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Toot! Toot! Time to play the whistle!

Posted Mar 05 2013 10:00am

boy-whistleBlowing on a whistle. Seems like a fairly easy task, right? For many of our clients, blowing a whistle is somewhere on their list of objectives for therapy. Today, we’re going to dig into why blowing on that whistle might be an objective in music therapy, and how learning to blow on that whistle can help our clients to improve.

Let’s break down all of the steps that you have to complete in order to successfully blow that whistle.

Step One: Hold the whistle. You can’t blow on the whistle without getting it to your mouth can you? Depending on the whistle, a palmar grasp (think of all your fingers wrapped around something) or a pincer grasp (thumb and one other finger) may be appropriate. Pair that with the sensory awareness to bring the whistle the lips, the strength the lift the whistle, and the behavior skills to wait to play until indicated and you have a very complicated step one, don’t you?

Step Two: Wrapping the lips around the whistle. Any speech therapist can tell you that a lot of work goes into this! Some people struggle with oral sensitivities and don’t want anything placed at their lips. Some struggle with textures and don’t like the texture of the whistle. Some have neither of these problems, but have difficulty obtaining lip closure around the mouthpiece for a variety of medical or developmental reasons. This skills translates beautifully to eating and drinking skills, as well as oral motor skills in speech (can I get an ooo?) Also necessary to  complete this step are social skills to imitate behavior and behavioral skills to follow instructions!

Step Three: Blow! Have that seal around the recorder? Take a deep breath, that’s right, expanding the chest cavity, engaging the diaphragm, and breathing in through the nose. Then, it is time to close off the nose and blow the air out through your lips! Take a moment and do this yourself in slow motion. How many different muscles did you utilize? How much awareness of your body did you need? How did you do sequencing the motions of taking the breath and blowing it out? Did you remember to close your nasal passages?

In the steps listed above, I mentioned potential mini objectives within the task of blowing a whistle that covered the communication, motor, cognitive, and social domains of functioning. Pretty impressive for one music therapy activity isn’t it? Board certified music therapists use this, and hundreds (thousands?) of other interventions and activities to help our clients to meet their goals and improve their skills. Blowing a whistle can help lead to better communication skills and speech production, increased breath support, using a straw and practicing grasp. If you use a recorder, you can even throw fine motor skills into the mix!

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