Music to spark a better life for older adults and preschoolers

Posts tagged ‘Music Therapy’

Happy Second Birthday!

Music Sparks is two years old. 

It has been a great year – both in Hays and in social media.  

Here in Hays, I have had great fun regularly providing group music therapy services at some area assisted living facilities including a very successful intergenerational group at one facility. Being invited to take part in the Family Fun Fest at the Mall was an absolute blast! The fall Saturday morning class was great fun for me and the boys who attended. I am also thankful for the opportunity to volunteer some time during the year in the Good Samaritan Alzheimer’s unit – New Horizons.

Social media wise, things are booming. Our Facebook page has reached over 100 “likes”. As of June 2011, SPARKS is now a bi-weekly newsletter providing resources for preschoolers, older adults and intergenerational programs around different themes. And, as of today, Music Sparks has a new website: music2spark. Do check out the new site!

I am so thankful I found Laura Crum who is assisting me in the process, and providing guidance. I also have a lot of people who have served as mentors in social media:

Things only look for exciting for Music Sparks this coming year. As I announced in May, there are lots of changes coming. The intergenerational program will now be known as Music Sparks: Sharing Songs. Beginning in September there will be an additional evening session. For children 18 months through age 3 I will offer Music Sparks: Discover one morning a week. And, the Saturday morning class for 5-6 year olds will reappear as Music Sparks: Exploration. (Click here to check the Preschool Class page for details.)

Older adults not in Assisted Living aren’t forgotten. I am working on some group music opportunities just for you! The best place for you to find out about upcoming sessions is the Older Adult tab.  

Thank you to all who read this blog. I’ll see you from now on at the new, improved site  – Music 2 Spark!

Story Songs for Older Adults

Telling Stories

Image via Wikipedia

When my clients make me think, it gets me excited. This past week, a conversation started at an assisted living facility on stories told by songs. There are so many songs that tell stories, so the question became which to recommend. Once I was home from the session, I through the topic out to Twitterverse and received responses from Kat Fulton, Rachelle Norman, Carolyn D., and Carol Costantino. Thank you ladies!

This list of songs is from these ladies along with a few of my own. Songs will likely appeal older adults – 65+ in age. Where possible, I’ve linked to a recording on YouTube for easy of use by caregivers and seniors who wish to listen.

All of these have the makings of discussion starters. If you use any of these story songs to facilitate a group, please share the response you have to them. Love this idea but work with young children? No problem, I’ll soon have a list for this group & inter-generational groups very soon.

Finding My Career Path in Music Therapy

Pathway Between the Old and New Market

Image via Wikipedia

Rachel See Smith, MA, MT-BC recently posted “How I became interested in music therapy” which made me realize  that while I had shared my story on Musical Gems (My Music Therapy Aha! Moment) I hadn’t shared my story on this site. Here is the expanded version of my career path in music therapy.

Finding my path

My parents often joked I sang before I talked. While that may or may not be true, some of my earliest memories are of singing. At around age 2 I sang two settings of the liturgy at church and created my own songs while swinging. As I grew, I continued to sing.  I also studied piano and flute. One Christmas, my parents gave me a guitar which I taught myself to play.

My dad, a Lutheran pastor, chanted the liturgy and listened to opera whenever he could. My mom lead family singalongs around the piano and in the car.  They took us to concerts and played a variety of music in our home. Growing up in the parsonage afforded may opportunities for creating music at church and taking part in visits with shut-ins. All of this created a desire to work with people and to create music. Fields such as social work and elementary music education didn’t quite fit my desires. One Sunday a feature article in the Wichita Eagle-Beacon highlighted a music therapist working at St. Francis Hospital in Wichita, KS. I suddenly knew I had found my career.

Starting on the path

It took a lot of work to convince my high school counsel such a field existed and was offered at the University of Kansas. Once I was at KU, I was blessed to be surrounded by gifted students like Barry Bernstein, Brian and Lesley Hunter and wonderful professors including Dr. Alicia Clair. It was a great environment for me to learn and work with a variety of clients during my practicums. I interned at Parsons State Hospital and Training Center  in Parsons, KS with Ron Havelka. There I had the opportunity to interact with interns in many other disciplines including art, speech, and occupational therapies.

Where the path has led

Since completing my studies, I have worked with a variety of clientele in a range of settings. Other than when I have been self-employed I have carried job titles other than “music therapist”. Yet, that training has served me well. And, I have gained skills in all these positions and been able to utilize my music therapy skills in them. Most importantly, I found populations for which I have a passionate – older adults and young children. And, I developed skills leading intergenerational groups.

I still accept opportunities to work with those outside these groups. (One never knows when a new passion will develop.) Attending conferences, reading journals and books, looking for sources of information on the web are part of my continued growth as a therapist and as a person. Also, I know I am constantly learning from those I am blessed to have as clients.

What this path means for my clients

It’s a long road to freedom,

A winding steep and high,

But when you walk in love

With the wind on your wing

And cover the earth with the songs you sing

The miles fly by. ~ lyrics by Sister Miriam Therese Winter

My path to music therapy and to this point in life has been many miles and filled with many songs. For all those you have been with me and those who will cross paths in the future , thank you.

Singable Stories: Take Me Home, Country Roads

John Denver's Greatest Hits

Image by thejcgerm via Flickr

Tomorrow I will be traveling back home after a wonderful family vacation. Though I will be flying, John Denver is running through my head. If you open the cover of John Denver’s “Take Me Home Country Roads”, adapted and illustrated by Christopher Canyon you are greeted with this quote:

Music makes pictures and often tells stories, all of it magic and all of it true. And all of the pictures and all of the stories, and all of the magic, the music is you. ~John Denver

While this is a children’s book, I believe it would work well in an intergenerational group. Watch the clip to find out why.

What are your impressions of this book? Share them in the comments.

Simplification in a Session

Simple

The week of August 1-7 is Simplify Your Life Week. As always, that has me asking questions.

  • How can simplification apply to my work?
  • How does simplification apply when working with older adults or children?
  • Does it apply to life with a young child?

In my work, simplification can take many forms. Accompaniments can be reduced even to the point of a simple rhythm on a drum. I can prepare less structure/plan allowing myself to flow with the clients during the session.

Working with older adults I have become aware of the need to decrease background noise. With many clients – old & young – less visual noise is also helpful. It can be easier to attend to a person or a task when there is less in your visual field.

At home, simplification can mean putting away some of the toys for a month. By rotating what is out and available, it keeps things fresh. It can also mean playing with simple blocks or containers

How do you bring simplification to you life? Your work?  Please share it now in the comments.

7 Link Challenge – Music Sparks Version

backlit house number

Image by cmurtaugh via Flickr

My friend, Michelle Erfurt put out a challenge on Music Therapy Tween for a 7 link challenge. This seemed like a simple challenge. The questions only apply to the dates of August 2010 – July 2011. So here we go!

  1. Your first post of August 2010: Music for All This was a short post sharing a link. Boy have my posts changed in the last year.
  2. A post you enjoyed writing the most: Right Down to Your Toes I love being barefoot. I love getting a pedicure. Finding this poem and turning it into a song was a joy.
  3. A post which had a great discussion: It surprises me that a couple tied: Time to Spring Forward and Singable Books: Patriotic.
  4. A post on someone else’s blog that you wish you’d written:  Intergenerational Music at Cornerstone I wish I had a big hit post like this one on intergenerational music that was on my blog.  This may be a goal for this coming year. I wrote something that impacted the lives of those for whom I provide services.
  5. Your most helpful post: Brining Australia to Kansas This post brought comments from Australia that informed my sessions. The residents were very impressed to have music suggested from around the globe.
  6. A post with a title that you are proud of:  Yes, You Can! The title created interest and was a great summary of this video. We can each make a difference in the lives of those dealing with dementia.
  7. A post that you wish more people had read: Singing Bowl Meditation Doing meditation with a group of older adults with a variety of backgrounds and diagnosis can be a challenge. But, this seemed to work.

Now, it is your turn! If you are a blogger, share your list of seven.

Top Intergenerational Music Blogs

My last two top ten posts looked at music therapy and music with older adults. Here is list #3 – the top intergenerational music blogs. This took a little work as many are just news articles or single posts. So, I’m trying to share sites with the greatest information. You will notice there are only seven. Most of the items were news stories or offered only an overview of the program.

7. Our Big Earth

6. Sound Health Music 

5. EMBE Music Therapy

4. Darwin Intergenerational Music (This is a YouTube link)

3. Soundscape Music Therapy 

2. Music Together 

1. Cornerstone Music Community (A new blog I now follow)

What this tells me is not many blogs repeatedly address intergenerational music – an area which I greatly enjoy. It provides me some new resources for interview and conversations on the subject. In fact, I hope to have some posted targeting intergenerational music during August 2011.

Sparks Spot: Erin Bullard

Today’s post is a guest spot which excites me.  It is by Erin Bullard who I met through Twitter. Erin Bullard is a board-certified music therapist and neurologic music therapy fellow. She completed her master’s degree in music therapy weeks before becoming a mother in 2009 and has since focused on the intricacies of parenting. She has recently started blogging on life as a parent and using music to guide that process. If you fancy, read more at http://parentsong.wordpress.com 

Erin BullardMusic Through the Day with Young Children: A Shapshot

As I music therapist, I’ve used music to aid in transitions and tasks with a wide range of ages from older adults to children with autism and developmental delays. Music is frequently used in preschool and early childhood setting to help establish the daily routine and let the children know what task is at hand and how long it should be attended to.

The most commonly used routine marker in music therapy is the Hello and Goodbye song. These are invaluable when it comes to clients who have a hard time shifting gears into and out of the music therapy session. We music therapists often refer to music as our “co-therapist. ” I have relied on these many times to help clients anticipate and mentally prepare for what was to come. It is so helpful in the sessions, that I have even encouraged parents to use a special song for transitions and daily tasks to guide the child through the day. I never knew how this actually played out or how powerful it was until I applied it to my own children.

In this post, I want to share a bit how music facilitates my day with little ones. I only have very young children at this point, and infant and toddler, but it seems that music is far more effective than words are at this point. Here are three ways I use music as my “co-parent”:

Music to gain attention: If you are a parent or caretaker of young children, it is likely that you have experienced the child deep in play or what appears to be randomly exploring his or her environment. As my toddler gains ability to play independently, my voice has had to become more interesting than what she was engaged in. If I need to interrupt her to let her know it is time to go soon or ask her a question, I usually get a quicker response if I sing her name. Very simply, in a light, descending minor third usually does the trick. It prevents me from repeatedly barking her name and using physical means of gaining her attention.

If needing to get her attention to stop her from doing something dangerous, such as touching a hot object or walking into the street, I resort to the “mother tone,” which is of course, much more alarming and serious. This means I can save that serious tone for serious things, and use a more playful tone when it is not an emergency. It has saved me considerable energy.

Music to facilitate a task: This is probably the most obvious use of music, but before I actually did it in a non-therapy setting, I did not know how it would go over. When my daughter was first learning to eat solid foods and therefore required to sit in one place at the table, she often became very restless and refused to eat. After singing the same song during a few meals, she began to calm down and allow us to feed her the entire meal. We usually used the same two or three songs so that they became familiar to her.

This was also true of diaper changes and baths. I always thought the song had to do with the actual task, but it didn’t seem so in the case with my daughter. As long as we had sung the song over and over so that it became familiar, it didn’t have to reflect the task at hand to be effective as a distraction and make the task more enjoyable.

Music to ease transitions: This is the area in which music has become the most helpful, especially since I have an infant that prevents me from verbally and physically coaching my toddler from one activity to another. I use very short melodies that simply call attention to the fact that something is going to happen, whether it is a meal, a story, going upstairs (to transition to nap time, bath, or bedtime), or the end of an activity, such as playing at the park.

For example, we sing a melody just before sitting down to eat. The words are “Welcome, welcome, welcome to our table.” That’s all. That is enough to announce that it is time to eat, and most of the time, it works! My daughter will come running to the table. Some melodies are a little longer, but it makes the announcement that we are going to do something and now is the time to prepare.

Of course, using music does not make for effortless guiding, but it does make things easier most of the time. Whenever I forget and start only using words to explain what is coming, I am always met with some resistance and things don’t flow as smoothly. The music helps me keep energized, grounded, and a little more patient!

I hope these snapshots give a picture of music in action and spark some ideas for using music in your own life with little ones!

Top 10 Blogs on Music with Older Adults

Go 10

Image via Wikipedia

Last week I shared a post on the top 10 music therapy blogs. Whether you are a music therapist or someone working with elders, these are some great resources. Todays list is from my search of Google for “music with older adults.”

10. Key Changes Music Therapy Services

9. 55 Places.com (A new find I am now following)

8. Connecticut Music Therapy Services

7. Bow Cliff Blog Site (This is an interesting find in many ways for me.)

6. Soundscape Music Therapy

5 .Rhythm for Good 

4. Victoria Williamson Music Psychologist (This was a new find for me)

3. Music Therapy Research Blog

2. Linda Coyle’s Blog (interesting that this is her old site)

1. Music Therapy Musings

I find it interesting that five of these are music therapy sites. It tells me that music therapist address this area. It also tells me there are other with influence in this arena. Finding new sites to follow provides me previously untapped sources for ideas.

My next top ten post will be on intergenerational music.

Camping Theme Resources

If you received my newsletter, be sure and check out Canoeing in Preschool. And check out this camping resource by 2 Teaching Mommies.

Those who receive my SPARKS newsletter received the following ideas and more!

Camp Songs:

Children

  • Do Your Ears Hang Low
  • Boa Constrictor
  • The Littlest Worm
  • Little Bunny Foo Foo

Older Adults

  • Picking Flowers in the Rain
  • Tenting Tonight
  • Trail of the Lonesome Pine
  • Dip, Dip & Swing

Intergenerational

  • Oh, We’re from Camp (insert the facility name, family name, etc.)
  • Camp Granada
  • Marching to Victoria
  • If You’re Happy & You Know It

Books:

Children’s Story Books

  • Camp Granada: Sing-Along Camp Songs by FranÃ
  • How to Catch a Fish by John Frank and Peter Sylvada
  • I Took a Walk by Henry Cole
  • On the Way to the Beach by Henry Cole
  • Wish You Were Here by Martina Selway
  • Camping in Green (Know Your Colors) by Christianne C. Jones and Todd Ouren

If you would like to receive the rest of the information, sign  up for my SPARKS newsletter. You will be able to access the rest of these camping ideas from June 2011 from the archives.

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