TME Tuesday: Musical Coding

WARNING: This is not a complete idea or therapeutic musical experience...yet. I am working on it, so here is a glimpse into my process of putting together a TME from the very beginning...a very good place to start...

Idea sparked by my sister, a second grade (sometimes first grade) teacher who teaches computer coding to her students and from materials sent by Music Therapy Mailings (I think last month, but it may have been the month before that). I have done TMEs like this in the past, but I have never really thought about it in terms of coding before.

Basic ideas of coding - if you are interested in learning more about what coding is, google it! There are TONS of resources and tips and exercises - skill development in the areas of executive skill function and planning to see if things will work the way they need to work. In the music therapy room, we are going to use instruments to indicate directions and will be guiding a human through a predetermined pattern in real life.

Basic ideas of TMEs - I want to have most of my TMEs be things that require music to succeed. Coding is something that all of my students have been exposed to at one time or another, but by using music and themselves, the concept may become a bit more concrete for them. We are not using a computer for our coding (mainly because I do not have one to use), so we are transferring the skill into real life for the experience. We will use music/timbre to indicate specific movements. We will practice this skill as a group first, and then move into pairs. Once the concept is clear, we will adapt this to include composition and melody replication into the idea. How is this music therapy? At this point, it is not (in my opinion). It is music-enhanced education (my own term for when I use music to reinforce or teach an educational concept). This TME, as it is currently written, does not need the specialized training of me as the music therapist. Any teacher or behavioral health technician could run the TME as stated. The therapy aspect will come later (I am hoping!).

So, why are we doing this?

On the surface, this looks like a music-enhanced computer science lesson. On the surface, that is exactly what it is. Under the surface, however, there are many other things that are happening that make this an appropriate TME for my music therapy clinic.

In my music therapy clinic, I provide educational enrichment to all students in my school program. My job is to use music to enhance client understanding of educational concepts of all sorts. I also have additional common goals of increasing impulse control, working on frustration tolerance and anger management, increasing appropriate interactions with others, and expressing emotion and wants and needs in socially appropriate ways.

This TME idea fits into all of those treatment goals and foci. But, I still don't think that it is something that I am uniquely qualified to present and, therefore, I don't think it is a completely MUSIC THERAPY TME.

It becomes that Music Therapy intervention when I apply the concept to my clients, I think. The intervention becomes that when I am part of the implementation - I make changes and I do more than just go through the basic premise of the TME, I make it work for my clients, challenging them as they need to be challenged, offering opportunities for frustration tolerance and use of coping skills, and encouraging the development of new skills. This activity, in the hands of someone else, would be what it appears on the surface - an educational activity about coding.

Here is a bit more about what we are doing...

We have a grid on the carpet - at this point, it is a 3X3 grid. I have made cards indicating specific patterns of movement across that grid. Each client has three different instruments - for the moment, we are using shaker eggs, jingle bells, and rhythm sticks. We also use the guitar to indicate when a person has reached the finish point on the grid. As a group, we decide what each instrument will indicate to the traveler. Yesterday, jingle bells meant step one to the left, rhythm sticks meant walk one spot forward, and shaker eggs meant step one spot to the right. We did a full group experience yesterday.

The traveler took up the start position on the grid and one person indicated the directions. (Working on symbol to sound encoding, leadership skill development, and interpretation of symbol into meaning.) The rest of the group watched the leader and played what the leader played to indicate the movement to the traveler. (Working on audio discrimination, attention to task, short-term and long-term memory recall, and sound to meaning transference.) The traveler moves in the direction indicated by the sounds presented by the group. (Working on audio discrimination, attention to task, sound to meaning transference, and motor coordination.) This continues until the traveler reaches the end which is indicated by a vigorous guitar strum!

I have not formally finished this and made it into a TME in my database yet, but I will be doing so. I have some ideas about how to make it a composition TME as well as this simple iteration of coding, so I will be writing the TME and making it work as part of a multi-task unit.

I think it's off to a good start, though.


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