Changing it up

Posted: March 3, 2011 in Music Therapy

I sometimes get into a rut.  It’s very easy just to use the exact same plan during every session.  I mean, we have things we’re working on, and this activity addresses those goals, so let’s use it over and over and over.  That becomes the easy thing to do, the plan you can just throw out there without thinking too much about it.  It’s easy to justify, too – repetition helps reinforce concepts, many individuals thrive on routine, change can be counter-productive, etc.

There comes a point, however, when you have to like at this plan you’ve used for a long time (with some small variations) and consider whether it’s still accomplishing its objectives.  And you have to figure out if it’s time for a change.

I’ve been thinking about this a lot recently, and have been assessing whether or not a change is needed.  I have one kid I’m working with on recognizing emotions.  We’re using a happy/sad song with pictures.  Happy verses are sung in a major key accompanied by a happy picture (going to the beach, eating pizza, going to the park); sad verses are sung in a minor key with pictures that represent sadder things (no TV, getting pushed down, getting in trouble).  He’s been doing great, matching almost all of the pictures to the proper emotion almost all of the time.  However, I got the sense that he was listening to the style of the music rather than to the content, so I started playing sad topics in a major key and happy topics in a minor key.  0 for 6.  I tried asking him before we sang if the picture represented happy or sad.  1 for 6.  Clearly, we have a LOT more work to do, and the activity is not cutting it any more.  He’s running on autopilot.  A change is needed.

I run a couple of kid groups that I’ve mentioned on the blog before.  One is for younger kids, and the other is for older kids.  As time has gone on, the occurrence of behaviors in the groups has increased.  With the younger kids, it’s mostly out of seat, running around stuff.  With the older kids, it takes the form of being loud, throwing stuff, occasionally being aggressive.  The schedules for the groups haven’t changed much over the time I’ve been running them.  In my last group with the older kids, I revamped the schedule completely, introducing a new singing activity and pushing some instrumental stuff to the end.  One kid who had been chucking an instrument early in the session and having to leave twenty minutes before the end of group made it ten more minutes before attacking his neighbor, so I count that a moderate success.  Another kid who has had to go out and calm down several times per session managed to stay calm throughout the session, so I consider that to be a great success.  Another who has been imitating other people’s behaviors had no problems at all.  I’m attributing it to the change in the schedule, and I’ve been thinking about ways to change the younger kid’s group sessions.

I’ve been making more changes in the way I do sessions, trying to find things that work better.  I’m sure that, once I find them, I’ll be stuck in my rut again.  But for now, I’m finding change to be good.  Hard, but good.  I think it’s going to help my sanity level more than anything.

Thanks for reading!

-Jesse

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