Intervention Inspiration Series: Communication and Social Interaction

As a new initiative for MTSA this summer, we are choosing to share different ideas for Music Therapy practice in the hopes that this will provide a valuable resource for beginning music therapists and as inspiration for practicing therapists. Every Monday, a different intervention idea will be presented. They will be very basic and will be best as beginning inspiration to be varied and adapted for different clinical settings. They may include specific music, but will typically only indicate the style of music to be incorporated.

The following basic format will be given for each intervention: 1) Activity, the type of intervention; 2) Target population, the intended client population for the intervention; 3) Materials, the instruments and supplies required; 4) Goals/Aims, ideas for goals or aims that could be addressed in the intervention; 5) Method, a detailed description of what would occur during the intervention; 6) Comments, an explanation of why this intervention is applicable for the given client population and how the goals/aims are addressed; and 7) Evaluation, questions to allow for reflection on whether or not the intervention was effective for a particular client or clients.

Communication and Social Interaction

by Hannah Kennedy

Communication and Social Interaction

Photo Source


Tony Chestnut Knows I Hear You

(Toe – knee – chest – nose [head] – nose – eye – hear [ear] – you.)

A variation on “Tony Chestnut”, from Tony Chestnut & Fun Time Action Songs (source).

Target Population:

Children with mild Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), aged 10-12.


CD player (if there is no co-therapist)



– To give children an opportunity to play with other children of a similar age and diagnosis

– To facilitate children feeling part of a group and making them aware that they are heard

– To encourage group participation

– To encourage eye contact

– To motivate children to interact with others in the group

– To encourage children to listen and follow cues (such as touching their toes, knees, or nose)

– To facilitate learning (pronouncing) of words


The music therapist will encourage the children to form a semi-circle, so that every child is able to see the music therapist.  Then the music therapist plays the song for the children on the guitar (which allows the music therapist to be close to the children as opposed to playing the piano).  The children are then encouraged to sing along. Then the music therapist performs the movement to the song and the children are motivated to listen and carefully watch the music therapist act out the movements.  Then the children join in and do the movements.  At the phrase ‘I hear you’ the children are encouraged to point at others in the group.  This will facilitate eye contact and interaction with others.  When the children know the movements to the song well enough, they may be encouraged to form a circle, to enable the children to look at each other as they perform the movements to the song that is played on the CD player.  The CD player is used, so the music therapist is able to participate in the song movements together with the children.  However, it would be ideal if there was a co-therapist so that one therapist could play the piano (or the guitar) and the other one could interact with the children.  This would also make it possible to have live music which would be very useful in that the tempo could easily be adjusted to suit the movements of the children.


Children with ASD often have difficulties relating to other people.  They lack an understanding of non-verbal behaviours such as facial expression, body posture, eye contact, etc.  Rarely do they share attention spontaneously with other people.  They also struggle with expressive and receptive communication, and following verbal instructions may be very difficult for them (Kern, 2013).

Research has shown that music therapy can have a positive impact on children with ASD.  It has the potential to improve communication, interpersonal, personal responsibility, and play skills (Whippler, 2013).

The lyrics of this song may facilitate children with ASD to feel part of a group and make them aware of being heard by others.  The song encourages children with ASD to follow easy verbal instructions (such as touching their toes when singing ‘toe’) which may improve their receptive language.  The song also encourages eye contact, as children will observe the therapist perform movements such as ‘I’.  Group interaction is facilitated by pointing at others when singing ‘I hear you’.  Being able to make eye contact and interact with others in the group can improve social interaction and facilitate children with ASD to make friends.


Did all children participate in the song movements?  If not, why?

Were the children given enough time to learn the movements?

What type of reaction did the participants express? (e.g. smiling, frowning, etc.)

Was the song too fast? (too slow?)

Did the children point at each other at the phrase ‘I hear you’?

Did the children make eye contact with the therapist and/or with each other?


Kern, P. (2013).  Autism Spectrum Disorders Primer: Characteristics, causes, prevalence, and intervention.  In P. Kern & M. Humpal (Eds.), Early childhood music therapy and autism spectrum disorder: Developing potential in young children and their families (p. 23-38). Philadelphia, USA: Jessica Kingsley Publishers.

Whipple, J (2013).  Music therapy as an effective treatment for young children with autism spectrum disorder: A meta-analysis.  In P. Kern * M. Humpal (Eds.), Early childhood music therapy and autism spectrum disorders: Developing potential in young children and their families (p. 58-78).  Philadelphia, USA: Jessica Kingsley Publishers.



About Laurier MTSA

We are a student association at Wilfrid Laurier University and most of our members are students in the Music Therapy program. We exist to educate about, promote, and support the work of music therapy, and to support the academic, career, and personal needs of the Music Therapy Students. Our mandate is to unite prospective, current and alumni students while promoting our profession in the larger community.
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