In need of a plan

Posted: October 14, 2010 in Music Therapy

Yesterday was tough. Or, more specifically, one of the adult groups was tough.   Our adult program is adding more people and shuffling schedules around a bit, and that may have had something to do with it.  So, the lowest functioning group, who used to be first thing in the morning, is now the last group before lunch.  Plus, they added a new person just yesterday, and she’s already made an impact.

Let me give you the cast:

  • N: Female with autism.  She’s been here the longest out of any of the clients in this group.  She has good days and bad days.  Most of the time she’s noncompliant, demanding to eat throughout the session (even when it was at 9:30).
  • S: Male with intellectual disability.  He’s very social – excessively so.  He tends to get very touchy-feely with the staff, especially the females.  Even with me, he always wants a handshake, fist bump, or to tap me on the shoulder and ask a question (which is usually not a question).
  • M: Male with autism and CP.  He’s nonverbal and has only been at the program for a couple of weeks, though I also work with him individually.  He has problems with anxiety and insomnia.
  • J: Female, our new addition.  I don’t know any diagnostic information yet.

Today, N came in with her behavioral therapist and sat.  I took it as a good sign that she was not already screaming.  In fact, she didn’t look upset at all.  The BT left as M and S came in, followed by J, who charged in and went straight for the table of instruments, grabbing the maraca.  She was told to set it down, and she did, going and sitting down.

We sang the hello song, and things started going downhill.  N started demanding to eat and would not participate.  While N’s staff worked with her, S became jealous of the attention and started tapping the staff’s shoulder, grabbing her chair, and even reaching for her leg a couple of times.  M was zoning out.  J clapped along with the hello song, then got up and took off.  When she came back, we were playing drums and she had to sit for a minute before she could participate, which she did.  Meanwhile, N started throwing her sticks and even kicked the tubano over.

We usually do a scarf dance to get moving, and since I was told that J likes R&B, I chose to play Let’s Groove by Earth Wind & Fire (not exactly R&B, but the nearest thing I had on hand).  J took that opportunity to take off again.  When we blocked her, she went back to the instrument table to grab the maraca.  When we took it from her and asked her to sit, she took her opportunity to leave again.

We also always do an instrument activity where, one at a time, everyone gets to go to the instrument table and pick an instrument.  S volunteered to go first (he usually does), but when he went to the table, so did J.  OK, that’s to be expected – she didn’t know we were taking turns.  When we told her it was S’s turn, she tried to take off again.  By this point, N was screaming and cursing and demanding candy.  S was inching his chair closer to N’s staff and trying to touch her.  M was almost asleep.  We got J back to her seat and told her I’d let her know when it was her turn.  And she waited, and the rest of her session was great – however, we ended five minutes early because the whole thing was mass chaos.

I’m not blaming the whole chaotic session on J.  As I said, N and S were also having their problems.  The staff was extremely frazzled, and my standard plan for this group has suddenly become obsolete.  Nothing like a hand grenade tossed into a vat of pure gunpowder to shake things up a bit.

I just needed to share that.  Thanks for reading!


  1. Peggy Hickle says:

    Must have been that Friday the thirteenth came on Wednesday this week.

  2. Roia says:

    I. Have. So. Been. There.

    When I’m not totally exhausted, I will go read the next post, and I also have some thoughts for you that (I hope) may be helpful. Or they may not. Because sometimes we have to go through sessions from hell.

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