In need of a plan, part II: The Plan

Posted: October 15, 2010 in Music Therapy

I hate to toot my own horn, but…toot toot.

In the last post, I told you all about my crazy Wednesday adult group session.  They were back today, and I made some adjustments in the agenda.  First, we pushed the time back ten minutes.  The previous group finishes at 10:50, so I asked the final group to come in at 11 so I could reset the room and be ready with a new plan of attack.  They showed up at 10:55, so I made them wait in the other room.  I needed that whole ten minutes.

The first big adjustment I made was that I took all of the instruments from the table and put them on my cart.  I still like allowing people to choose their own instruments, but the big table is too much of a distraction for this group.  Having them all on the cart makes things more compact, and I can also move the cart around if someone doesn’t want to get up.

The other thing I did was to have the instruments divided into three categories – drums, shakers, and miscellaneous.  I also kept them with me at the front of the room for easy access.

Time for group.  I opened the door and started playing guitar immediately, rather than waiting for everyone to come in and sit.  J was the first one in.  I greeted her and invited her to sit, which she did almost immediately.  She started clapping along with my playing as M and S entered, taking their seats.  N was being upset in the other room, so she didn’t come in right away.

We sang the Hello song, and at one point, J bolted for the door.  I sit in a rolling chair during session, so without getting up or even stopping the playing, I moved in front of her and asked her to sit down.  She looked at me for a moment, and then she went and sat down.  Score one for me.

At the end of the hello song, I didn’t stop playing.  J stood up again, but instead of correcting her, I invited her to pick out a drum.  All of the drums were sitting on chairs at the front of the room.  I debated putting them under their seats, but decided that would be too much of a distraction.  J took a drum, and then I invited everyone else to get a drum.  I just let them play while I played a blues progression on the guitar.  J was keeping the beat very well, so I just followed her with my tempo.  S was playing the djembe and doing some pretty cool rhythms, so I reinforced that.  M was playing along on his drum, though he doesn’t hit them hard enough to make much sound.  I still was sure to give him some praise as well.

After we had been playing for a minute or so, N was escorted in by the staff.  She was still cranky, but went and sat down, demanding to eat.  I got her staff to grab a drum for her to play.  N was swatting at her staff, so I told her to hit the drum instead.  She did, and we had no more problems for the rest of the session.  I don’t know if it was the drum, but I’ll take another point for that.

When we finished, I asked S to collect all of the drums.  I think he was surprised to have some responsibility, and I had to tell him a few times to take the drums.  He’s probably the highest functioning of the group – certainly the most verbal – and I think giving him more responsibilities will be good for him in the long run.  While he was taking drums, I started passing out shakers and bells, trying to keep downtime to a minimum.  We then shook along to Jump in the Line by Harry Belafonte.  N liked this, being a fan of Beetlejuice.  Everyone had a good time with it, and I tried throwing in some different movements (shaking up high, down low, circles).  Not everyone followed, but it was a good and engaging activity.  J kept popping up and dancing, which I think it perfectly acceptable.  As long as she’s not leaving or being disruptive, it’s fine.

After that, I collected the instruments on my tray and handed out fruit shakers for the Frutti Tutti, which is the Hokey Pokey while shaking fruits.  It’s always a pretty big success with the middle-functioning group, and occasionally is with this group.  It was a success today, though J started getting a little bored and went for the cart a couple of times.  I was able to get in front of her, but one of the staff members had to lead her back to her chair.

After the Fruitti Tutti, it was time for everyone to select an instrument.  J was having a hard time waiting her turn, but once she had waited successfully through someone else’s turn, I let her choose something from the cart (she took the claves).  S ended up playing the glockenspiel, M got the shaker, and N played the goat hooves.  We played around with those for a while, then I asked S what song we should sing.  He always requests something by Michael Jackson, and today he wanted Billie Jean.  So we sang that, then we sang My Girl, then Yellow Submarine, and that was the end of the day.

It was not a perfect session.  My transitions can still be a little tighter.  However, if you had told me right after Wednesday’s session that today would be this much better, I wouldn’t have believed it.  From the way she was acting at the beginning, I wouldn’t have thought that N would be that into things.  In fact, this is the first time she has been in a mood at the beginning and ended up having a great session.  I am hoping that the transition changes helped her like they helped J.

Thanks for reading.  I’m always excited to have a success story to share.

-Jesse

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