A ‘Dance Party’ With My Angel Is Really Music Therapy in Disguise

Columnist Sabrina Johnson uses music to practice skills and exercise with her daughter

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by Sabrina L. Johnson |

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There’s something about music that my 12-year-old Angel, Juliana, just can’t resist. I’ve used this connection with sound as a means to sneak in some verbal and motor skill practice that is really music therapy in disguise. I call our quick interactive sessions “Dance Party.”

When Juliana was smaller, she did a formal music class that she loved. For an hour, we sat and made moves to songs about nature and things in our community. She would sometimes cooperate and play an instrument, too. We did the class until she aged out of the program.

I’ve been planning to find another age-appropriate music outlet for her. We just got back to playing soccer at the YMCA, but I still have music or dancing in mind. Always being one to avoid filling our plates too much, I hope to plan something when soccer season has ended.

In the meantime, I’ve come up with my own version of spontaneous music play that gets Juliana bouncing. When I think she needs a break from screen time, or she’s looking for something to do, I yell, “Dance Party, Jules!” I summon Alexa to play an upbeat tune we can groove to.

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We pull away from what we’re doing to dance. I’m dancing away some stress and Juliana is bopping to the beat for fun. There’s a lot of laughing as we rock and sway. Unfortunately, it’s always just the two of us. Neither my husband nor my 11-year-old daughter, Jessa, is moved by music the way Juliana and I are. I kind of like it that way because it gives us our own special moments together.

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Juliana moves to the music during a recent “Dance Party” in the kitchen. (Photo by Sabrina L. Johnson)

The goal is always to dance through the entire song. Although she loves beats and rhythms, I still have to redirect her sometimes. Her short attention span might send her wandering off to peek at something and leave the dance floor. Still, it’s an effortless way to sneak in some exercise.

I also throw in some prompts to get her to move in certain ways. Kicking the praise up by saying, “Juliana is jammin’,” gets a giggle and more effort out of her. When I realized the power of using prompts with Juliana, I started adding them to our parties. Praise and encouragement go a long way with her.

Perhaps the best part of “Dance Party” is its convenience and adaptability. We don’t need any special equipment and there’s a dance floor available in every room of our house. During the summer, when I worked on projects in the garage, we even had them there.

I love this special activity that creates a rock-and-roll bond between us. Juliana is practicing cause and effect, following instructions, and exercising at the same time. “Dance Party” delivers bigger and better than I ever imagined it would.


Note: Angelman Syndrome News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Angelman Syndrome News or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to Angelman syndrome.

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