Musically Structuring Responses and “Stims”

This week I thought I would show a video of one of the previously mentioned children that had “pop out words” and how we arrived there.  As I began working with Jay, I worked toward attending, giving eye contact to the therapist when addressed, playing instruments or moving to the music and also giggling or vocalizing to the music.  Each goal encouraged responsiveness and each goal encouraged and supported one another.  The attending to the therapist encouraged the joint activity to the attending to the music and to the therapist.  Jay re-actively would move some and play instruments some to the music.  The more he played, moved and attended, the more we improvised together in a joint activity and the more eye contact the therapist received when addressing him.

The movement was supported and encouraged by the music.  Anything Jay did was matched by the same basic phrase of music which became Jay’s song.  The more he realized this, the more movement he gave just to see what would happen.  The movement, attending and curiosity to these joint activities encouraged giggling and vocalization.  At this time Jay vocalizes a lot and even begins to skip and vocalize on the way to the music therapy room.  If Jay were viewed in the classroom, one would see this boy not attending to others, very flat affect, and low interest in much of anything.  Also, an observer would probably hear silence from Jay.

The video demonstrates the repeated music structuring Jay’s activity.  One can see and hear him vocalizing re-actively.  Words, words, words are paired with the repeated music.  Unfortunately, the week that this was recorded, I was not able to capture what Jay demonstrated the week before.  Jay demonstrated his first steps toward purposeful controlled speech.  Previous to the recording, he had said “go, go, go” several times that day and also outside the music therapy session after completing music therapy.  Remember, as stated in previous blogs, growth is not a straight path up and forward.  I do not expect that Jay will say “go” at each session.  However, I do suspect this may be one of his first controlled, purposeful words.  As mentioned in previous blogs, with the repeated musical phrase a temporal sense begins to develop.  The repeated beginnings and endings and repeated chord structure helps to develop predictability.  Jay waits for the music and waits for the therapist to watch him to begin the music.  The word “go” is paired with this repeated musical phrase.  Now, “go” is not only given a beginning, an ending, and a melodic structure but it also is given meaning.

Many people in the area in which I live have heard very little about Music Therapy.  I often attempt to explain that Music Therapy is not teaching music but it uses music to develop growth among many other things.  Music is used here to structure a child’s response towards growth, development or functionality.  Often time when structure is given to a “stim” not only does some functionality emerge, but a “stim” may fade away.  In Jay’s case, not much “stim” existed but attending was a major accomplishment.

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