Special Needs and Song Writing

Special Needs and Song Writing

Historically, songwriting has been a very powerful voice for people to share their feelings, their stories, their achievements, their motivations and so much more. It can also provide a great way for children to express strong emotions that come with life’s transitions, such as going back to school.  At this time of year especially, children on the autism spectrum and other special needs can benefit from this personal experience.

From Thought to Expression
As an all-encompassing musician and teacher, I often encourage both my mainstream music students as well as my challenged students to explore the art of songwriting. I find that it’s a way for all of them to explore their deep, personal feelings as well as to connect with others. While on this path of self-discovery and self-expression, they learn much about themselves.  They usually find it easier to explain deep and profound thoughts if they sing about them. I’ve personally been the lucky recipient of students sharing their innermost thoughts without feeling awkward or frightened. After all, if you sing it, it’s better than just talking about it.

Material for lyrics might begin with “the journal.” Keeping a regular daily journal is so good for children. It encourages them to collect their thoughts, reflect back on their day and look forward to their next daily adventures. And, in reviewing their journal entries, children may discover subjects for some very good songs.

This is an especially good exercise for teens who might feel lonely, vulnerable, frightened, etc. At first, they might think they can’t do this. Often times I’ve been told by a student – “Oh, I could never write a song.” However, with the proper guidance and sharing of thoughts I begin to guide them on this path.

Where to Begin with Song Writing
We might begin by suggesting an active image such as – “I feel so out-of-place” – that’s an active image. From that image we will certainly be able to imagine another, etc. We want our songwriters to provide a structure of WHO, WHAT, WHERE and WHEN by the end of the first verse and it should also provide a sense of the song’s attitude and mood.

Now, this may seem difficult, but once you begin verbalizing feelings, it almost always becomes the start of a great song. And remember, songs don’t have to rhyme.

Collaboration and Communication
Another wonderful part of this activity is the art of collaboration. Writing a song can be an exciting, sharing time. So, once you’ve created the lyrics, try to put a simple melody to these lyrics. Don’t worry if it doesn’t make it to the top of the charts. It’s not about that, it’s about communication.