Technology for Autism

Skoog – A new way to interact with music therapy.

Learning through music is a great way to encourage learning and interaction. A wide range of neurological conditions massively benefit from participating in music therapy such as singing, playing instruments and movement.

In fact, many famous musicians with incredible talents Mozart, James Durbin, Susan Boyle, Marty Balin and Travis Meeks, to name just a few I can think of, all had some form of autism.

I have to admit that my own musical talents are pretty lacking. At school it was all about the recorder. Anyone who has ever had the displeasure of a recorder lesson with 20 other children will appreciate that it is some kind of torture for all involved, including, I am sure the teacher.

Not entirely put off by the recorder torture, I started learning the guitar at age 13. Even though I pick it up now and again, I never really get beyond the basics of a few chords. However, when I do pick it up I do find it relaxing, engaging, and fun.

Learning an instrument can be hard, it can require good mobility, co-ordination and often the ability to read music. Already, the barriers for accessing playing musical instruments well will be too high for some people to even get started.

The Skoog – musical learning and therapy instrument

The Skoog was recommended by a friend who had recently seen it being used with children on the autism spectrum, at a summer school fair. He told me about how the children engaged with the fun and interactivity of playing with the Skoog, and how it made some great sounds. In the school, the Skoog was an integrated part of the music therapy that they offered. I decided to find out a little more.

The Skoog is designed to be an accessible musical instrument. Developed by researchers spanning music, psychology and physics, it enables people of all ages with a wide range of disabilities to have accessible, expressive control of sound.

The origins of the Skoog lie in music in the community research led by Professor Nigel Osborne, at Edinburgh College of Art. In collaboration with The Tapestry Partnership.

They identified music as a tool that could be used for improving learning engagement in children, particularly those with profound physical and learning challenges.

So what does a Skoog look like ?

Well the Skoog is a black cube with big light up buttons its also kind of squishy and tactile.

skoog - music therapy instrument

Who is it for ?

Children who access the world in a sensory way enjoy the responsiveness of the Skoog. The robust design is ideal for children as they knock, press and hug the Skoog to activate the different sides. They can make lovely soundscapes and explore different sounds easily; whilst adults can change the effects, octave, key and instrument from the app.

It is suitable for early years, autism, physical disabilities, cerebral palsy, sensory impairments and learning disabilities, down syndrome, William’s syndrome and global developmental delay

How can the Skoog be used in music therapy?

The Skoog can be used as a great introduction to sounds and volume. Use it to teach colours, musical patterns and engaging in intensive interaction games, by playing and copying patterns. The sensitivity of the device is adjustable so it is also accessible for people who would find applying lots of pressure a challenge.

The sounds that the Skoog produces are customisable and can include sounds made with your own voice or other instruments, as well as a multitude of pre programmed sounds.

You can pair the device over Bluetooth to an apple Ipad or iOS/ MacOS device. You can use it with iTunes, Spotify, GarageBand to name a few. One feature I particularly love is if you play along with Spotify or Itunes the Skoog automatically tunes to the key the music is playing in.

Not only that, using GarageBand you can layer sounds record and build on pieces that you have been working on. You can also use it to help learning to code by connecting it to Apple’s Swift playgrounds.

Where can I buy the Skoog?

I found the Skoog for sale in a few of retailers.

If you are  buying for a school and need a purchase order you can order directly from Skoog music.

How much does it cost ?

I could find the Skoog online priced between £179 – £199

What are your thoughts? Are there any other technologies that you use for musical therapy or to engage people with music ?

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