D and the Quacker

Posted: June 21, 2011 in Music Therapy

This blog has been a really good place for me to kind of talk through some of my frustrations as a music therapist, as well as to kind of explore some ideas further.  But every once in a while, I have a success story to share.

Today, D played the quacker.

OK, so let me back up.  I talked a bit about D a couple of months ago after I had just picked him up (for a refresher, see Tough Decision and Tough Decision part II).  The short story is that he has not reacted to music therapy the way that a lot of people do.  He doesn’t participate, he doesn’t want to try the instruments, and if you push him too hard, he starts engaging in self-injurious behaviors.  I was pretty discouraged after the first two sessions, but thanks to a lot of encouragement from colleagues (and the readers of this blog), I stuck with it.  The SIBs have almost stopped completely, and I even get more than occasional smiles during the music sessions.  Still, no participation.

Today seemed like it would be more of the same.  He didn’t want to play the drum, he didn’t want to play the glockenspiel, he didn’t want to clap along with the music, he didn’t want to play anything I pulled out of my bag-o-tricks.  He seemed fairly cheerful, however (today was the first day we switched from a 10:00 am session to 1:30 pm), so I kept pulling stuff out.  I hadn’t pulled out the egg shakers since the first assessment session when he was trying to break into them for the candy he must have thought was in there.  I thought I’d try those.  The same thing happened – he tried to open them.  I encouraged him to shake, tried modeling with the one he wasn’t trying to open.  Nothing.  As soon as he decided that it was pointless, he put them back.  It was the first time since that first session that he’s touched an instrument for any reason other than to push it away, so I took that as a good thing.

We were running out of time, so I pulled one more instrument out of my bag – the quacker.

Quackers are these plastic sticks with a rubber squeaker on top.  Mine came from West Music (who isn’t paying me, but probably should be for the amount of shilling I do for them in the special needs community).  They make a kind of duck sound when you shake them.  They’re really cool, and I’ve had good success using them with kids and adults.  This was the first time I’ve tried it with D.  I didn’t really want him pulling off the top.  The rubber is pretty sturdy and has survived a lot of yanking since I’ve gotten them, but it only takes one feat of strength.  Nevertheless, I had a good feeling about it today.

And D played it.  It seemed a little stimmy, but it’s the first time he’s shown any interest doing anything even remotely music related with any instrument.  When we got done with the song, I started cheering.  The guy had the biggest grin on his face.  I’m hoping he’s making the connection and that in the next several weeks we’ll have him playing even more.

So that made my day.  And it’s a testament to why you shouldn’t give up too quickly.  So thanks to everyone who helped me to keep on persevering.  I think we’re going to see some good stuff soon.  I’ll keep you updated.

Thanks for reading!

-Jesse

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UPDATE (6/28/11): Today, Devin played the quacker AND the cabasa!  He seems to really like these tactile instruments, so that’s the path I’m now heading down.

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