Thursday, October 27, 2011

Simple Joys of Music

     According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, Cerebral Palsy is a neurological disorder that appear in infancy or early childhood.  CP is characterized by problems with muscle movements, coordination, and nerves.  Even though physical problems are one of the main complications in CP, it is caused from abnormalties in brain functions rather than in physical reasons.  Common physical characteristics include: ataxia (poor muscle coordination), spasticity (stiff/tight muscles), awkward gait, stiff/low muscle tone.

     CP can vary in degrees.  A person can be diagnosed with severe cerebral palsy needing assistance in ADL's (activities of daily living) and unable to walk.  There can also be a type of CP that is mild and a person might not need much assistance and only have slightly awkward gait.

     Yesterday my husband came home from clinical and had some interesting stuff to share with me.  He is currently in nursing school for his RN, BSN and goes to the hospital twice a week.  This week he worked with a 22 year old patient with cerebral palsy.  He inquired from the patient's chart that the patient also had scoliosis, pneumonia, history of staph infection (MRSA), and a trach in place.  This poor guy had a lot of things going on.  He was nonverbal and after brain function testing, found to have  the cognitive function of a ten year old.

     My husband was able to talk to the patient's father about his son's diagnosis.  My husband explained to me that the patient would lie in his bed staring at the ceiling barely acknowledging anything.  The patient would only smile, but that seemed to be at random times.  He asked the father if the patient was able to express much emotion or pain.  The father explained that he did not do much besides tense up when in pain and arch his back and smile when engaged or excited about something.  The father told my husband to watch something.  He went over by his son and found a television station that was playing George Strait music.  Instantly, the patient started wiggling with excitement and smiling from ear to ear.  As soon as his father turned off the music, he went right back to lying motionless and staring at the ceiling.  His father tried this several times and the same excited reactions appeared each time.

     How amazing is this?  A patient thought to have no interaction with the outside world shows such a great difference when music is brought into the picture.  And not just any kind of music.  Client preference is almost always the most effective way for them to experience music.  They can have association, memories, and special emotions attached to their favorite types.

     I always get to so excited when I hear how music can affect individuals, even in the simplest ways.  I hope to keep hearing about these special moments to further build the advocacy for music therapy.  It is not just about singing a merry tune and having fun.  Music therapy is about healing and love.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Halloween Fun

Halloween is creeping up on us!  We have just a few days left!  I wanted to write about another intervention that I have been using with my clients this week besides "Pass the Pumpkin".  When you think of creepy crawly fun Halloween songs, what comes to your mind?  I know that "Thriller" has to be in there somewhere.  To me, this is one of Michael Jackson's best creations.  I love this song!  It is so fun for everybody!  I decided, with the idea from my intern director, to create a dance for the older kids in my classes.  I looked at some simple "Thriller" dance moves on YouTube and found great resources.  I looked through several and picked a few movements that would be simple and fun for the kids.  I was worried because I had never introduced a dance to them before.  I didn't know how they would react, or if they would think it "uncool".  But it turns out, they really enjoyed it!  I was so excited to see them having such a good time with it!  And of course, they were working on goals they didn't even realize were being fulfilled.  This intervention is great for gross motor movements, motor planning/processing, social interaction, sequencing, patterns, and unity.  Here is a video that I used to help me plan out the dance moves.  There are several parts in which I would pick and choose the best dance moves for my purposes.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Pass the Pumpkin

Yesterday, my husband and I decided to carve some pumpkins to get into the Halloween spirit.  It was so much fun!  I finally carved a real pattern, and I was so proud of myself for my cute little bat cat.  After we finished and put the lights underneath our pumpkins, I suddenly felt inspired.  I was thinking, "I should write a song about a Jack-O-Lantern for the kids next week in sessions."  I thought about what goals I wanted to work on and instantly I thought of passing and socialization.  This is always a big one in the school groups.  And the product of this inspiration was, "Pass the Pumpkin".  It is a spooky little tune talking about the different faces that can be carved into a pumpkin and how Jack sits there at night waiting for everybody.  The chorus says, "Pass the pumpkin....and don't let him land on you."  This throws some extra fun into the kids trying not to have the pumpkin land on them during this phrase.  I decided I am going to have them pass a real pumpkin.  The small kind of course, but I figured that would be really fun for them to see it in real life rather than just a laminated piece of paper.  I hope you enjoy this tune and feel free to download it for your own use!  Please leave comments below if you have any other ideas in which this song could be used.

Pass the Pumpkin

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Autumn is here!

Well, one of my favorite seasons is here!  That is of course besides winter.  And winter only because of Christmas.  Otherwise I love autumn because of the temperatures here in Texas!  We finally start to see fall in October.  Isn't that sad?  We have to wait much longer than all of the other states!  But I love this season because of the beautiful cool weather and the colorful trees.  Of course, Texas trees haven't become that colorful yet since a few days ago it was in the 80s!  But today was wonderful.  And this week I have been singing a song that is about autumn with my clients in schools.  Many students still have trouble with their seasons and need to understand the differentiation between them.  In my song "Autumn Leaves", I sing about the colorful leaves that appear in this season which helps to set it apart from other seasons.  One of the questions I ask my classes before I start the song is, "What colors of leaves do you see in the fall?"  I allow the students to give me all of their guesses which usually contain at least one or two correct colors.  The main colors that I focus on within my song are orange, brown, red, and yellow.  When they hear the leaf color they are holding, they wave it in the air and let it float to the ground.  This is great for color identification, selective attention, gross motor movements, following directions, participation, and social interaction.  So here is the song below, take a listen!

***Note:  If you view the chord chart below on a mac product such as a phone or ipad, you may see missing letters.  When downloaded, the words will fully appear.

Autumn Leaves

Saturday, October 15, 2011

All you need is...Relaxation

Relax.  How do you do that?  People are constantly using this word.  "Just relax, everything is under control", "I need to relax", or "When I get home I am going to sit down and relax."  We use this term so lightly.  But what does it really mean to relax?

According to, the word relaxation means: abatement or relief from bodily or mental work, effort, or application.  I don't know about you, but this is pretty hard for me to do.  Even when I get home from a long day of working with clients, I still feel like I have so much to do.  Even when I am "relaxing" I am either writing a new song, blog, creating a plan for the next week, making sure I get dinner on the table for my husband and I, catching up on phone calls, and helping my husband study for nursing school.  This doesn't sound like a state of relief from bodily or mental work.

Research proves that music can help a person to achieve a state of relaxation.  There is something called the iso-principle in which a person mental tempo can match music's tempo.  Their mental tempo could be angry, stressed, hyper, etc.  Music that relates to the tempo can be played to match.  After this state is reached, a calmer form of music can slowly be introduced until the person's state of mind matches that of the music.  So relaxation means to totally relax your body AND mind.

I decided to adapt the song "Beautiful Dreamer" to introduce guided imagery into singing rather than speaking.  Many times guided imagery can be read as a script over relaxation music to channel the client into a positive visual world in their mind.  This technique definitely works and I have used it many times.  Guided Imagery and Music (GIM) is the technique used by trained professionals to "create an environment in which one can experience personal insights that provide answers and guidance for important life issues."  Now, I wanted to add singing instead of speaking to add an even more musical and relaxing element.  This song can be great within a music therapy session, or for your own personal well-being.  It is very important for people to take care of both their mind and body.

Check out the song below.  If you purchase the "A Beautiful Vision" on the Relaxation album, you will receive a free special bonus track of the song's instrumental accompaniment with no vocals.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

There's an app for that......Songwriter's Pad

Today I will be sharing with you one of my most constantly used apps.  Songwriter's Pad is a Godsend!  The reason I love this app so much is because I can jot down my song ideas anywhere.  Today, I wrote a song in the car while waiting for the other session to begin.  It is a very handy tool to have with you for those moments when a great idea pops into your head.  Don't you hate it when you think of the melody to a song and then you forget it a few minutes later?  This won't happen to you if you have this app.  Not only can you jot down your verses, chorus, bridge, etc, you can also record audio in the same screen!  It piles all of you information together to make it a handy way to look at chords, words, and listen to your song's audio.  I have done this so many times.  I think of the song, record it first, then write down the words and chords later.  In a time crunch this is perfect.

Within the app, there is a great tool for rhyming.  Say you are trying to find a word that rhymes with "me".  Go up to the tab that says Rhymes and presto!  You have yourself a list of words that rhyme with "me".  Say you want to know what a word means, go to the Dictionary tab.  Or if you want to look up words or phrases in a specific topic, go to Words or Phrases.  Topics you can click on can be in the following categories: love, hate, happy, sad, desire, anger, hope, fear, and silly.  It will give you tons of phrases that relate.  If you pick the topic love, an example phrase would be, "head over heels in love", "I'm a fool for your love", "nothing like a girl in love", or "your eternal love".  These came straight from that category.  Another great thing is that you can section your song by clicking verse, chorus, bridge, outro, or custom.  And of course what would an app like this be without a sync button.  As you can see, I am definitely a fan of this app!  See the video below for a demonstration of the app.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

The Sounds Around Me

I am very excited to share this post with you today!  I have been working on a song for speech goals for my clients with autism.  There are infinite numbers of songs out there that can address any speech goal you can think of.  Pretty much any song you can think of with appropriate lyrics will work on some type of language/speech skill.  I wrote this song with fun in mind.  I wanted to figure out a way to provide a song that directly deals with the client needs while still creating a fun and energetic atmosphere.  What better way to do that than to make noises?  I used sounds that my clients have been having trouble with such as: /ch, z, sh, ha, pop, gull, mm, and cah/.  

When in a session using this song, I first go over the song verbally and explain the different sounds that are made during the day.  One example within the song includes, "A train is chugging down the tracks....../ch, ch, ch, ch/."  So I ask the client on each line what sound that particular verse creates.  Then, I sing through the song stopping to ask what sound is going to be made before I make it.  There are many opportunities within the song to make the sounds.  The clients are having so much fun that they don't realize how many times they are saying the actual sound.  And what I have learned is, through repetition, the client begins to form the sounds more correctly each time they give it a try.  Just within the one hour session, my client, who very rarely speaks one of the sounds accurately, made the correct sound at least once.  I can't wait to see what happens after I start repeating this song much more often!  Maybe my client will begin to remember how to correctly form her oral/motor responses.

So here is my creation for your purchase below, enjoy!

Saturday, October 8, 2011

'What am I Trying to Say'

There are many clients that I work with throughout the week that have a hard time expressing themselves.  Even everyday conversation such as greetings, questions, and answers can be a very difficult task for some.  In a regular conversation people usually say "Hello" and "How are you?"  Then you proceed to ask further questions and give answers to keep the conversation going.  And when it comes to questions like "How are you feeling" or "How was your day", you have to be in tune with your own feelings and emotions.

I wrote a song called "What am I Trying to Say" to focus on the workings of a conversation and expressing feelings.  Within the song I go over some of the feelings a person can have.  And when I use this song, I plan to use visuals for such feelings.  I will make several laminated cards such as angry, sad, happy, sick, or tired and hold them up for the client to choose.

Below is the song I wrote:


And here are is the free chord chart that you can download as well:
What Am I Trying to Say

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Someone Like You Lyric Analysis

Lately I have been hearing a song on the radio all the time.  I have grown to really love it.  This song is "Someone Like You" by Adele.  The reason I love this song so much is partly the passion that she puts into it.  She really means what she says when she is singing.  It is nice to find artists who aren't afraid to show feeling and rawness in their creations.  The lyrics can be very meaningful and emotional for some people.  So today I decided to cover this song myself.  I loved singing it and I hope you enjoy it.  You can click this link to get a free file of "Someone Like You" fill-in-the-blank for lyric analysis.  The way I formatted this sheet was to allow blanks to be filled in by clients in a session.  This song could be of particular interest to someone who has just gone through a break up and has depression afterward.  Or this song could be for anybody that is having trouble letting go of a relationship of any kind or that is trying to cope with how they are feeling after a serious event with another person.  Goals could include emotional expression and self expression.  Here it is, Enjoy!!

Monday, October 3, 2011

Here is the second part of my favorite harp apps that I use on my iPad. The first one was Echo String which has preset chords, songs, and note named strings. The app I am glint to talk about today is called Air Harp. What is so amazing about this app is that it is just like a Music Maker or lap harp but is much more portable. Within the app, there are many song sheets in different genres from kids to adults. Also, packs can be purchased for cheap within the app. I think I purchased a relaxation pack for 99 cents that included Amazing Grace, Clair de Lune, and others.

This harp places the music underneath the strings. Notes such as quarter, half, and eighth notes show up under the string right where it needs to be played. Anybody can play it. All the have to do is just follow the notes. They don't even really have to have the correct rhythm for the piece to sound great. And of course you can play your own pieces as well with the notes placed on one side of the screen for a guide. I definitely recommend this app for a variety of clinical goals. Some of these include: fine motor skills, sequencing, reading right to left, and motor processing.

Here is a video below: