Our journey through autism

Archive for January, 2012

Music Therapy

Along the lines of something fun after 4 months of one on one therapy we decided to have Bilal do music therapy. He loves singing and humming and takes after his father with his musical ear and right tone. He sings a lot of children’s songs pretty well, just off on lyrics either mispronouncing them, or just humming instead of saying the words. Recently he’s started signing along to the radio with me during our drives to and from therapy a mix of songs from the 80s, 90s and today. This music center had free introductory classes at the public library and I went and met with them. They offer music classes to babies 3 months – 10 years. Two weeks before classes were to begin I went and met with the music therapist, we discussed Bilal’s strengths and weaknesses, what we’d like to achieve and had a short mini-lesson as example to what we’ll cover once we begin. Bilal enjoyed the class and was looking forward to start. She will write out a goal sheet similar to an IEP to cover in the next 8 weeks as a winter session with an option for another 8 week session as spring term. This class is different as it is a class with other special needs children (social skills) and also their mothers, something we could do together that’s fun and educational.

As with all of Bilal’s classes or therapies they have a chart of activities to be covered. They start out with a Hello song, the therapist asks the child how they’d like to say hello, would they like to wave, or clap or stump their feet? this encourages speech, communication and decision making. There is a story to act out (imagination, movement), instruments to play, listening to different animal sounds from tape, moving to the speed of the music, following instructions, taking turns, etc… Bilal had a lot of fun, and with 2 other little hyper boys he had a blast being silly with them.

The only draw back to this is that it is a bit far, off in Cobb county and also Bilal is higher functioning than the other two boys so not much challenge in that with the same environment in school I’m not sure what to do, he needs a class with typically developing children, which at school might not be possible till kindergarten as he’s doing pre-k again next year due to a late September birthday. We’ll see how it goes and whether we’ll do the spring session as well or not.

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Equine Therapy

Also known as hippo-therapy which basically is horseback riding therapy, it is a well known and accepted therapy for those on the autism spectrum. Horseback riding in itself teaches discipline, strength and posture while the movement of the horse teaches the child balance. Dealing with the horse teaches the child compassion towards animals and how to treat them nicely. Used as therapy they also include brushing the horse before and after riding as a sensory stimulation, the child helps with the saddle for fine motor skills, on the horse they have the child use his words to command the horse to “go” and “stop”, they have the child hold on with 1 hand or no hands (for balance and vestibular training), they had little games of stopping the horse leaning down and picking up a toy and dropping it off at another area, the therapists would describe the toy or animal for speech therapy, they also had him throw bean bags into a bucket from atop the horse and pick rings and slide them on horizontal poles. They also let the child ride backwards for awhile also for balance and vestibular training.

Bilal has been in speech and OT for 4 months now and making a lot of progress alhamdullah mashaAllah so we decided we could move onto something else, something beneficial but also fun, so we looked into horseback riding. Last month we had gone to a county fair and they had pony rides and Bilal loved it, he sat tall and held the saddle on his own and had a lot of fun so therapy would be great. When we got to the farm and he could see all the horses in the distance he got really excited and rushed into it, no apprehension towards the new therapists and he followed all directions really well. So we’ve decided to continue with it, an hour a week every weekend weather permitting inshaAllah it will be of benefit to him.

I found the therapy location through the Autism Speaks resource guide website. It’s called Brecht Stables and Dustin’s Place, it was founded by a mother of a child (Dustin) with Down’s Syndrome to teach children with disabilities. It is in Cumming, GA. She has a website, Facebook page (lots of pictures of the farm, horses and her family), and Twitter account.

In Islam there is a Hadith (a saying for the Prophet Mohammed peace be upon him) in which he said “Teach your children swimming, archery and horse riding”  it means that children should grow up fit and knowledgeable of such recreational activities, which at the time were essential to survival, now it could be adapted to mean swimming and car driving but horseback riding is still important as the benefits are so many for children with disabilities and for those typically developing.

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