Saturday, May 31, 2008

Indulge my complaining...Sorry
It really irks me that I found out that one of my presentation ideas was not accepted through a published source rather than through the organization that it was presented to. Why can't folks follow professional courtesy and let others know when their ideas are not appropriate for a course or session BEFORE they publish the list of offerings. I am a bit tweaked that I had to find out whether my idea was appropriate by looking at the publication rather than hearing from the committee. Just another one of the things that could be solved through a bit more organization and consideration. I'm just a bit perturbed by the way things are run. Sorry for the meltdown, but, in this case, I feel it was deserved.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Back to Basics

You know, there are times when I have to stop what I am doing and reset my thoughts about music therapy. This is one of these times. I am currently on Summer Break, a wonderful period of 13 days before returning to my job, and I am starting to think about the therapy that I provide.

I am a behavioral therapist with 15 years of experience working with persons with developmental and psychiatric concerns. I am competent. I am a good therapist and a good trainer. Sometimes, though, I forget the basics of my medium. I am currently reminding myself of those basics.

My first step is always a review of the basic tenets of William Sears. His writing in Music In Therapy, edited by Gaston (1964) always encapsulates the role of music in human life. I then work around to Radocy and Boyle, Thaut, Bruscia, Wigram, Clair, and other music therapy theorists. I also find writers outside of the field of music therapy to be valuable as I am reforming my therapeutic offerings. Cognitive neuropsychologists have much to say about music and the brain.

Recently, I have had a challenge with a group of adolescents. They are all on the autism spectrum, many are non-verbal, and they do not mesh as a group well. This makes group treatment difficult. The staff members that are assigned to the classroom are nonparticipatory and tend to initiate inappropriate interactions with the clients which lead to aggression and intense behavior management needs. The group exhausts every person who provides services, music therapists, speech therapists, art therapists, PE teachers, social workers, etc. We are unable to provide the students with the individual therapy sessions that might work better than group treatment due to time and personnel constraints. This group has been the bane of my existence for the past two months.

I have recently had a breakthrough in my way of approaching this particular group of students. The breakthrough starts back in 1991 when I was a senior music therapy student. I was working with a young boy with a diagnosis on the autism spectrum who was involved in Applied Behavior Analysis training. Using many of the structural elements of his program, we engaged in music making, improvisation, and play. His structure included stations or centers that we moved through with time in an activity and then time off. At the end of the semester, he was using spontaneous speech, initiating play activities, and was prolonging activities independently. I was thrilled!

Remembering this experience, I have devised a plan to break the session into small centers. Students will be in small groups - 3 to 4 per center and will rotate to each of the centers in turn during the session. The first center is sensory - a chance to work on the senses, especially vestibular, proprioceptive, and tactile. The second center is academic/cognitive - primarily file folder applications designed specifically for adolescents in music therapy treatment. The third center is musical. This center will be improvisatory, primarily attempting to achieve entrainment through listening and active musicking. Some of the students will do this easily, others do not appear to be able to entrain to my beats, so I will attempt to find their beats. After a set time, students will have an opportunity to move around before moving to the next center. We will see how it works.

Basics.