Guest Author - Bonnie Sayers
Spectrum Connections has created a line of developmentally appropriate DVDs for children on the Autism Spectrum. Cleve Keller is the Producer, Director and Creator of the series, as well as being the parent to a three year-old boy on the Spectrum.
Through Brandissimo! Inc, Spectrum Connections debuted Volume One and Two, along with a CD with a compilation of the songs from both Volumes, in November of 2005. More DVDs are in the works, with a total of 13 in the series.
Volume One is Connecting Emotions, Volume Two is Connecting Body Movement. The host of both DVDs is Elizabeth Balzano, MA, MT-BC. Elizabeth is a music therapist with her practice in New York City, which serves special-needs students.
Elizabeth has a very appealing voice and on screen presence that is sparkling as well as entertaining to children on the Autism Spectrum. The DVDs are filmed with a white background and basic color schemes. All the children are wearing plain prints with the beat and tone of the music slower than what you would find in mainstream media for typical developing children.
The children appear to be preschoolers between the ages of 3-5, which is my estimatation. There are five children, three are girls, two are boys. The names are Tucker, Zaid, Victoria, Jenny and Deanna. They are wearing spring clothing, dressed in shorts with several outside segments near a sidewalk, grass and picnic table.
Volume Two has six segments or selections as noted in the menu of the DVD. These include Hello, Stomp Your Feet, Animals, Shake, Shake Shake Shake, Up and Down, Goodbye.
There is an animated character known as Balloo, seen on the cover of the DVDs as well as within the DVDs. To me he looks like a miniature rugrat creature. My almost eleven year-old high functioning son Nicholas said he is kid inside a ball. We first see Balloo as a yellow ball and then waves hand into the air, with Balloo standing at the center of the screen. I guess Nicholas has the right idea behind Balloo.
The bonus features include answering questions geared to first time parents of newly diagnosed children on the Autism Spectrum. The questions are posted on the screen with the responses given by Dr. Amy Davies Lackey, PH.D., BCBA.
While her name rings a bell, I am not familiar with this Doctor. I was however, really impressed with her answers and how she really does get what parents go through and comprehends autism far better than most professionals I have met over the years.
The other bonus segment in Volume Two, Body Movement is from an organization called SNACK. This stands for Special Needs Activity Center for Kids. Viewers will see these older children making artwork that is seen in the DVDs for Spectrum Connections.
These DVDs by Spectrum Connections are not meant to replace therapy as they are a means of having fun and entertaining children while communicating core curriculum in an engaging way. When both my children were in the same age bracket as the children depicted in the DVDs - we had music therapy in the home for a three-month period.
The girl also utilized a guitar and brought along a boombox to sing to the boys. She followed Matthew into the bedroom when he would leave the room to lie on his bed with a bottle. She sat beside him and played a tune to his liking. The experience was very pleasant for us, but the therapist was not too happy when Nicholas would touch the guitar and want to explore it.
We did not pursue further therapy since the process changed, warranting each family to have non disabled peers join in the sessions. I did not agree with this philosophy, nor did we happen to know anyone in the neighborhood in the same age group. The Therapist wanted to go around the corner to get some children from a Head Start Project and bring them to my house on a weekly basis to partake in therapy along with my children, which I was against.
Available at the website of Spectrum Connections, www.SpectrumConnections.com - you can purchase Volume One and Volume Two at $12.99 each with the accompanying CD at $8.49. There is a special package deal for all three, which we have - for $29.98. Besides accepting Credit cards, you can also download an order form and mail a check or money order or use paypal.
At the site you can view a clip from the DVDs and get a sense of what will be in store for the child on the Autism Spectrum who would benefit from the DVDs and CD. This is perfectly suitable for classroom use for smaller children, a support group setting and to give as a gift for a teacher, therapist or family member to keep on hand for using with children on the Spectrum and other special-needs children.
In my household we do things backwards often, such as the case with the DVDs and CD. We had a very small TV/VCR in the living room and would use a SpongeBob DVD player for DVDs. In the bedroom is a larger television combo. Over the holidays I purchased a portable DVD player that made watching DVDs easier for us.
And more recently we got a larger television for the living room that included a combo with DVD and Video. We still have way more Videos than DVDs in our house. Almost a year ago we had a home burglary that removed two extra TV Combos I had on my back porch, a portable DVD player in the house along with printer, two digital cameras and the video camera. It has taken awhile to replace these items. Luckily the burglars kept the SpongeBob DVD player behind as well as the Free Willy DVD.
Since it truly was a hassle to watch DVDs before getting the new TV Combo thanks to the income tax refund, we were listening for weeks on end to the CD. Matthew would sit on the floor here in the computer room next to the boombox and play with his puzzles while the CD would play over and over. He really seemed to enjoy listening to Elizabeth sing and play the guitar.
The CD does not have any of the children singing on it, like they engage on the DVD. The first DVD I played for us as a family was Volume Two, Body Movement. I figured this would appeal to Matthew more than emotions. It has been such a hit that Matthew has requested Volume Two twice since viewing it the first time. He hands me the box and sits beside me on the couch to watch.
The very first time we watched Spectrum Connections: Connecting Through Music, Volume Two Body Movement I also had the CD in the boombox playing. They did not start at the same time, but Matthew immediately got up after hearing the beginning of the first song in the DVD and put his ear to the boombox. He made the connection instantly that this DVD had songs that he had heard for awhile and was pleased to notice this.
I feel having heard the CD for awhile without viewing the DVD made it possible for Matthew to enjoy the DVD due to the recognition of the songs. He is able to sit, watch and listen to the thirty-minute DVD without leaving the room. It seems he connects more with what they are doing on the screen since he knows the tunes and can now visually connect the images to the songs.
Before even viewing the DVD he would request the CD, and now requests it often. For those unaware Matthew is nine years old with severe autism as well as being nonverbal. He is not toilet trained and is on medication. Matthew has responded over the years to various adults who are engaging in nature. There was a substitute teacher for his previous school who had retired from special education. This gentleman had a grandson who was a toddler, and he had a talent for reading books outloud to the children in the classroom. Matthew would be mesmerized by his voice and enjoyed his visits. Whenever I knew the teacher would be out I would insist she get Mr. Smith for the class.
It looks like the host and musical therapist for the DVDs, Elizabeth Balzano has that same quality about her that can capture the attention of a child on the Autism Spectrum, which can be a difficult task to accomplish. The DVDs follow the format of a music therapy class.
Volume One, Connecting Emotions covers Happy, Sad, Silly and Mad within its thirty minute presentation with the same children. The bonus features for this Volume have a segment with Elizabeth discussing what exactly Music Therapy is, with tips for daily use in including these within the daily activities. There is also a segment with parents sharing their experiences.
Educational Autism Tips for Families 71 page resourceful ebook for families entering the school system with a recent autism diagnosis. Find out what issues take place over the course of a school day and meet these challenges head on.