music therapy

The Giving Tree in the News!


Thank you CBS46 for your coverage of our Giving Tree program! Thanks to The Goddard School for sharing your kiddos with us! And as always, thank you to Arbor Terrace at Crabapple for letting us provide this program in your community! Research shows that intergenerational programs benefit everyone involved. For young people, it provides a positive view of aging, making them less likely to stigmatize the elderly. For older adults, it can reduce the likelihood of depression and social isolation, improve communication, and strengthen feelings of self-worth. #TheGivingTree #MusicTherapy

Drumming for Social Skills

“That looks like fun!” Many may comment as they watch a group of clients in the pavillion beating out rhythms on bucket drums during The George Center’s summer Bucket Drumming program. It certainly is fun, but is that the only purpose it serves?

Ga Eul Yoo and Soo Ji Kim recently published an article in the Journal of Music Therapy addressing that very question, “Dyadic Drum Playing and Social Skills: Implications for Rhythm Mediated intervention for Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder.”

As I read this article, I was excited to see that Yoo and Kim comment on the reclassification of ASD as a a motor disorder rather than a social disorder, justifying the use of rhythm as a tool for treatment. This is a reassuring sign that music therapists as far as South Korea are embracing the new concept of ASD as a neurodevelopmental condition rather than a social disorder. Now, the focus is shifting to how best to treat it as a neurological condition. Because rhythmic cueing - defined as “the provision of regularly paced external stimulation” such as to a metronome or steady beat - has been so effective with other neurological conditions, Yoo and Kim hypothesize that it can be helpful in improving the social skills of clients with ASD through scaffolding their movements with rhythm in drumming.

Drumming is a great tool for working on social skills through rhythm. Dyadic drum playing is defined as when “two individuals coordinate their movements in time with each other” (p. 344). For clients with ASD, this behavior is significant! The client must connect with their partner, perceive their movement, and coordinate his/her own movement to synchronize within the musical context. This type of motor control and joint attention is essential for engaging in social interactions on a daily basis.

Yoo and Kim conducted two studies that are discussed in the article. Study 1 investigates the question, “What is the relationship between dyadic drum playing and social skills performance in children with and without ASD?” (p. 345). Study 2 investigates the next question, “Are there changes in social skills of children with ASD after participating in the developed rhythm-mediated intervention?” Participants in both studies were measured on an electronic drum pad for how closely they could synchronize with another person’s rhythm at varying tempos as well as with and without external rhythmic cueing.

In comparing the results of experimental and control groups for Study 1, Yoo and Kim labelled “factors” to describe the different skill sets required to accurately imitate rhythmic patterns in dyadic drumming. Three “factors” were identified for the control group: (1) Embodied intersubjectivity, (2) Motor representation, and (3) Anticipatory adjustment. Yet, in addition to these three factors, the experimental group received a fourth “factor”: self-regulation (p. 356). Before they could begin to give attention to the other three factors, children in the experimental group had to gain and maintain control over their body movements, just as it is necessary when trying to interact and communicate on a daily basis.

It is interesting to note that the ASD group synchronized most closely during tapping to rhythmic cueing and synchronized the least during interpersonal synchronization without rhythmic cueing. Yoo and Kim point out that fast tempos increase demand on motor planning, but too slow makes equally makes it harder to plan movements without the presence of a clear beat. A slower tempo with rhythmic cueing enables clients with ASD to synchronize best.

In the second study, Yoo and Kim put these conclusions to the test in individual music therapy sessions with 8 children with ASD.They observed the greatest increase with engagement in joint action and increases in the presence of target behaviors. They conclude that the use of music and rhythmic structure is very effective and immediate in facilitating joint action and engagement, but continued and consistent treatment with the intervention is required to maintain the ability and transfer the effects.

Interestingly, in study 2, the parent-reports on the effects on clients with different levels of functioning varied. Parents of children who were lower functioning expressed a great appreciation for the intervention and remarked a notable difference in their children’s stereotyped behaviors (decreased hand flapping and wandering) and attention to others’ actions. Parents of children who were higher functioning remarked that their children enjoyed music more after the intervention, but some expressed a desire for “more direct changes in social behavior and communication skills.”

As I reflect on how this article can affect my clinical work, I am amazed by how many contexts this article can apply to. I conduct rhythm and drumming activities with all of my individual clients, but normally addressing the motor and cognitive domains of functioning. I also teach a whole drumming class to a group of high-functioning students, many of whom are on the spectrum but are working towards appropriate social skills and behaviors. Yoo and Kim provide interesting suggestions on how to approach designing dyadic rhythm interventions, such as by beginning with exploring rhythmic movement and then beginning a joint activity in rhythmic movements with a partner. Slower tempos with rhythmic cueing will prove the easiest for clients with ASD to synchronize with, but steadily removing supports and increasing the difficulty will challenge them and help them grow over time. Within the design of a single activity, changing the tempo is also an excellent way to assess the client’s engagement with their partner while maintaining the rhythmic structure that supports gross and fine motor planning.

Based on the parents’ responses, I believe a great lesson from this study is how an intervention that has significant and notable effects for one level of functioning may not have as great an impact for another. Yet this is not a reason to abandon the intervention all together. In many cases, augmentation is required to make it more challenging and beneficial for higher functioning students.

Overall, this article renews my confidence that the activities we bring to our clients can have a positive effect in ways that other therapies or lessons may not. How many activities involve every group member doing the exact same thing at the same time, connecting to each other through careful attention and coordinating the motor planning to synchronize with peers? The required careful attention to the other people in the room and the rhythmic framework of the activity make drumming a valuable tool for therapeutic success in the social domain.

Works Cited

Yoo, G. E & Kim, S. J. (2018) Dyadic Drum Playing and Social Skills: Implications for Rhythm-Mediated Intervention for Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder. Journal of Music Therapy. 55 (3). 340-372.

Singing Drills for Motor Skills: An Article Review

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Elizabeth L Stegemöller, Tera R Hurt, Margaret C O’Connor, Randie D Camp, Chrishelda W Green, Jenna C Pattee, Ebony K Williams; Experiences of Persons With Parkinson’s Disease Engaged in Group Therapeutic Singing, Journal of Music Therapy, Volume 54, Issue 4, 30 December 2017, Pages 405–431, https://doi.org/10.1093/jmt/thx012

As I sit down to write my last journal article review for The George Center, I am filled with gratitude as I reflect on the growth I have experienced during my time here! The professionalism and clinical skills I have been been able to train under truly have prepared me for whatever the next steps will be in my music therapy career. I am beyond thankful to The George Center for the variety of populations and settings I have been able to work with over these past six months. That said, one of the final additions to my internship caseload has been assisting with a Parkinson’s Choir, which is facilitated by two Board-Certified Music Therapists from The George Center. The primary goal of this choir has been to increase support systems amongst the individuals with Parkinson’s disease community and decrease diagnosis-related symptoms through therapeutic techniques.

Parkinson’s disease (PD) is defined as a progressive neurodegenerative disorder that leads to altered neural control of movement, including the control of voice, respiration, and swallowing (Stegemöller et al., 2017). Research shows that there is up to 90% prevalence of voice and swallowing difficulties in persons with PD, and neither medication nor deep brain stimulation surgery has proven to effectively treat such symptoms. Therefore, the need to provide therapy for voice, respiration, and swallowing difficulties remains a constant need amongst this population. Music therapy gives individuals the opportunity to strengthen and maintain current function within these areas of impairment through interactive, music-supported interventions.

This particular article fascinated me, as it highlighted the personal experiences and benefits of 20 individuals who participated in singing interventions for 8 weeks. The individuals ranged from ages 47 to 82. There were 14 male and 6 female participants (Stegemöller et al., 2017).  After 8 weeks of weekly sessions, each participant was given the opportunity to share how the group impacted him or her physically, emotionally, and socially during a private interview. The overall results were positive, as individuals reported improvements in their volume of speech, communication, as well as a growth in their PD support system.

For this study, specific therapeutic exercises were used during each session. Some of these included lip buzzing, glissandos, a vocal intensity (i.e., loudness) exercise, articulation exercises, and group singing (Stegemöller et al., 2017). Lip buzzing is explained as a useful intervention with this population because it requires a minimum amount of air pressure to maintain lib vibration. Over time and with practice, this can be strengthened for each individual, resulting in the ability to add pitch and more overall vocal control to the activity. Glissandos can be explained as sliding between pitches vocally. For this technique, the music therapist started out with a small range of 3 notes apart, and over time was able to increase the pitch range to 8, which is a full octave on the piano. Vocal intensity exercises during this study used a decibel meter to systematically increase loudness each week. The duration of the vocal intensity was produced in 2 second intervals. The last technique applied weekly was an articulation exercise, which are designed to focus on the articulation muscles of the lips, tongue, and jaw. Starting with singing the consonants, “mee, meh, my, moh, moo” the music therapist was gradually able to get participants to replace “m” with the consonants “t,” “d,” “s,” and “k”. Engaging pitch control and air pressure together can be challenging for this population due to the progression of the disease that can impact the muscles that control vocal usage. Therefore, warm-up exercises are important to implement with regular practice. In addition to these exercises, subjects were given CDs of breathing and vocal exercise to do at home twice a week.

During the Parkinson’s Choir I currently assist with, one method I have seen used in exercises is the addition of movement. Participants are sometimes instructed to move their arms up and down with the pitch, or progression of the musical phrase.  Another exercise that has been implemented that focuses on vocal pitch, sustaining breath, and volume is a vocal siren. Vocal sirens are essentially producing pitches while letting breath out in a yawn-like fashion. The sound is first produced softly, then gradually to the loudest sustainable volume, and back to a soft volume, like a siren. Throughout this exercise patients are encouraged not to breathe between volume changes, in order to strengthen the vocal muscles that are engaged during the exercise as well as increase breath control.

From this article, I took away the importance of consistency, which over time built vocal and respiratory endurance in participants. Participants regularly attended the group and completed the CD exercises twice a week. Many of the individuals referred to singing as a ”work out” and I would agree with that statement. Posture, breath support, and core muscles all have to be used to produce loud and sustained vocalizations. Singing is unique to the body in that it is able to work such minute, but essential mechanisms. Strengthening the oral motor functions through singing is especially effective for Parkinson’s patients because it can prevent future regressions in functions like swallowing. Being able to complete singing and respiratory tasks gives individuals a chance to “work out” their body, while also building confidence in their ability to develop skills in spite of their degenerative condition.

In addition to physical benefits, group music therapy in this form can also be extremely social. Emotional support is particularly important for people coping with any type of disease. The nature of degenerative diseases like Parkinson’s tends to increase the likelihood of individuals becoming less social, decreasing their support systems, becoming dependent on a small number of caregivers, and potentially even feeling embarrassed of their physical symptoms in typical social settings (Stegemöller et al., 2017). All of these possibilities heighten anxiety, increase depression, and decrease overall quality of life as individuals have the propensity to feel hopeless as the disease progresses. Music therapy provides an opportunity for empowerment and support of individuals living with all stages of such conditions. As emotional and physical domains are mutually impacted, the therapeutic value of music for this population is unique compared to all other options. I was thrilled to find this study and look forward to seeing the Parkinson’s Choir continue to grow during my remaining time at The George Center.

As a new professional, I will continue to study research and integrate the best practices in the treatment of my clients. I will continue to implement interventions as the ones mentioned previously, as they have shown positive effects in the short amount of time I have been involved with the choir. This article was a wonderful reminder of the many benefits group treatment can have for individuals living with a degenerative diagnosis. It is a great reference for professionals starting a music therapy program or ensemble with this population. I look forward to more research developing to support these practices with Parkinson’s disease. As more research is done, music therapy as a nonpharmacological treatment option will hopefully increase for this population as well.

 

Book Review: The Out of Sync Child

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Book Review- Out-of-Sync Child Grows Up: Coping With Sensory Processing Disorder in the Adolescent and Young Adult Years

               Kranowitz, C.S. (2016). Out-of-Sync Child Grows Up: Coping With Sensory Processing Disorder in the Adolescent and Young Adult Years. New York, NY. The Penguin Group.

 

 

 

In Carol Kranowitz first book The Out-of-Sync Child, many challenges and strategies of living with sensory processing disorder (SPD) are brought to light. It was an enlightening read that I would recommend to professionals, parents, and friends that interact with individuals of all ages, stages, and diagnosis involving SPD. Based on the overall knowledge I gained from that book, I was excited to read Kranowitz’s sequel The Out-of-Sync Child Grows Up. The material is very applicable to the age groups and backgrounds that I have been privileged to work with at The George Center thus far. After learning more about sensory processing, I was left with several specific questions. This book answered many of them!

 

Before jumping into details of the book, think with me first to back when you were or teenager or young adult. The hormone changes, the emotions, the desires or disappointments, the perspective you had on life, how you compare yourself to others, maybe even how you judged others around you, and so on. Teenage years can be an awkward time of maturing and an exciting time of development, but they can also be a painful stage if support systems are not present. We can all remember mentors, parents, siblings, teachers, and coaches that influenced and encouraged us. But, what if you were different physically? What if you couldn’t wear clothes that were in style because they irritated your skin or you couldn’t participate in extracurricular activities due physical challenges? What if people didn’t understand and support you? Not having certain opportunities in this stage of life can feel confusing, unfair, and often hurtful, as peers are not always accepting of anything or anyone deemed “different”.  This is something that individuals with SPD face, especially considering that SPD is often diagnosed alongside other diagnosis such as autism, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and attention deficit disorder.

 

Sensory obstacles come in all forms. There are sensory modulation disorders, sensory discrimination disorders, and sensory-based motor disorders (Kranowitz, 2016). No matter the form, everyday tasks like getting dressed, eating meals, and travel have unique challenges. Many normal daily activities may be painful, over stimulating, or physically challenging to individuals with SPD. Considering this, Kranowitz emphasizes the importance of family relationships amongst this population.

 

For the purposes of this review I would like to focus mainly on what Kranowitz shares about coping with relationships and gaining self-acceptance. Often individuals with diagnoses that cause them to perform differently than others also are perceived differently, which can have a large emotional effect. Through working with multiple populations that face SPD, especially motor movement differences and speech challenges, I know from experience not to assume anything based off of what is perceived  on the outside. There is always more going on with the body and mind of a person than what we perceive from the outside. This book exemplifies this reality through research review and testimonial compilation.  

 

Let’s talk about negativity. Many different emotions, for example shame and guilt, stem from negativity. For individuals with sensory differences, these feelings are a huge issue (Kranowitz, 2016, p. 44). This is important for teachers, peers, caregivers, and especially family of individuals with SPD to be aware of. Although SPD has no found cure, individuals and families can learn to make adaptations and live in a way that works for them. Instead of frustration when it takes longer for an individual with SPD to complete classwork, there should be encouragement. Kranowitz shares one adult male’s testimony with SPD, saying, “Stop listening to those that don’t understand you” (Kranowitz, 2016, p. 51). The individual went on to encourage people to research their symptoms, reframe their situation, and seek out effective therapeutic resources to help them overcome big challenges. This individual had friends and family that supported him throughout an occupational therapy journey. Over time he was able to report feeling hopeful instead of hopeless in a world of sensory obstacles.

 

As teenagers with SPD struggle emotionally, so can their close family members. It is not easy when a parent lacks understanding for the way their child reacts to certain situations or stimuli (Kranowitz, 2016, p. 155). The family dynamic can be negatively affected if therapeutic approaches and lifestyle adaptations are not utilized. An example shared was a teenager who grew up feeling distant from her parents and siblings because she was misunderstood. Her reactions to scratchy clothes and loud noises were treated as misbehaviors. When she had a meltdown and received additional attention from her parents, her siblings teased her and exhibited jealousy towards her. It wasn’t until later in life that she was diagnosed with mild autism and SPD. She was thankful to finally have an answer to why she felt so out of place (Kranowitz, 2016, p. 157).

 

This is where music therapy becomes a wonderful option, because it creates a therapeutic atmosphere that is client centered, effective, and generalizable in the home. Music also becomes a means of sensory integration and coping through the support of music interventions. In chapter 13 individuals share examples of their successes and thriving careers. After years of therapy, supportive families, informed teachers, and applied coping strategies, they were able to overcome challenges to accomplish their goals. Several of them mention music in their excerpts. There is a drummer and a singer, both advocates in the SPD community. They share about how music was their lifeline, as it restored order in their bodies when other activities were too much (Kranowitz, 2016).

 

One of many skills I have been able to work on during my time at The George Center has been counseling. Counseling techniques are important because many of the patients we serve not only want to improve and meet their therapeutic goals, but there is also an element of coping with a diagnosis that is a constant battle in many of their lives. Kranowitz elaborates on the emotional impact living with SPD can have on individuals sharing pieces of personal testimonies, as well as sharing therapeutic success stories from professionals. Applicable coping strategies for life skills and emotional trials are also shared in each chapter.  Some of these topics include daily activities, relationships, and transitioning into adulthood. The last section of the book focuses on specific treatment and shares multiple examples of therapies as well as lifestyle changes that have benefited individuals with SPD in the long run. Although music therapy is not explicitly referenced, the importance of music is mention multiple times.

 

I think it is important to note that this book has a strong occupational therapy focus, but encourages all options. After reading the many testimonies and complimentary terminology to music therapy, I was ready to research more. I would LOVE to find the music therapy based equivalent of this book. Music therapy fits in so well with this population, and I have seen first hand sensory success made in music therapy sessions. One beneficial technique mentioned throughout this book is deep pressure. In music therapy we utilize a similar technique, called rhythmic body mapping. Other techniques used are lyric analysis, sensory integration using music and instruments, movement to music, music performance, and therapeutic singing.


Overall I was pleased with the information this book had to offer and I enjoyed the way the author connected the medical research to real life examples. It was a truly eye opening read as some of the testimonials were sad, but very real. For anyone wanting to read more into how it feels to live with SPD or a diagnosis with similar challenges, this is definitely the book for you.