Music Therapy Moment

This music therapy moment brought to you courtesy of student "Z."

Yesterday my day started with a group of students from our "low-density, high staff" room. These students are mainly on the end of several spectra - autism spectrum, intellectual disability spectrum, behavior concern spectrum, etc. You name it, they function on the outsides of all spectra.

My music therapy philosophy with these students is to increase their interaction with both the music and with me as the music maker. We start each session with a short opening song, greeting each other appropriately, and then we move into an equally short therapeutic music experience (TME for short). We then take a musical walking break. After a time, we sit again and complete another TME. We follow that TME with another walking break and repeat until the session is over.

These students have been in this form of treatment since the beginning of December, and I have found that I have been able to address each of their individual needs better than when I was trying to treat each of them in different group therapy formats. There are, however, times when I realize that we all have so much to learn.

Yesterday, Z was sitting next to me. Now, he usually spends as much time away from me as possible, alternately staring and glaring at me from his place by the wall. He came in, all the spots were filled but the one next to me, and he responded well to my verbal and gestural prompt to sit. I sang the opening song and went into my first TME, group drumming to the song Obwisana. (This will be on my website by Sunday, February 12th - see for the TME plan and information on how to find the song along with all of my uses for the song). It came time for our first walking period, and Z decided that he wanted my whistle box.

Now, I have a simple rule in the music room - you ask before you touch.

Z hasn't figured out that I expect him to ask for something before he touches it. He grabbed the box, I told him "no," and he grabbed my hair. I assume that he thought that I would give him what he wanted if he hurt me.

He was wrong.

Z was not allowed to use the box without asking. He was not allowed to continue to hurt me, and I kept reminding him that hurting people did not get him what he wanted at school. The problem is that I think he does get what he wants when he tries to hurt people at home - it is easier to live with him if you just give him anything he wants.

Anyway, I continued to redirect his hands and his "words" to ask for the whistle box. He didn't, so I kept the box to myself.

He calmed and completed the rest of the session without difficulty.

For me, the experience of yesterday's session reinforced several thoughts and practices. First, behavior management comes down to two things - negotiable behaviors and non-negotiable behaviors. Hair pulling is a non-negotiable. Using words of any kind is a non-negotiable behavior. Asking before you grab something is a non-negotiable behavior. Second, the challenges of working with people are what keep me in the profession of helping people. Third, I will DEFINITELY give Z a chance to use the whistle box during the next session as soon as he asks me appropriately!

This music therapy moment was brought to you by my student, Z.


Popular posts from this blog

TME Tuesday: sing about summer - Session Ideas to Celebrate Summer

May the Fourth

TME Tuesday: Play and Pass TME