I have begun! And it’s so much fun! It’s amazing to think that just a few weeks ago, I had no idea who my clients would be at this internship, what they would be like, and how the music therapists would interact with them. I had the usual first day jitters (or first week jitters, in my case), but now at the end of the 3rd week I feel really good. I am even more excited than before. Let me tell you why!
This past week, I started implementing interventions with a lot of different clients! In each of these sessions, I learned something new. Here are a few highlights from it!
During the Tots class on Monday and Tuesday, I had the opportunity to sing the Baby Beluga story. After I led the activity on Monday, I learned that I sang through the story without many pauses or questions for the children to interact with. They had been engaged for about half of the story song, but then most of them lost attention and some wandered away. In Tuesday’s class, I took more time singing the story and asking questions. I had the toddlers touch the pages and identify the different sea animals on the pages and redirected children to sit down. It worked and by doing this, the children were all engaged longer, listening and interacting with the whole story.
I observed that with a 10-year-old client, the music therapist works on reading notes on the staff and then playing it on piano. The activity I made for him was a game where I had written out 4 familiar melodies in the treble clef. The melodies were to “Row Your Boat”, “Happy Birthday”, “You Are My Sunshine”, and “In the Jungle”. My plan was to have him read the music, play it on the piano, and then guess the name of the song once he recognized the tune. He started in on the first melody and it took him longer than I had anticipated for him to transfer from reading the music to playing it. I realized that I made this activity too difficult for where he was at with his skill of reading music. I learned that it was a very new skill for him to read the notes on the staff, and that he is most comfortable with the notes on the lines and the spaces instead of below and above the staff as well. He did really well staying focused and kept on trying, but we ran out of time. So for this coming week, I have modified the activity. I will have him guess what song it is after I play the melodies on the piano. I will also write the note names underneath the notes for now and after he guesses, I will ask him to play the last phrase of the familiar tune. This way he will still work on transferring from reading to playing while also working on maintaining attention and listening skills. I learned that adapting and modifying are huge components when implementing an intervention so that you, as the music therapist, are setting up the client for success!
My favorite intervention I did this week was with the Family Class. The theme for June is The Beach! So I made up an activity to go along with the theme and work on things like following directions, identifying animals seen at the beach, utilizing gross and fine motor skills, sensory stimulation and counting. At first, I brought out a little sandbox full of seashells and I had it covered and off to the corner. Jennifer advised me that leaving it outside the room would be better. She was right. Setting up the room is so important because I discovered that no matter what the object is, if it is in the room with babies and toddlers, they will find it and play with it. Though I did not put the sandbox in the room until I used it, I did accidentally leave a small empty container, which one baby began exploring during other activities in the session. Good thing it was not the sandbox!
The intervention itself was a success! When prompted through the song, the children pretended to splash in the ocean, flap their arms like seagulls flying, wave and say “Hi dolphins!” and held up 10 fingers to count. Then with only a little bit of redirection, each child waited their turn to pick out a seashell and put in a line until we counted 10 seashells. Once we sang through the song and began counting the seashells again, one child who had skipped his second turn of picking a seashell came up and began throwing them all back into the box. I rolled with it and sped up the counting to match his rhythm. Most of the children counted with me, singing up the octave plus the extra two notes for 9 and 10. I was worried that ending on 10 (the 2nd scale degree) would be weird, but I did not want to have them associate the sound of an octave with 10, so we went all the way up past the octave and after distinctly reaching 10, I slid the melody down to end satisfyingly on the octave. Another thing I learned, which I had not thought about, was to set up counting activities from the clients’ left to right. This reinforces reading skills, which some in this class are starting to develop. Overall, it was a successful intervention. The children followed directions pretty well during this activity and seemed to have fun singing, moving, counting and digging for shells in the sand!
A session with another client supported the idea that adapting during the session or in the midst of an activity is a necessary skill for music therapists. This client is an 11-year-old girl who is nonverbal, but has a system of expressing herself through short sounds or using the iPad. One of her goals is to attend to a given task for 10 consecutive minutes with no more than 3 verbal prompts and 2 physical assists for the entire duration. My plan was to do a sequencing activity on the bells and have her repeat it until we play a song. I discovered that she needed hand-over-hand assistance to complete this task. At first I helped her from my position across the bells from her, but eventually sat next to her to better help. To my surprise, she let me help her press the bells and stayed very attentive throughout the entire activity. At one point she even looked up at the music therapist to make sure she was watching. Then, at the end of the session as we were leaving, the client decided to hold my hand as we walked out. This made me feel like I established more rapport with this client, which will be a necessary basis in order to continue having successful interventions.
The other three interventions I led went well not only because the clients dove right in with me and stayed engaged, but also because I learned to set them up in a way geared for their success. I love getting to know each individual client here. And that is something really cool about this site…there are so many 1:1 sessions that I can really focus on each person and how I can help them achieve their goals. I think I’m finding that the best way to get to know the clients is by starting to implement interventions with each one on my own!
This week I saw the importance of planning a detailed session, setting up the room, adapting during a session or in the midst of an activity, meeting the clients where they are, getting to know each one and building a rapport, understanding their strengths and needs, and that there is a difference between knowing these things and putting them to practice!