Singing in the Shower.... Music Therapy for OT Goals and ADL skills

Without deviation from the norm, progress is impossible - Frank Zappa

One of the coolest parts of being a practicing music therapist is the moment you have the opportunity to collaborate with other therapists.  I was recently approached by an occupational therapist to assist with a patient we both treat.  The patient, we will call “Sue,” has significant delays managing ADL’s (activities of daily living).

The Problem

Sue had difficulty washing her hair.  As our patient was seen in a clinic space, the ability to actually implement hair washing was not an option.

Sue displayed difficulty recalling the sequence used in washing her hair.  However, it wasn’t simply the sequence.  The OT reported that Sue was unable to recall the sequence as well as the time spent on each step.  As a teenager, this was a task Sue needed to be able to perform at home.  Sue was unable to independently manage this task.

The OT knew we needed to think out of the box for Sue and requested assistance from me.

The Theory

Sue loves music.  It inspires her and motivates her.  It makes reaching her goals exciting and, more importantly, attainable.  Sue loves anything with a good beat and melody line.

I have worked with Sue for almost two years.  I am familiar with her strengths and weaknesses, but I also know what type of music I can use to produce a specific result.  I knew the best way to meet her needs, while making it fun, was to write a song.

The Answer

The occupational therapist sent me the list of steps that Sue needed in order to successfully wash her hair.

  • Wet your hair
  • Put shampoo on your hair
  • Wash the front- count to 10
  • Wash one side- count to 10
  • Wash the other side- count to 10
  • Wash the back- count to 10
  • Wash underneath- Count to 10
  • Wash the bottom (ends of hair)- Count to 10

The first song that popped in my head was, “I Love Rock-n-Roll” by Joan Jett and the Blackhearts.  Thus, a song was born.

I Love to Wash My Hair

Tune: I Love Rock-n-Roll


First I wet my hair with the water.

Then I put shampoo all over my hair.

Next I wash the front
As I count to 10


Yea I could tell it wouldn’t be long til it was so clean

Yea, clean!



I love to wash my hair!

Put the shampoo on my hair now baby.

I love to wash my hair!

Come on take my time and get it so clean.


Now I wash a side and count to 10 (beat out 10)

Wash the other side and count to 10 (beat out 10)

Wash the back (beat out 10)

Wash underneath (beat out 10)

Wash the bottom (beat out 10)

I could tell it wouldn’t be long till it was so clean.

Yea, clean.


After each step, I made sure to beat out 10 seconds on the guitar so Sue knew how long to spend on each step.  It made the second verse longer, but she was able to sequence each step with the appropriate amount of time.  Not only was she able to remember the sequence, but she eventually began “washing” both sides of her hair a the simultaneously.

If you’re anxious to see this in action, stay tuned for the next post.  We will be sharing a video of “I Love to Wash My Hair.”

Want to learn about how a music therapist might help your loved one meet their goals? Click the link below for a FREE CONSULTATION!

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Image Credit: Creative Commons, Flickr User Graham Morrison,