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Case Study
Skoog, Autism, and Music Therapy

Case study from music therapist Sandy Matheson, based in Crosshill, Fife, on a session taken place on 8th March 2012.

Name of Therapist: Sandy Matheson
Date Submitted: 08/03/12
Base: Crosshill, Fife

Tom is a gentle, dreamy five-year-old boy, with an unconfirmed diagnosis of ASD/LD. He is not verbal, but occasionally vocalises. His mum noticed that Tom responds positively to musical stimuli of various kinds, and consequently she referred him for music therapy. I undertook four assessment sessions with Tom in January 2012. It was immediately clear that Tom is a highly tactile child; he explores and investigates his environment by touching and holding objects (and if not discouraged by popping them in his mouth)! For this reason, I decided that the Skoog might be an appropriate instrument to draw him into a musical relationship.

Tom was intrigued by this strange, colourful object, and delighted by the sounds it made. His first response to it was to try to eat it, but It did not take him long to understand the relationship between the action of touching various parts of it and the different sounds that could be achieved. It proved to be one of the instruments on which we could enjoy a creative relationship, turn-taking and playing duets. Mostly, his relationships were with the instruments themselves rather than with the therapist; inasmuch as he involved me, he tended to use me as a means to an end rather than using the instrument as a means of communication. (This is what one would expect to find in the earliest stage of therapy with a client with ASD). Therefore it was significant that the Skoog drew Tom into a musical relationship. It also held his interest for a relatively long time; Tom’s interactions with instruments tended to be very brief, but our Skoog activity lasted around five minutes. Were I to continue working with Tom, I would continue to use the Skoog as a way of hooking him into a relationship.