I tend to work long term. I get a client, I’m with them until they’ve reached their goals or until a change is necessary. My groups tend to be run through the clinic, so they’re kind of ongoing – we may get new people, but the group as a unit continues ad infinitum. Because of this, I don’t have to deal with closure very much.
Tonight was the last session of our ten-week music therapy social skills class. We began back at the end of January, and despite getting snowed out one week, we’ve been chugging along since then. In our first session, we really only had one problem – a kid who kept getting up and zooming around the room. The next session was a little more difficult. Kids were being silly, getting comfortable, testing boundaries. Anyone who has ever worked with kids knows how that goes.
In the first session, I had the kids come up with some group rules. I added one or two, but for the most part, they came up with some great stuff – no hurting each other, stay in your seat, raise your hand, be quiet when others are talking, no yelling, no screaming, pay attention (I added follow directions, and my co-therapist added be nice to the instruments). I incorporated these into a song, which I taught during the second session. In the third session, I introduced visual aides – signs that the kids would hold up when we got to that rule. This really helped reinforce the rules, and we had very few problems after that second session. We had a simple little reward system – follow the rules, get a sticker at the end of the session. Don’t follow the rules, don’t get a sticker. I think this also contributed to the reduction in behavior.
We covered several social skills topics over the course of the group – listening, sharing, communicating, working together, saying nice things about others, etc. The basic structure of each session was the same – hello, rules, instruments, drumming, movement, story, a couple of fun activities, and a couple of changing activities that related to the week’s topic, goodbye. The sessions evolved a bit as I discovered what worked and what didn’t. For example, the original drum activity involved sitting around a gathering drum and banging on it with a friend you invited. It tended to get very loud, so I switched it to a stand-up drum (the tubano) and had the kids use their hands. It worked much better. Another activity that evolved over time was the goodbye song. We were singing to the tune of a church song I used to sing as a kid: “Ha-la-la-la la-la-la-le-lu-jah.” The original idea was to have each kid go around and give a high five to all their friends. Unfortunately, some kids took that as an invitation to try to slap as hard as possible. Everyone was laughing because it was pretty funny, but I could just envision someone missing and smacking their friend in the face, and that would NOT be funny. So we switched to a handshake, which was a little better, but the kids still made it extremely silly. Finally, I gave in to the silliness and just had them carry around a vibraslap to all their friends. This turned out to be a great idea, and I wish we had been doing it the whole time.
I always did something different for my story time. Sometimes, I would use my kid’s books. Once, I wrote a story (which I posted on this blog). Another time, we wrote a song to the tune of If I Had A Hammer (it became If I Had A Hamburger and If I Had Some Ice Cream). Another time, I brought Mortimer (my mouse made out of a handkerchief). Tonight, we wrote a song to the tune of The Wheels On The Bus (These are our friends in music group, music group, music group…) that included one compliment to everyone in the room. I really enjoyed this variety – it, along with the topical interventions, helped offset the stuff we did every week.
By far, the biggest hit of the group was the Fruit Shake. I have a set of ten shakers shaped like different fruits – a banana, an avocado, a couple of apples, a couple of pears, a plum, a couple of lemons, and an orange. Each kid got one, then we sang the Fruit Shake song:
Shake it shake it shake it Shake it all you can Shake it like a fruit shake A fruit shake in a can Shake it at the bottom Shake it at the top And shake shake shake shake shake shake shake Until you make it STOP
Next, kids could request that we go faster or slower. We’d go slow a couple of times, but usually they wanted to go fast. We’d keep getting faster and faster, until finally, I was just going “ZOP” and that was it. They loved it.
So now the group is over. We’ll be doing it again, probably in another month or so. But part of the closure I personally need is to remember everything we did. Writing it up here has helped me collect my thoughts, think about what we’ll be doing next time, and really appreciate the progress they all made. Everyone got a sticker tonight, which was a really good thing. They really did make a lot of progress over the last two months, and I was happy to tell that to all of their parents as they got picked up. I think they’re all looking forward to the next time. I am too.
Thanks for reading!