Sensory Processing

Sensory processing is defined by Carol Stock Kranowitz in The Out of Sync Child as, “neurological procedure of organizing the information we take in from our bodies and the world around us for use in daily life.”

Parts of sensory processing:

  • Reception and detection: sensations received in the PNS and CNS notices them
  • Integration: sensory systems connect in the brain
  • Modulation: brain’s regulation of sensory input
  • Discrimination: tell the difference between sensory stimuli, allows us to perceive quality, similarities, and differences among sensations
  • Postural responses and praxis: get into and stay in a stable position, conceptualize a sequenced movement, organize body, and execute the task

The infographic below depicts these parts of the process and the cyclical manner in which they occur.

Blue Violet Lifecycle Cycle Diagram (1).jpg

When any of these parts of the process is disrupted, sensory processing disorder occurs. Kranowitz defines sensory processing disorder as, “the inability to use information received through the senses in order to function smoothly in daily life.” Subtypes and symptoms of the disorder include:

  • Sensory modulation problems: (over responsive) avoids touching or being touched, avoids moving or being moved, insecure about balance, rigid and uncoordinated, over excited with too much to look at, covers ears, objects to normal odors, objects to textures and temperatures of foods. (under responsive) unaware of physical feelings, protects self poorly, ignores visual stim, responds slowly to approaching objects, ignores ordinary sounds, unaware of odors, eat food without reaction. (sensory craving) bumps into people, craves spinning and movement, craves squeezes, seeks visual stim, attracted to shiny things, welcomes loud noises, seeks strong odors.  
  • Sensory discrimination problems: poor body awareness, cannot feel self falling, clumsy, difficulty telling differences in pictures or expressions, differentiating between sounds, cannot distinguish smells
  • Sensory-based motor problems: loose/floppy muscle tone, loses balance easily, difficulty using both sides of body at once, no hand preference
  • Dyspraxia: difficulty understanding and doing complex/sequenced movements, poor coordination, difficulty with manual tasks and using both eyes together, may drool excessively and trouble articulating speech

Treatment/therapies for sensory processing disorder have proven to be effective in improving sensory processing in children. If you recognize these symptoms in your child or client, a formal diagnosis can be made by a healthcare professional, and several free treatment options may be available through state and community based programs.

You can purchase The Out of Sync Child on Amazon here


Podcasts for the Modern Music Therapist

Over the past few months, I’ve gotten really into podcasts. I have a lot of drive time with my current schedule, and sometimes I don’t really feel like listening to music during/after a busy day full of music therapy. But driving in silence doesn’t seem all that fun either. That’s when podcasts came into my life and rocked my drive time. I get to chill out, decompress, but still feel like I’m maximizing my time because I’m LEARNING!

There are several music therapy specific podcasts, each with their own topics and specialties. Here is a quick guide to some current music therapy podcasts to help you find one that best meets your listening interests.


    • Where to Listen: Apple Podcasts, Google Play Music, the website:
    • Who’s speaking?: Brea Murakami
    • Some Topics covered: “Music, Rewards, and Dopamine,” “Personality and Music Preference” “Music and Shopping Preference”
    • About: “Instru(mental) is a podcast that explores how music impacts our behavior, thoughts, and feelings. We review music psychology research in an approachable and digestible way from a music therapist’s perspective. And, every episode offers practical takeaways to apply what you learn into daily life!”


AMTA-PRO Podcast Series

  • Where to Listen: on the website:, or subscribe to listen on iTunes through the website
  • Who’s speaking?: various music therapists
  • Some topics covered: “Addressing Cognitive Skills in Children with ASD,” “Guide to Clinical MT Research,” “ Preventative MT in Limited-Resource Communities,” “What is Mindfulness Anyway?”
  • About: “AMTA-Pro is filled to the brim with a wealth of podcasts featuring your colleagues sharing reflections, strategies, insider tips, and details about every aspect of music therapy.”


Music Therapy Research Blog

  • Where to Listen: on their website
  • Who’s speaking?: Andrew Knight, Ph.D, MT-BC and Blythe LaGasse, Ph.D, MT-BC interview various music therapy researchers
  • Some topics covered: effects of music therapy on pain, the efficacy of music therapy concerning neurologic music therapy, and Guided Imagery & Music with medical patients
  • About: “The purpose of this blog is to provide a resource for the music therapy clinician – where you can find unsolicited information on current research, ways to generalize findings into practice, and tips about maintaining an evidence-based practice. The intent is not to “prove” or “disprove” any one methodology in music therapy – it is to simply present what is found.”


The Travelling Music Therapist

  • Where to Listen: iTunes, Google Play, SoundCloud, or their website (PlayerFM)
  • Who’s speaking: various music therapists
  • Some topics covered: “Being A New MT Grad in Germany,” “The Experiences of a Registered Music Therapist in central Japan,” “Pioneering Music Therapy”
  • About: This podcast includes interviews from music therapists all over the world, giving listeners a global perspective of music therapy.


Guitars and Granola Bars

  • Where to Listen: Apple Podcasts, the website:
  • Who is speaking?: Rachel Rambach, MM, MT-BC
  • Some topics covered: “Prioritizing Self Care,” “Making Music for Ourselves,” “Wearing Multiple Hats in Music Class”
  • About: “A podcast and blog for music therapists and anyone else balancing a passion-fueled career with being a parent.”




What’s Gonna Work? Teeeeamwork!

I recently had the chance to attend a meeting for one of my clients to discuss her current progress and goals. This meeting included her music therapy team (Angela, Tara, and me), her supported communication therapist, her teachers, and her parents. This client has recently had a breakthrough in the area of communication, and we are all wanting to celebrate this and find every possible way for her to use her voice. She is nineteen years old, entering a pretty pivotal time of her life. This meeting was also to talk about how we can all set her up for success as she moves into this next phase of life and independence.

I was so glad to attend this meeting for many reasons. First of all, I am an only intern and I don’t think I would commonly get the opportunity to be a part of this conversation. Secondly, (I know I’m not supposed to have favorites, but…) this is one of my favorite clients. I have had so much fun coming up with new interventions for her and seeing her amazing progress week to week. Thirdly, I was so glad that her parents value music therapy enough for us to be a part of this core conversation.

We were all able to share what we are currently working on with her, specific interventions that are working/not working for those goals, and our plans for the future. I loved hearing about what her communication therapist is doing with her, and make some transfers/think about how I can use some of what she’s doing in my sessions. Her teachers shared what her day-to-day life is like at school, and how she can be using some of these communication tools during the school day. It was also really neat to share some of the things that have worked for her in our sessions. I’ve created several interventions based on her communication goals and preferences. It was nice to share those tools with her teachers and therapist. It was also great to share with her parents how well she has been doing in our sessions, how smart she really is, and reinforce how music is such a powerful, unique, and motivating way for her to work on effective communication.

This meeting made me realize the utmost importance of open communication among parents and the various treatment professionals that are working with their child. If we are all working on different goals, it isn’t necessarily a “bad” thing. We may all recognize different needs and prioritize them differently. However, we can all be much more effective for the client if we are working on similar things, bringing our own unique skills and practices to the table. I also realize that this sort of meeting isn’t always a realistic option for every therapist, family, or treatment team. Any form of open communication is important (even if it is an email or text chain), and may be the next step in the client reaching that goal.



We’re Gonna Have Fun at Camp Jam (CAMP JAM!)

Camp Jam was by far one of the best experiences of my internship. Seeing the passionate dedication of the volunteers and the effect that they had on the kiddos’ growth over the week was incredible. The change I saw in the kids’ behavior, engagement, and attitudes from the first day to just the third day was amazing. On the first day, the kids were getting used to the space and the schedule, and they were not engaging too much with each other. By the third day, three of the younger kiddos were forming conga lines during songs, shaking hands and high fiving each other with no prompting, and asking good conversation questions.

I was able to lead some of the younger groups’ music therapy time, and it was such a joy. We did some social interaction songs, shaker songs for attention and following directions, etc. It was a different experience for me, as my typical schedule includes adult and older adult groups, and individual sessions with kids. Blending those skills into doing a group with kids was really interesting, and I’m thankful to have had that experience.

Each day of camp, there is a featured guest musician who comes and plays a set for the kiddos to dance, sing, and interact to. The guest musicians that I was able to see were wonderful. A few staff members and I got a bit excited when Steve Denyes did his “She’ll Be Coming Round the Mountain,” because we all either currently use or have used his version in our sessions. The heart that he has for sharing music with children was a beautiful thing to witness. The kids loved all of his songs, and they were singing along and interacting with each other throughout his whole set. You can watch Steve’s live performance from camp here: You can also check out his band here:

If you ever have the chance to get involved with a Camp Jam program, you won’t regret it! Whether you are a high school or college student thinking about music therapy, a musician with a love for serving others, or you just love working with kids, Camp Jam is the place to volunteer. If you have kiddos with special needs, this camp is truly a place of growth, belonging, and fun, and might be a great choice to keep in mind for your plans next summer.  If you are interested, you can sign up to volunteer here: