Part 4 – Sensory Integration Interventions for Adults in Music Therapy
This is the final blog in a 4 part series about Sensory Integration. Three weeks ago, I defined sensory integration dysfunction as a neurological processing disorder that results in a disconnect in the internal sensory system(click here to read). The second post was about how sensory integration dysfunctions may present in children (click here to read). Last week I discussed a variety of methods to address sensory issues with children in music therapy groups (click here to read).
I have often said that I love being a music therapist. Being able to work with a variety of people in a variety of stages of life makes each and every day different. And being able to share in the joy of making music is truly a blessing.
While each individual is different, and how they need and respond to sensory input is also different, it is possible to address a wide variety of sensory goals in the music therapy group. There are a lot of similarities in the adults with sensory integration dysfunction as with children. Older adults with Alzheimer’s type Dementia exhibit many of the same types of sensory dysfunction behaviors as children. In addition to neurological processing disorders due to aging and dementia, many of these individuals have health issues such as decreased circulation which affects how they are able to move. On the memory units, I see many individuals that make repetitive hand motions such as stirring or tapping. Many of these people are at the end of life and have already lost much of their sensory functions. So it is important to provide as much sensory input as possible while at the same time being aware of limitations due to medical conditions.
I include a few minutes of movement in each group. I make eye contact and may hold hands with a resident and sway their arms in a wheelchair dance. Those that have the ability to move their legs and feet are encouraged to tap and kick and march in place. I may give them scarves or ribbon streamers of varying colors and textures to move to the music. These can even be scented to add another level of sensory input. Parachutes, stretchy bands, balloons and beach balls are a great way to attract attention and get people to move to the music. Deep pressure stimulation isn’t appropriate with adults for a variety of reasons, but I have found that they need physical contact. As I pass out instruments or whatever manipulatives we are using, I gently place the object in the hand and help them grasp it. I also sing a closing song and go around the group and give a gentle handshake.
Auditory processing issues are different for adults in later stages of life because many of them have lost their hearing. They may not display auditory sensitivity issues like children, but they may not be able to understand what is being said, not only due to hearing impairment, but may have trouble comprehending what they are hearing. These same people, however, can sing entire songs with the correct words in music therapy, because the music centers in the brain trigger the long term memory.
I also do instrument playing and sing-along in every group. I use the cabassa for adults much the way I do for children (click here to read). This instrument is heavy so I give it to a couple of people that make repetitive stirring motions. For those that have the use of both hands I give guiros or claves. During the sing along, I try to have my music memorized so that I can move around the circle and make eye contact to help remind them to sing and play.
Sensory processing issues are seen in individuals of all ages and can be addressed appropriately in individual music therapy sessions or in the group setting.
What are your favorite techniques to address sensory processing issues for adults?
Please leave your comments and questions below.