Teaching Imitation Skills Through Music

Think about all of the things you learned by watching someone else do it.  For me it's easier to see someone do it so I can imitate what I saw.  We learn so much through imitation!  From a very young age that's how we start to learn.  Now let's take that away.  Let's say you don't know how to imitate.  How do you learn how to communicate?  How do you learn how to speak?  How do you learn how do a puzzle?  How do you learn to read?  How do you learn?  Granted there are definitely some skills that kids learn without ever seeing it done before, but how much do we learn through imitation?

Teaching a child with autism can be a challenge because many children with autism do not have imitation skills.  Why is that?  Well, it starts with their interest in others.  If a child rarely looks at you, or if they just give fleeting eye contact, it can be hard to get them to imitate something you are doing.  

Music is a powerful tool.  Many kids are interested in rhythm and music.  It can be a great teaching technique.  It's great for teaching kids to stay in their seats, to be able to tolerate sitting next to someone, to be able to attend to an activity for an extended period of time, to teach imitation skills, etc.

This was one of my favorite songs to sing with the kids right before it was time to wash their hands.  It helped them transition, and we used it for learning certain vocabulary, especially body parts, clothes, actions, and emotions.  It was also great for learning how to imitate our actions.

To the tune of London Bridges

Everybody clap your hands, clap your hands, clap your hands
Everybody clap your hands, do what I'm doing.

Easy!  Then we would add things like
  • Everybody spin around
  • Everybody cry like me
  • Everybody touch your shoes
And we would end with
  • Everybody wash your hands
Joy Mano
Utah PLAY Project Home Consultant
Early Childhood Intervention for Children With Autism

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