Parents: A Developmental Perspective

Hi all,

This new blog post is written by Melanie Feller, M.A., CCC-SLP. Melanie is a Speech and Language Pathologist and DIRFloortime practitioner. Her post discusses some differences between ABA and DIR via a the parent perspective. If you have have questions or would like to express suggestion or thoughts, please do so here and/or email Melanie.

Parents: A Developmental Perspective

As music therapists and as speech therapists (and as many other types of therapeutic practitioners) we frequently find ourselves meeting concerned parents. Perhaps the parent who is concerned about their child’s overall development or the parent who is worried that they don’t know how to help their child. Perhaps the parent who feels like they have no relationship with their child. Sometimes we may be the first step, when the parent has heard about the benefits of DIRFloortime, and sometimes we may be the last, when the parent decides that ABA simply isn’t working. But either way, we frequently meet a parent who shares they feel a bit (or very) overwhelmed, and they don’t really feel like they have the tools with which to support their child.

Behavioral therapy suggests leaving the parent out of the equation (and many parents will attest to this – i.e. therapy taking place behind closed doors, parental involvement eschewed) unless it is to train the parent on how to follow through on ABA principles taught in session. Following directions and using scripted words to request are frequent goals. Compliance and “fitting in” are paramount.

Therapy from a developmental perspective however suggests this behavioral focus is misplaced.

The DIRFloortime perspective is one that places great emphasis on the relationship between parent and child, with specific focus on each and every individual difference. This focus allows […]

Facilitating musical interaction when clients become dysregulated in music therapy: What comes first, co-regulation or interaction?

Raging ToddlerHi all,

The question of what comes first, co-regulation or interaction was inspired by a conversation that I had with music therapy colleague regarding helping a child, who has difficulty modulating his emotions, maintain reciprocal interactions for a sustain period of time. Here’s the short of it:

This particular child, Peter, displays difficulty sustaining reciprocal interactions due to his challenges dealing with emotional modulation. Thus, his ability to co-regulate for extended periods is constricted by challenges related to modulating his emotions while interacting. Simply put, his emotional range 1-dimensional, meaning that it expresses ONLY in the extremes, i.e., 0-100. Following 10-15 circles or 4-5 measures of back and forth musical-play interaction, Peter becomes “overloaded” emotionally as well as sensorily and withdraws from the interaction in a hypo responsive manner by becoming agitated while attempting to leave the room in a very aggressive manner.

So…what to do when the child becomes emotionally “overloaded,” dysregulated and wants to leave the room? There are two sides or opinions as to possibly work with this particular child during these challenging moments. One side of the discussion suggests, “first, YOU need to regulate the child. YOU can not do anything with him until he is completely regulated and attentive. Thus, stop the play and begin to calm him down. Once he is regulated, then return musical engagement. In addition, musical-play, be very sensitive and careful not to dysregulate him. If the child does become dysregulated, the play must stop again and techniques should be focused on regulated him. This may involve placing him in his seat, or provide some type of sensory input e.g., weighted vest, brushing, etc. Again, once he is regulated […]

Learning and Developing via Relational Musical-Play Experiences in Music Therapy

frank and cimdy4frank and cimdy4frank and cimdy4williampic-2Hi all,

This blog post includes some immediate and brief thoughts regarding the clinical rationale of back-and-forth relational music making between client and therapist. In addition, it touches on the importance of  contextualizing music therapy experiences within a relationship-based framework, as well as emphasizing  the significance of affective-based interactions.

Several moths ago I presented to a group of parents, therapists, and educators. During the talk I displayed a clinical video excerpt illustrating a continuous flow of co-active and related music making between the therapist and client. During the interaction, the client, an autistic 8 year-old boy who displays difficulty in sustaining self-regulation and with challenges in the area of sustained engagement and interaction, sits in his chair and musically participates with the therapist via social referencing and non-verbal, but tonal, vocalizations. The therapist, improvising a short melodic phrase  (playing guitar and voice) pauses the music following the 3rd beat of the phrase. The client, referencing the therapist via a glance and a bewildered look on his face, follows the musical pause by glancing in the direction of the therapist on the 4th beat of the phrase. The therapist interprets the glance as a musical response and “turns the phrase around,”pausing after the 3rd beat. The client again references the therapist with a glance, but this time offers a smile accompanied by a tonal vocalization. The therapist alters the musical phrase by increasing tempo and articulating the melody vocally in a staccato manner. The client […]

ASD, DIR/Floortime, Sensory-Motor, & Affect

Hi Parents and Clinicians, You may want to set 40 minutes aside to watch this youtube presentation on ASD, DIR, & sensory motor given by, in my opinion, one of the best occupational therapists in the field, Rosemary White. Her ability to profile a child’s sensory system, within the context of relationship-based work, is remarkable! Several years ago, I was lucky enough to participate in several 1:1 clinical supervisions with Rosemary. It was incredibly informative as she conceptualized my work, not only within the DIR model, but also identified the sensory-motor processes that were occurring within the musical relationship process. Here she is presenting an ASD conference:

Thanks for reading and watching!



The Times They are A Changin’: New Discoveries Leading to NEW Ways of Working with Children w/ASD

dylanHi all,

The times that have guided treatment interventions for children with ASD are certainly changing.’ But why has it been so difficult for folks to embrace this change and incorporate these new findings and discoveries into their work? Do I dare say that politics and funding play a role? Or  even dare say that special interests groups/folks in the world of ASD have certain “power sources” to steer agendas? Or, how-about the thought that folks choose certain research studies to support an agenda? Whatever the case is, the ones getting hurt are children and their families. They are the ones that are not being given a choice, and in turn, are not fully made aware of alternatives and truths.

Why are families of children with ASD rarely informed of alternative treatment options outside of only one way of working? Is prochoice not permitted in the world of ASD? Why is it that on a weekly basis, and sometimes times daily, I meet with parents of newly diagnosed children, who come into my office expressing that they have never heard of any developmental approach being effective. In addition, I would say that 95% of them say that they have never heard of the DIR/Floortime Model? This is generally followed by them saying, “oh yes, I have heard of music therapy, but what exactly is music therapy? What does a music therapist do? Oh, are you going to teach him songs? He just loves the Beatles!” It’s disheartening.

The purpose of this post is not to preach that developmental approaches  (or that developmentally-based music therapy) are better then behavioral. I’m simply saying that parents should be better informed and […]

1 WEEK left for Early bird Registration for IMCAP Course, Columbia MD


1 week remaining for EARLY BIRD Registration for IMCAP-ND CMTE Course at Howard Community College (Ends on April 15th!)

Are you interested in learning more about working within a Developmental Relationship-based Music Therapy Model? Here’s an opportunity to do so while earning 35 CMTE Credits! Click HERE for more information!

You will expand your knowledge on how to:

  • Create musical experiences that target specific musical areas that deal with
    • A) Social-Emotional Skills
    • B) Cognitive and Perceptual Skills
    • C) Preferences, Efficiency, Arousal Levels
  • Observe, assess, and score target responses within the context of relational musical-play
  • Create and write individualized goals and treatment plans
  • Communicate assessment findings to caregivers and healthcare professionals
  • Gain a deeper understanding of your musical tendencies and habitual responses as a musician and music therapist

By registering for this course you will receive complimentry Developmental, Relationship-based Music Therapy course materials (as  well an opportunity for discounted supervision/coaching): 

  • Receive 50% off IMCAP-based reflective supervision for up to 5 supervision sessions
  • A 10-pack of IMCAP-ND Rating Scale Booklets
  • IMCAP-ND Work Guide that includes:
  • Musical resources for the music therapist
  • Quality of Interaction rating chart
  • Procedural work phase check list
  • Clinical sample of IMCAP-ND rating scores (Scales I, II, & III)
  • IMCAP-ND goal bank
  • Clinical techniques guidelines (procedural phases and music domain areas)

The IMCAP-ND 2-day CMTE course with post-course assignments provides an opportunity to earn 35 CMTE Credits. This course will be held at Howard Community College in Columbia, MD on May 2nd and 3rd.

Click HERE to register!



The Mother, the Baby, and the Song (MUSIC) / MÃE, BEBÊ E MÚSICA

youtube linkHi all,

The following post is authored by my good friend and colleague, André Brandalise. Andre is a music therapist residing in Porte Alegre, Brazil. His post is a response regarding a YouTube video that featured a mom singing to her crying baby. This video drew a great deal of attention throughout several media outlets in Brazil including the popular television program, “Fantástico.”


In Brazil there is a very popular TV show called “Fantástico.” It made its premiere in August 5th, 1973 and became a show dedicated to the Brazilian family which goes on air every Sunday night. It brings different attractions and, among its purposes, does not have the objective to discuss topics in a very deep level. However, it is considered a serious show conducted by important journalists who cover the main facts of the Brazilian week. Well, on Sunday, November 3rd the show tried to understand the phenomenon illustrated through a youtube video. CLICK HERE TO VIEW VIDEO

In this video the reader will see a mother singing to her baby who reacts to it in a very emotional way. The video became really popular in Brazil and Fantástico decided to discuss the phenomenon. In order to understand it, journalists decided to interview professionals of different areas. It was unbelievable that journalists decided not to interview music or music therapy professionals. The interviewd professionals, who may be excellent professionals in their areas, do not have the obligation to understand phenomena involving music therefore what they said, even though made sense about the video, explained only partially what had happened. The interviewd psychologist, for […]

From Emotion to Comprehension: Implications for Music Therapy?

IMG_0686Hi all, after a recent discussion with colleagues regarding the the lens in which we, as therapists, assess and work with client’s specifically in the areas of affect or emotion and cognition, several questions emerged that I like to ask the good folks who follow and read this blog. I would love to hear what others think.

So, here goes::

1) is it possible for the music therapists to assess emotion or affect through a cognitive lens?

2) Is it possible to assess affect or emotion without context of an emotional experience?

3) Is it possible to assess cognition without considering emotional or effective processes? (in other words, can cognition be assessed as an isolated domain area?)

4) If any of the above are answered with “yes,” does that imply that emotion can be “taught”‘ through cognitive processes ( such as teaching a child the emotion of anger through a song that includes the theme of anger, or via a photo of an angry face).

5) Can emotion be assessed and fostered or “learned” via relational experiences that embody emotion or affect (in other words, “learning affect or emotion, through and in actual experiences)? Thoughts?

In thinking about I began to think about a terrific chapter written by Dr. Stanley Greenspan , The Affect Diathesis Hypothesis.  The chapter is taken from the ground breaking book: The First Idea: How Symbols, Language, & Intelligence Evolved from Our Primate Ancestors to Modern HumansAlthough Greenspan contextualizes that particular chapter within autism spectrum disorders, he is basing his theory on typical child development.

Thanks for reading, folks!



PART 2: Considering Musical Dimensions in Relationship-based Work: “The Musicality of the Infant-Parent Relationship and the Foundational Experiences Needed for Mental Health and Peaceful Societies.”

2011, CEHS, faculty, Gerard Costa, CostaG, autismHI all,

This blog post include’s another PowerPoint presentation from the Rebecca Center for Music therapy’s October 11th conference, Considering Musical Dimensions in Relationship-based Work. This particular PowerPoint is from the Key Note presentation given by my friend and colleague, Dr. Gerard Costa. The presentation was entitled, The Musicality of the Infant-Parent Relationship and the Foundational Experiences Needed for Mental Health and Peaceful Societies.”  

Dr. Costa’s talk focused on the topic of essential interactions for infants and how these interactions or lack of may determine how children reach developmental milestones. He brilliantly spoke within a musical context and incorporated a diverse group of developmental theorists while integrating the nueroscience behind afftective interactions.

In addition, he discussed the importance of balance, integration, movement, rhythm, synchrony , integration, orchestration, and symbolization; and how these terms reflect both important experiences in the development of infant and child mental health, as well as in the development of musical composition. He later went on to to describe the interpersonal processes that co-construct the infant brain, and the ways in which certain types of affect-rich experiences help determine or compromise the human capacity for regulation, symbolization and peace. Finally, he tied his talk into how these constructs link to the IMCAP-ND Rating Scales and went on to speak to the relevance of the IMCAP-ND within helping the therapist understand how client’s perceives and make music with the therapist (within the context of relationship!)

As a side note: Dr. Costa and I will be co-presenting a Plenary Lecture on this topic at the upcoming Annual International ICDL DIR/Floortime Conference on October 28th at Montclair State University. This lecture will also feature a discussant panel that  includes: Brian Abrams, Ph.D., MT-BC, LPC, LCAT […]

IMCAP-ND Manual Available for Pre-Ordering!

IMCAP-ND Cover SpreadHello all,

I’m happy to share that the Individual Music-Centered Assessment Profile for Neurodevelopmental Disorders (IMCAP-ND): A Clinical Manual is now available for Pre-Ordering. By Pre-Ordering a copy of the IMCAP-ND Manual you will receive 10 free rating scale booklets (a value of $9.50).

Pre-orders can be made by visiting Developmental Music Health Services at

To view contents and reviews of the IMCAP-ND Manual click on the links below:

Click to Read  Reviews

Click to Read Table of Contents

Click to Read Foreword

Here’s what professionals are saying about the IMCAP-ND:

“The IMCAP-ND is a paradigm shift and revolutionary force, and will surely transform the very landscape of music therapy assessment” -From the book’s foreword, Brian Abrams, Ph.D., LCAT, MT-BC

“This clinical manual will be an indispensable tool for all music therapists who believe in the power of affect to help clients relate and communicate through the experience of musical-play.” -Cecilia Breinbauer, M.D.

“The IMCAP-NC includes three scales that are easily scored and compiled and which give solid information on the client’s strengths and needs as well as clear guidance on setting clinical goals.” -Elizabeth Schwartz, M.A., LCAT, MT-BC

“The ‘right brain’ is given a voice in the IMCAP-ND and offers all pediatric disciplines a window into the full range of human drama.” -Gerard Costa, Ph.D.

“John Carpente’s new book helps to fill that gap by presenting a set of music-centered rating scales that examine clients’ capacity to musically interact and thus present a musical way of thinking about, working with, and understanding clients.” -Christian Gold, Ph.D

TRAININGS: Please stay tuned […]