Guest Author - Bonnie Sayers
I recently wrote an overview of the products available through Spectrum Connections and will now focus on the DVD Connecting Body Movement.
This thirty minute DVD is done with a white background with five children and the Music Therapist Elizabeth Balzano, MA, MT-BC. This is similar to what would take place during a music therapy session for children on the Autism Spectrum.
Elizabeth guides the children with songs, puppets and segments outside that deal with teaching how to do various skills while in a group setting. The animated character Balloo is also featured. He comes out of a yellow ball and looks like a rugrat.
It appears this was filmed during spring or summer since the children are wearing shorts. The children are Tucker, Zaid, Victoria, Jenny and Deanna. They begin with a Hello song that introduces the children as their name is mentioned. They have small colorful rugs that sometimes the children dance and stomp on. They are seated in a circle in small yellow chairs as Elizabeth is in front of them with her guitar.
Some of the segments use puppets by both the children and Elizabeth. They wave their hands in the air, stomp their feet, pretend to be animals, shake their bodies and end with a closing song. Elizabeth tells the children that when they see the crocodile it is time to sing the Goodbye song.
The puppets are that of a frog, monkey, dog and crocodile. The children are also in costumes for the animal segment, similar to Halloween costumes and masks. These look like a dog, elephant and chicken costumes with dog and lion masks. The kids appear to be enjoying themselves with the costumes and masks on taking turns removing their masks and squealing with delight.
The outside segments are on a sidewalk with a lawn on both sides. They start to walk down the hill, with Elizabeth in front when she announces to stop and explains what they will be learning at this time. They go through practicing stopping after playing, getting in line, sitting at the picnic table and sitting down on the grass.
These segments are not one after another, but dispersed throughout Connecting Body Movement. Elizabeth looks at the camera to explain to the viewer that some children have a difficult time stopping after playing or standing in a line or sitting down when told to. She goes through the steps of having the kids play for a few seconds before giving the command that they need to follow. She usually does it 2-3 times before the segment comes to an end. During these segments the kids are holding balloons, tennis rackets, and playing with a basketball.
For the shake body segment the children and Elizabeth do their heads, legs, hands and arms. They look like they are having a good time moving around and singing. They proceed to the Up and Down segment where Elizabeth does a song where you sing up high and then down low. The song, "A smile is just a frown turned upside down" is really nice to listen to. The girls have blue pom poms that they shake around for this segment as well, looking like junior cheerleaders.
For the goodbye song each child takes turns holding the stuffed crocodile while Elizabeth sings, "See ya later alligator, after awhile crocodile". Each child passes the crocodile to the next child. The children are very interactive and comfortable in front of the camera and with Elizabeth. They are waving, dancing in their solo segments and friendly with one another.
There are bonus features where you can see children from SNACK create artwork. Special Needs Activity Center for Kids is located in New York. The Director mentions that you don't have to talk to create artwork.
Dr. Amy Davies Lackey, Ph.D., BACA answers questions for newly diagnosed families in another bonus feature. There is a chalkboard where the questions are typed in on the screen before Amy responds with answers. She is very comfortable in the setting like she is talking to parents giving them these responses. I liked many of her answers and thought she was experienced in the field by the way she replied. She did not look old enough to have been in practice for a long time, but is very in tune with the autism community.
She mentions being pre-prepared with a notebook organized with progress reports, assessments, medical data and IEPS. I also have something like this for my kids and have a current school photo on the cover so that all team members at the meeting can see who we are discussing.
Amy also suggests having a notepad for questions to ask, make note of some of these ahead of time. She refers to the parent as an active participant and to have open communication. It is important to have open dialogue with teaachers and to make sure that the kid is getting what they need.
Amy discusses Behavior - referring to keeping a child home who might carry on while out in public as social isolation. She says if you don't take them out they will not learn new opportunities. I have never thought of it like this and it makes sense. What I have not liked is having a therapist go along with you on shopping trips trying to correct their behavior. That happened when my kids were very young and it was not successful. I prefer to be alone with my kids while shopping.
Amy explains how to set small goals for the child on the Autism Spectrum Start with baby steps like five minutes and go larger when success is made to reinforce the small steps. Another discussion is on learning different skills in different environments. This is the response when a question is posed as to why a child does certain things at home and then not at school or the other way.
Amy covers how the school is a more structured controlled setting. At home you are dealing perhaps with other children, making dinner, doing laundry and attending to tasks and errands. She suggests trying to carry out at home something that works at school and to learn strategies to implement them.
She stated at one point in her segment that "attention can equal competition" this was in reference to siblings geting time alone with the parent and having the attention on them. Amy also suggested involving the siblings in therapy sessions where they can learn to interact.
Amy instructs parents to be wary of professionals who make promises they cannot keep or want to promise a cure. She mentions some resources like The Autism Society of America and the Cambridge Center and the Association for Science and Autism Treatment. I am not familiar with the last two she mentioned and would have liked more information on getting in touch with these, but a google search should produce results.
She ends with saying that we should focus on the child to be able to participate with others who do not have disabilities instead of cures and outgrowing autism. The question asked was if someone could outgrow autism. The child learns at their pace and we cannot measure their potential.
Amy really did give some great advice coming from a professional. Usually you get this type of response from another parent of a child on the Autism Spectrum, so it was nice to see a professional get it. I am going to have to research her to see if she has written any articles online or in print media.
The DVD Connecting Body Movement has something for the kids and the parents with the bonus features. I highly recommend this for rainy days, school breaks to be viewed with other children and for therapists to view and see how the children play and learn in the musical environment.
It would be perfectly suited for relatives of a child on the Autism Spectrum to have on hand for when the child visits over Holidays and vacations. If flying or traveling with a child the family should get the DVD to make the transition smoother and to keep child entertained while on plane, train or in the vehicle.
We took the train last summer going Business Coach for a little more money and more space. We brought along the portable DVD player and the kids watched DVDs there and in the Holiday Inn upon arrival.
To purchase the DVD for $12.99 visit www.spectrumconnections.com, or click here. The DVDs can also be found at Border's and Barnes and Noble.