Lisl van Rijswijk
Specialist teacher for children with Autism
Manor Mead School, United Kingdom



What role does music play in your work?
"Music and singing plays a huge and indispensable role in my day! Songs create a completely different atmosphere and the great thing about a great tune is you can change the words to fit the situation- so even boring old instructions to tidy up become fun. Mary Poppins had it sussed! In my school we have songs for every part of the day- right from hello in the morning, to drinks and dinner time and right through to the afternoon when we say goodbye. They alert the children to a change, to a beginning and to something new. The children associate each song with an activity and this helps them cope with a world that can be very unpredictable."




What is the one thing you want people to know about singing with young children?

"They don’t care that you can’t sing. I cannot carry a tune but wow- my children carry it for me! You just have to have fun with it. "

1. When I Hear the Music
About the Song: A wonderful, catchy tune that sums up exactly what happens when you hear a favorite song- we tap, we clap, we sway!

Personal Comment: This is the staple introduction to my music lesson. Routine and predictability make transitions for children with autism that little less daunting so although what they are learning in the music lesson must change, they can rely on the beginning being something they know and love. There are the obvious actions that go along with it and, with the help of Myrtle the Turtle (my trusty puppet sidekick), it is the perfect introduction to the lesson.

2. We’re Finished Now
About the Song: As mentioned, transitions are tricky for a lot of children with Autism- particularly if it marks the end of something they are really enjoying. Having a warning that an activity is going to end and singing this song once we’ve tidied up has made transitions much easier (for them and the adults!)

Personal Comment: There are very few ‘Finished’ songs that make the grade with my children. When I asked Nancy if she could come up with one, she delivered!

3. Five Green Speckled Frogs
About the Song:
One of the best number rhymes out there- it is so zany and fun.

Personal Comment: This song appeals to the vast range of abilities of children and something that children with or without special needs can sing and enjoy together.

4.The Alphabet Song
About the Song: One of the songs that my children seem to learn by rote and then one day WOW! They realize that it matches a letter and this alphabet order is always the same- great for children who like predictability!

Personal Comment: A song that children seem to learn through osmosis! Everyone knows it and everyone has a different slant on the on the L,M,N,O,P bit. A then there’s the last letter- is it zed or zee… Some very funny moments in my class!

5. London Bridge is Falling Down
About the Song: The can be used for literally ANY situation when you change the words. It is the most versatile tune ever.

Personal Comment: If ever I’m stuck for a song about something, inevitably this is the tune that I use: ‘Now it’s time to wash our hands, wash our hands, wash our hands’ or ‘ Get your shoes and get your socks, shoes and socks, shoes and socks’ and so on and so forth. Brilliant!