Wave Your Hand

Music Therapy hand waving song for special needs individuals.
Goal: Client will appropriately wave their hand.
Domains: Motor, Social

For individuals with limited verbal capabilities, waving serves as a socially acceptable non-verbal greeting or farewell. Of course, those without speech difficulties also can and do wave. Over the years I’ve worked with children who’ve made a variety of errors in their waving techniques. This song is my attempt to correct those errors.

It uses a task analysis approach – breaking down a complex task into smaller, more manageable steps. The four steps contained in the verse lyrics are:

1. Choose one hand.
– Either hand is fine, but using both hands looks more like dancing than waving.

2. Lift that hand up.
– Wave at people, not the ground.

3. Turn that hand so you can see your fingernails.
– I’ve encountered a number of kids with autism who wave with their palms turned toward their faces. My guess is that these kids are imitating what they see when others wave at them. However, according to Wikipedia, this “palm-hide wave” is only appropriate when visiting Italy. The word “fingernails” was chosen for the lyrics instead of “palm” because it seemed like easier vocabulary to understand.

4. Shake that hand back and forth.
– This is what differentiates waving a hand from raising a hand.

The verse repeats twice before each chorus. Typically I will use the first repeat to give a visual model and then have the client attempt the movements during the second repeat – giving physical assistance if needed. The chorus is our time to wave together – a 6/8 time signature providing a fitting rhythm to accompany the desired movement. When the next verse arrives, I will usually give a visual model with the opposite hand to emphasize that either hand is okay to use for waving.

For some children, the lyrical content will be helpful. Other children may have receptive language difficulties and the visual model and physical assistance may be what ultimately results in a proper waving technique. For these kids, hopefully pairing the actions with the lyrics will help to build some comprehension for words like hand, up, turn, fingernails, etc.

I have chosen the four steps that I believe are most helpful and that address errors I have witnessed first-hand. However, there is a fill-in-the-blank version of the song if the individual you are working with is making a different sort of error that needs to be corrected. Or due to gross motor difficulties or personal preference you may chose to work on the less common bend-the-fingers-towards-the-palm wave. Not recommended is the (Wikipedia again) wigglywave – holding the hand near shoulder level and wiggling the fingers randomly to appear cute or flirtatious to the target of the wave.

Download includes:

  • Wave Your Hand [mp3 audio file]
  • Wave Your Hand (fill-in-the-blank) [mp3 audio file]
  • Wave Your Hand – Lyrics [PDF]
  • Wave Your Hand – Lyrics & Chords [PDF]


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