Music and Social-Ability

Often this time of year, if you go to a Christmas party there is music playing in the background to enhance the mood. If you go to a concert, there are two parts: the audience and the performers. Although most everyone’s focus is the same, depending on the concert types, there are performers playing, singing, and/or dancing, and the audience who may sing and dance along, or possibly only do that in their head (different protocol for different types of concerts). Lastly, there are the family or community get-together where all participate at whatever their level of musicality is.

I have been working with a small group of children ages 5-7 with different diagnoses. The original group of two has changed in the last six months due to parent job relocation. In that time, schedules have changed and so has the session format. Currently, there are now four members (we shall refer to them as Member A, B, C, and D). I began this group with a more formalized structure, thinking the children were ready for this. All could handle this but one child, Member C. C’s schedule changed and he and his sibling, D, left the group temporarily. I then discovered that A and B, although they paid attention, took turns, and answered questions (some of their goals) in the structured environment, gave a more spontaneous, playful response when I only facilitated. Now A and B were not only more excited, participating more fully, but also interacting with one another more personally. A, who usually demonstrates little eye contact and flat affect, was now laughing, watching, and reaching out to others, and making frequent eye contact. B, who loves the interaction innately, but is somewhat limited by his physical makeup, seems not only more excited, but the physical limitations were loosening, allowing B through the pure joy of his interactions, and the assist of the continuous rhythmic flow of the music to more fully participate with fluidity and ease.

C and his sibling D have re-entered the group. C had difficulty with the previous structure. He had difficulty and found the structure somewhat threatening. C was not in control, and although the previous structured format had consistent predictability, his fears and difficulty processing all this information at once limited his ability to perceive what would happen next. C, however, in the absence of the group, was continuing to see me on an individual basis. C at this time had also begun some semi-structured classroom situations. Although C loved the kids, he was having the same difficulties in his classroom situation. While working with him on an individual basis, I was somewhat at a loss. He was referred to me because of his severe speech delay and some behavior difficulties, mainly meltdowns. In individual Music Therapy, his speech and communication difficulties had progressed to about where they should be, and consequently, and the difficulties that were a part of the speech delay improved the meltdown situations greatly.

I felt lost in the individual sessions. We were finishing up some goals and I was unsure where to go. He of course had age-appropriate developmental areas to work on. We could carry on an age-appropriate conversation, and he was demonstrating the ability to connect ideas through imagination. I continued to support through the continuous flow of music some minor speech needs. The individual sessions did not seem to have consistency lately, and I knew there was a need I hadn’t yet identified. Otherwise, the structured situation should not be a difficulty at his age. I did a re-assessment and found that I followed and supported all his interactions. There was to little give and take. I was very happy with the timing of his schedule change opening back up and my re-assessment results were coordinating together. This small group would be perfect for him.

Child A, who does a lot of station work daily in school, comes to life for movement. He comes into the group as, ironically, the least likely leader, and immediately begins to jump on the trampoline, leading the rhythmic flow of the group. Child B, with some of his coordination and fluency difficulties, comes in and joins us in the continuous jumping-facilitated music on the drums. Child C began by standing in the middle by a drum, briefly eying everyone else up, and joining the drumming flow. Child D is the most adaptable, and alters instrumentation and movement, beginning the group in turn-taking, back-and-forth interaction, call and response, and leader vs. follower positions. The children fell back and forth from attending to their own interest and allowing the group to follow to watching and following someone else’s interest. At this point, there was a free flow of give and take, no prompting taking place. All leave the group happy and energized.

In my recent reassessments and reflection on my clients, I have noticed a common trend. Several of the reassessments have revealed that my clients are often being followed in their music making and although there are some brief primitive back and forth exchanges, more substantial ones are needed. I have to ask myself if this is all due to my clients. Do I need to leave more space musically and re-examine my musical elicitation methods closer? Do I need to facilitate more subtle musical methods of interaction? Maybe I need to be more conscious of this and look deeper at my clients and myself in order that all can interact and participate to their fullest ability.

Antoinette Morrison MT-BC

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *