Success Stories & Functional Sign Language

Sign Language Success Stories

I am so excited to share with you that we will be releasing the Functional Sign Language Song Crate CMTE course on Tuesday! In this course, you will learn how to sign nine songs and receive practical applications for use in your sessions.

I use sign language every day with a variety of populations and ages. I want to share with you a few of my favorite stories of the impact of sign language in music therapy.

I was working with an adult with a developmental delay in an assisted living facility who was very emotional and experienced separation anxiety with many staff and people in her life. She had experienced the loss of close family members and her goal was to begin processing those emotions.

We used “Bring on the Rain” by Jo Dee Messina every week. I started by teaching her the sign for “rain”. She quickly caught on and I began adding a few more signs week to week. When she felt defeated, we would refer back to the song. As I taught her sign by sign, we broke down the meaning of the song in a way that was simple and clear.

By the end of that treatment period she had learned the whole song. She was smiling much more and crying much less. It was clear that it had a positive affect on her self-esteem and gave her an opportunity to explore her emotions in a more structured and safe way.

I spend approximately 12 hours of my week at a school for children with autism, cerebral palsy, adverse behaviors which require additional support staff, and in general, multiple disabilities. I serve these children ages 10-22 with group and individual music therapy.

I had a client whom I was seeing in the group and individual setting when we began working on increasing her appropriate self-expression and limiting her self-injurious behaviors (i.e. biting, hitting, pinching, pulling hair, etc.). When asked a question, she would often begin a self-injurious behavior. She was able to speak, but struggled at the time to use that speech as a method for effective self-expression. The client was encouraged in class and other therapies to verbalize, but her growth was slow moving.

When she started individual music therapy sessions, I decided to try something different. I wanted to focus on using sign language as a way to decrease her negative behaviors and then build verbalization on that. We started with simple signs like “hello”, “wait”, “please”, “all done”, “help”, and “more”. She learned these signs much more quickly than I had anticipated and so I began to add more signs like “help”, “eat”, and “bathroom”.

I began signing everything I spoke or sang in her sessions, and she began learning signs more quickly than I could teach her. Soon thereafter, her behaviors dramatically decreased and she was promoted to a life skills classroom where she can receive support to challenge her academic skills and build as much independence as possible.

I regularly use sign language within the early childhood setting to support speech development and social skills in our youngest little ones. They may not always be able to isolate their fingers to perfectly execute the sign, but if they are able to increase self-expression and communication in support of those very important developmental markers, then they are off to a wonderful start on their expressive journey!

I am a believer in the potential for sign language in music therapy. Be on the lookout for the course release early next week to explore how sign language can be an effective tool in your practice!

Dancing, Singing, and Joy: Music Therapy in the Early Childhood Setting

Music Therapy | Springfield, IL | Music Therapy Connections

Every Thursday morning, I have the opportunity to do one of my favorite things. I provide music therapy services at a day care. I absolutely love seeing their little faces light up when they see me walk through the door.

Even our littlest clients can’t wait for me to call their names for music time. We play familiar songs, from traditional to pop covers, and use them to exercise these little ones physically, mentally, and socially. We share, play instruments, read stories, and are always learning new things.

I have always loved working with children. When I was seven, my baby brother was born. I was anxious to help him, teach him, and watch him grow. From the time my brother was born, my mother had a home day care. I would spend time after school and summers helping and playing with the children.

My mother eventually went back to school, and I started babysitting my brother from the time I was eleven every day after school. Although he was still my annoying little brother, for those few hours I enjoyed taking care of him and keeping him safe.

By the time I was fourteen, I had my first job babysitting two children all summer. It was hard work, but they taught me so much about being the best care taker I can be and how to really encourage them to success every day.

It has been almost eleven years since my first official job working with children, and I am still following my passion. Now my baby brother is ready to graduate high school, and I am a music therapist using my love for child development every single day.

Currently my day care students are playing:

  • Fruit shakers
  • Rhythm sticks
  • Bean bags
  • Ukulele

They are learning about:

  • The names of fruit
  • Taking turns
  • Body part names
  • Memory recall with our book from week to week
  • And so much more!

What a wonderful career I have that I am allowed the opportunity to see these little ones grow and learn every day.

To learn more about our music therapy services, email us at


Music Therapy and Dementia

As a music therapist, I am deeply aware of the power and possibility of what intentional music can do for someone’s life. When it comes to working with older adults, I am often tagged in videos like this one below. I want to share with you what I see when I watch this video.

What I love about this video:

This is a wonderful example of how music can invoke memory recall and engage the brain in a different way than most other daily activities. This video is sweet, endearing, and moving. As a music therapist, there is nothing I love more than seeing beautiful moments in music.

What I want you to know:

This type of musical engagement with iPods is not music therapy. Though playing preferred music for residents in a care facility may invoke memory responses, it is missing one thing: intention.

A music therapist offers almost all live music in a therapeutic session during which the therapist can assess and address not only memory, but also motor, speech, social skills and more. Another distinct difference in these programs is that when a resident reaches a point where memory is invoked, the music therapist engages him or her in a way that promotes a positive and safe experience and understands how to encourage memory recall again.

Of course, the final difference is that this program requires administrators to take a training. A board certified-music therapist, on the other hand, is required to complete a bachelors or masters degree in an accredited music therapy program, complete a 1040 hour internship, and then pass a board certification exam and maintain that certification with continuing education.

I am so happy that there are iPod programs to bring music to facilities that may not have access to a music therapist. I absolutely love what I do. I love being able to help people with clinical music therapy. It is my passion and my purpose.

I hope you’ll enjoy this video of music therapy with an older adult.

Register for music lessons or music therapy

Functional Sign Language Song Crate: Your Step-by-Step Guide for Signing to Music

Functional Sign Language for Music Therapists

I am so excited to share with you what I have been working on for the past few months! When I created the Functional Sign Language for Music Therapists CMTE course, I intended to teach need-to-know signs for professionals. After completing the course, though, I felt that there was something missing. I wanted to share with you how I break down and sign to songs and dive into how I use sign language to address the goals of my clients.

From this came the idea for our new resource: the Functional Sign Language Song Crate! This song crate is your go-to resource for how to use sign language in any song! You will learn ten songs that are suitable for clients in childhood through adulthood and explore how sign language can be interwoven with the goals and growth of your clients!

Functional Sign Language for Music Therapists | Sign Collage

I am passionate about what sign language can do because I have seen it used as a highly effective tool for reaching motor, social, emotional, and communication goals for people of all ages and abilities!

Take a look at an official sneak peek at the Functional Sign Language Song Crate, coming soon!

Is there a song you would like to learn how to sign? Head over to our Facebook group and cast your vote for a song we should include in the song crate!

Music Therapy and Music Lessons: The Best of Both Worlds

When first meeting a new client, I am often asked something like this:

I think my son would really benefit from music therapy, but he has always wanted to learn how to play piano. Is there any way that we can do both? 

The short answer is…absolutely! First, lets break down our service options. Here at Music Therapy Connections we offer lessons, adaptive lessons, and music therapy in addition to other groups and services.

Lessons are the best fit for students who feel comfortable learning at a traditional pace and level of complexity. These students are assigned to one of our many teachers based on their interests, schedule, and special requests.

Adaptive lessons are the primary choice for students who want to focus on learning an instrument and the related musical goals, but need some additional time, support, understanding, or even alternative teaching methods. We assign these students to a teacher who can meet their special considerations and needs all while supporting them in reaching their musical achievements.

Music Class at Pleasant Park

Music therapy is a service provided by one of our board-certified music therapists and focuses on non-musical goals regarding domains such as communication, academia, cognition, motor, emotional, social, behavioral, life skills goals and more. Music therapy can be a wonderful support for people of all ages and abilities in reaching their non-musical goals. That being said, I am often asked if I can incorporate a music lesson or similar structure into Music therapy sessions. We absolutely can. The only differentiator is that in Music therapy, any musical goals are always secondary to our non-musical goals.

My focus as a therapist and teacher is that my students and clients walk away from my studio with more than when they came in, whether that be more resources, more strength, more support, or more knowledge. I am so blessed to be a part of my clients’ story, lives, and growth.

Adult Piano Lessons in Springfield, Illinois