The methods I described last week, in The Ocean Drum, A Great Tool for Music Therapy Groups! have been very successful in the group setting. But I have also used the ocean drum as an effective method to reach children that were unable to join the music therapy group. William was in a self-contained class for children with Autism Spectrum Disorder. He had a hard time interacting with peers and staff and spent a lot of time sitting under the cubbies. He seemed interested in music therapy because I could see him watching the group. But he was unable to interact with me or the other children and would not join. One morning, I arrived to his class early. The teacher took the other kids for a morning walk around campus. William stayed in the room with an assistant. I sat down on the floor under the cubbies at the opposite end from him. I had the big ocean drum in my hands and I sat quietly just moving it gently and humming. William watched intently but did not come nearer. After a few minutes I put the drum down and walked away. Within seconds William had come out of his corner and was looking at the drum. He didn’t touch it or interact with me that first day, but watched while I used it in the group as I described last week. The process was repeated the following week and William did pick up the drum and examined it. I tried to engage him, but he put the drum down and went back to his corner. Finally, by the 4th week, William allowed me to hold the drum with him and to sing quietly. I started working with him before the group each week and introduced other instruments. As William became more comfortable with me and with the instruments, he also became interested in the music therapy session and by the end of the first quarter began to join his peers. The teacher reported that his social behaviors were carrying over into the general classroom. By the end of that school year, William became a leader and would request songs and play instruments with his classmates.
The ocean drum is a multi-sensory instrument that provides auditory, visual and tactile input. When presented in the right way, it can also be used to facilitate a trusting relationship between the therapist and the client, which builds a strong foundation for social skill development. The techniques discussed in these two posts have been successful with many children of different age levels and varying needs. Music in itself is motivating and music therapists have special training to engage people of all ages in the music making process. It is that engagement that helps individuals learn and grow while at the same time, making neurological connections in the brain and physiological changes in the body.
Do you use the ocean drum in music therapy sessions? Please post your ideas and comments below.