new things? Our children could be dancing and singing as they were learning. A lot more happy and carefree!

Published in education
Sunday, 22 January 2012 07:10

I am a great rocker

I am a great rocker…

Most of the time I am a great walker and talker…

I am a great walker and talker when Miss Carly wakes up in the middle of the night and has a tough time falling back to sleep.  We walk back and forth across the apartment floor as she slowly falls back to sleep.  I can tell she is asleep by either sneaking a peak, at her eyes, in her reflection in a window or her cute little snores.

Tonight, walking and talking was not working.  She could not get comfy and was just plain restless.  Rather, tonight was a perfect night for rocking.  We sat down in the rocker and she snuggled up against my neck.  No walking and talking needed tonight; she let out a deep sigh, nuzzled her head against my shoulder, and quickly started to snore in my ear. 

As I put her back into her crib, she let out a big sigh.  Which I am pretty sure means “Thanks Dad, you are a great rocker.”

Published in everyday life
Tuesday, 17 January 2012 21:30

Jake Barnett: One in 10 Million

Did you catch Jake Barnett's remarkable story on 60 Minutes?

Just before his second birthday, Jake stropped speaking and making eye contact. Concerned, his parents consulted doctors, and Jake was diagnosed with autism. The typical motley of therapies followed.

"We realized that Jacob was not happy unless he was doing something he loved," said Jake's mom Kristine Barnett during her interview with 60 Minutes.

When Jake was 3, his parents noticed that he had a particular affinity for science and math. She says that Jake also began to communicate more when he was allowed to focus on subjects he loved. 

"You could just see him relax. You could just see him feel like, 'Thank goodness we're not working on something I can't do today,'" she explained.

In kindergarten, Jake was bored with the convention curriculum, requesting to learn algebra instead. By the time Jake was in 8, his parents came to the conclusion that third grade was not going to be enough, and Jake began auditing classes at the joint Indiana University Purdue campus.

Joanne Ruthsatz, a psychology professor at Ohio State who has studied child prodigies for the last 13 years, noted that Jack's incredible memory is a key component to his autistic savant skill. She said that Jake's talent is about one in 10 million.

Jake said that he's proud of his autism. "That, I believe, is the reason why I am in college and I am so successful," Jake told 60 Minutes.

Today 13-year-old Jake has a full scholarship and is an honors student in math and physics at the same campus where he audited night classes. His goals include building on Einstein's theory of relativity and helping bring an end to "that whole math phobia thing" for others.

His parents have started Jacob's Place, a nonprofit center to help autistic children.

Watch the 60 Minutes segment Jake: Math prodigy proud of his autism here.

Did you watch the story? Do you think that stories like this are helpful or hurtful to the autism community at large? Does Jake's story inspire hope for your own children? Share your reactions and thoughts below!

Published in do-gooding

Music has the ability to change our feelings and behaviors. Slow, soft music can make us feel calm and relaxed. While fast music with a lot of rhythm can make us feel energized and get us dancing. Parents have asked me to suggest music for their child to listen to while falling asleep or to get them moving.

We all know each person is made up of body, mind and spirit. Did you know that music is made of three components that match those parts? The three parts of music are rhythm, melody, and harmony.

Rhythm affects our body and stimulates our arms and legs. Percussion is the group in the orchestra that provides rhythm. Percussion instruments include the drums, cymbals and shakers.

Melody affects our mind and stimulates our head. The woodwind instruments, such as the flute, clarinet, and oboe provide melody.

Harmony affects our spirit and touches our hearts. The string instruments provide the harmony in the orchestra. Violin, viola and cello are string instruments.

The goal is to select music to stimulate or calm the body, mind and spirit in order to create balance.

Not everyone will react the same way to a piece of music. So I can suggest pieces to play for your child but you will have to see her reaction to it to determine if it is right for her.

Most of these suggestions are classical music and that is because classical music usually contains all three parts: rhythm, melody and harmony that is necessary for balance.

Children who are lethargic or have weak limbs need to be stimulated with rhythm. They need rhythmic percussion to invigorate them.

For children with weak muscles and limbs and to energize sleepy bodies play stimulating music with the volume slightly louder than usual.

"Bolero" by Ravel-orchestra

"Mephisto Waltz" by Liszt – piano

"Stars and Stripes Forever" by Sousa-marching band

"German Dance" by Mozart- orchestra

"The Toy Symphony" by Leopold Mozart-orchestra with horn and glockenspiel calling out "cuckoo"


Calming Music

Hyperactive children can be calmed by playing music with more melody and harmony and less rhythm and percussion. Instead of being physically and mentally active she will be relaxed and soothed.

"Romeo and Juliet" by Tchaikovsky-symphony orchestra

"Carmen Suite" Nos. 1-2 by Bizet – orchestra with a lot of wind instruments

"Andantino from the Flute Quartet in C Major" by Mozart-orchestra with a lot of flutes


Music for Anxiety

Anxious children respond well to music that has pronounced rhythm and melody

Waltzes by Strauss- orchestra

Anything by Mozart but you can start with the "Adagio from the Divertimento in B Flat (K. 287)" The Italian word adagio means "to put at ease".


Music for Chronically Ill

Soft music is wonderful for chronically ill children

"La Mer" by Debussy-orchestra

"Andantino from the Flute Quartet in C Major (K.171)" by Mozart-orchestra


Music for Emotionally Sensitive Children

Children who are emotionally sensitive need a lot of harmony in music.

"Jupiter Symphony" by Mozart-orchestra


My Favorite Sleeping Music

Classical music has a calming effect that helps children fall asleep.

Some studies also show playing classical music as children are falling asleep and waking up can reduce the incidences of seizures since episodes frequently occur just before or after falling asleep and soon after awakening.

My girls' favorite nighttime music is "Classical Naptime for Tots". It has a variety of classics from Bach, Debussy, Beethoven and Puccini

They also love Jewel's Lullaby CD from Fisher Price

My Favorite Stimulating Music

"Jazz for Kids" is a favorite to play while using all kinds of rhythm instruments like sticks, bells and maracas. It features Jazz greats such as Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong singing child friendly jazz songs.

"First Steps in Classical Music: Keeping the Beat!" is a favorite full of classical pieces to play with rhythm instruments.

Everyone has different musical preferences. Try these suggestions and see how your family responds. If the song doesn't work for you and your child then skip it and move on to another piece. In order to save costs, you can find most of these songs on You Tube and these CD's at the local library.

Published in behavior
Thursday, 12 January 2012 11:17

The Carly Method


So what exactly is the Carly method?

The Carly method is a new method in the world of organization, perfect timing for everybody who has made New Year’s resolutions to become more organized in life.

The Carly method is extremely effective and does not need any additional time or effort.  As a matter of fact, all you need is things to organize and a couch nearby.

The Carly method consists of picking up whatever item might be nearby and either throwing or shoving it under the couch.  The Carly method helps create filing areas for socks, her brothers monster truck collection, more socks, a dry erase marker or two, and did I mention socks.

So, if you are looking for a new way to organize your life,  I strongly suggest that you give the Carly method  a try.

Published in everyday life
Sunday, 08 January 2012 20:46

The Power of Music

The benefits of music are endless but they are especially wonderful to growing and developing children with or without special needs. Our bodies are musical: our heartbeat and pulse, our breathing in and out and other physical cycles. We are primed to respond to rhythm.

Music has the ability to fill us with energy and really get us moving which is great for those who are undersensitive and need extra stimulation or for those who have been sitting in school all day.

On the other side, music can calm us down and relax us which is great for those with ADHD, Asperger's and those in pain or stress.

Music helps us express our emotions even when words fail us. There is nothing like banging on a drum when angry, dancing with a scarf when happy or swaying to a lullaby when tired or scared. So, for children who have a hard time expressing themselves, music becomes their language.

Studies show music creates new neurological paths in the brain, stimulating our brains and therefore making us smarter. Most of us have heard of the Mozart Effect where children get smarter from listening to Mozart because his music matches our brainwaves. This may be true but what is more stimulating is when children actually make music. The music they create can be as simple as singing or tapping out the rhythm on their knees but those acts strengthen the brain and create knew pathways for neurons to travel.

Playing an instrument helps develop eye-hand coordination as well as confidence and great self-esteem. It also develops discipline as the student practices and realizes a goal.

Music is also a vehicle to learning other subjects. Practically every child learns the alphabet by singing the ABC Song. There are numerous songs to learn colors, numbers, adding, subtracting, geography and other important facts.

There is amazing potential for development and progress when music is used in our children's therapeutic and scholastic programs. As parents and teachers, we need to expose our children to music in all kinds of situations. And continue to encourage them to explore and make music on their own.

Published in education
Saturday, 07 January 2012 05:01


Ffffffffff….. she whispers into my ear, followed quickly by a smile and a giggle.

I whisper back to her “I love you”

Fffffffff…. she whispers again.

She may not be able to speak “true” words, however, the meaning is clear.

I whisper “I love you”

She giggles and gives me a big hug.

Published in everyday life
Thursday, 05 January 2012 21:09

Kudos to Target!

Target ad featuring Ryan with Down syndromeDid you see it? On page 9? The one in the orange shirt... Right?

I saw it, but I truthfully nearly missed it (actually, it was the $1 socks that first piqued my interest) -- and I think that's the whole point. That's the beauty of Target's recent placement of a model who has Down syndrome in their Sunday ad.

Flipping through the ad circulars on Sunday, I almost didn't catch "it." After all, Ryan, the child model with DS, isn't wearing a "We're all special" tee-shirt, or even a sweatshirt promoting the R-Word Campaign. He's just a kid. With other kids. Wearing regular ol' clothes.

You can't get much more typical than that.

I have to commend Target for not only featuring a child with DS in their ad, but for the admirable way they did it: with out making a big deal about it. They didn't put a big arrow next to Ryan saying "Hey, look at Target! We're including kids with special needs! This week we're giving you a special ad filled with special clothing for special people!"

Nope. No bells, no whistles. I'd say that's inclusion at it's finest.

Here's hoping that they continue their wonderful effort in more ads to come -- and that other major organizations take heed and follow suit.

Target features a child model who had DS

Noah's Dad published a fantastic blog post about the ad: 5 Things Target Said Without Saying Anything At All. His words are witty, insightful, and definitely worth the read.

Jezebel, a Gawker Media blog, points out that Ryan was also recently featured in a Nordstrom advertisement. They also make a wonderful case that this type of advertising is win/win in their What Happens When A Kid With Down Syndrome Models For Target and Nordstrom post.

So... Did you see it?

Published in everyday life
Dandelion is a free quarterly magazine that serves as a resource for Bay Area and Sacramento families of children with special needs: autism and Asperger’s, cerebral palsy, Down syndrome, those who are blind, deaf, in wheelchairs, learning disorders, sensory issues and every special need in between. Dandelion’s mission is to create and empower a community of local families through a variety of media by providing a database of resources, trusted and thought-provoking editorial content, an up-to-date calendar of special needs-specific events, noteworthy news, as well as contributions to the community.