I Can Do It By Myself

I Can Do It By Myself

A fellow music therapist recently posted on a Facebook forum that he was in search of songs or interventions about performing tasks independently. I commented that I couldn’t think of any off the top of my head, but that it sounded like a great topic for a Listen & Learn song. After all, I have plenty of students with goals related to performing tasks independently. And that’s how “I Can Do It By Myself” came to be.

Naturally, the tasks that I chose to include this song are all musical: playing the drum, playing the piano, and playing the bells. But because the song is so very simple, just about any task (including movement, item manipulation, etc.) can be substituted to accommodate a child’s specific goals.

So many of the songs I’ve written have come about because other music therapists have either mentioned or specifically requested topics. Feel free to send your suggestions and requests my way…coming up with new subject matter every single week can be a bit of a challenge!

Just Make It a Habit

Just Make It a Habit

Way back in 2008, one of my New Year’s resolutions was to wake up at 5 am every day and go to the gym. I was getting married in August, and looking great in my wedding dress was excellent motivation. So on January 2nd I dragged my tired behind to the gym. And it was hard. January 3rd was hard too, and the same held true a week later. But eventually, it got easier.

Four years later, I’m still getting up at 5 am and going to the gym. With a smile on my face and a spring in my step. How? Because I made it a habit.

People ask me all the time how I do it, and the answer is always the same. In fact, I give that same answer when they ask me how I was able to write a blog post every day for a year or if it’s difficult writing and recording a new Listen & Learn song every week.

The thing about long-term goals and big commitments is that they are always overwhelming at first — because we focus on the “long-term” and “big” parts. But if you break it down and just start taking action, it becomes manageable.  Think about how many times you’ve heard the phrase take it one day/step at a time…it works.

Something that has always helped me create habits (and I’m talking about the positive, productive kind) is to set a designated time devoted just to that one activity. I’ve already given the example of going to the gym at 5 am. Others include writing and recording my songs on Saturday mornings, completing and emailing my lesson/session notes immediately after my last student leaves every evening, and doing my weekly accounting every Friday.

As I write this blog post, I’m wondering to myself if doling out such basic advice is a waste of my time and energy. Maybe it is, but I want to make it clear that the power of habit is really, really strong. Just keep doing something, day after day, no matter how difficult it feels; one day you’ll realize that you can’t NOT do it. And if you need extra incentive, make your intention known. Whether you tell your mom, book club, or entire Facebook friend list, putting it out there will help you to hold yourself accountable.

So what habits are you working on creating?

Colors All Around

Colors All Around

This week’s song topic comes courtesy of my mother-in-law, a special education teacher who works with young children. Every month I make her a CD of Listen & Learn songs to use in her classroom, and she creates amazing visual supports to accompany the songs.

This weekend I asked her what kinds of goals her students were working on, and she gave me a long list. At the top of it was learning the basic colors, and since I hadn’t written a color song in a while, the choice was easy.

Colors All Around focuses on the colors of the rainbow — though I simplified a bit, leaving out indigo and substituting violet with purple. I included three examples of each color and envision the song being used as a sort of “I Spy” game.

When it came to recording this week, I kept it super simple. Guitar and vocals, a throwback to the original Listen & Learn song style. This one is all about the lyrics, after all. Which songs about color are you digging lately?

Friday Fave: Singable Stories About Habitats

Singable Stories About Habitats

I spent some quality time (as in 4+ hours) with these books last Saturday afternoon…and I’m still not tired of them. After finishing a special project for one of my Listen & Learn Plus! members, I am just that much more excited to use these singable stories with my own students.

You’ve all heard the tune “Over in the Meadow” — which is the melody for this collection of stories. I own 9 of them, but I’m sure there are more out there. Marianne Berkes and Jennifer Ward are the two authors who have (separately) written most of the books pictured above, and they’re all fantastic.

The illustrations are beautiful, interesting and detailed, and the stories themselves are chock full of information and vocabulary for students.

I already owned Somewhere in the Ocean and Over in the Jungle prior to taking on the special project, but I’m so glad to have the collection at my fingertips now.

These are just the kind of singable stories I love: the repetitive melody makes it easy for my students to catch on quickly, and the content creates endless opportunities to address goals and objectives.

The “La La” Song

The "La La" Song

Earlier this year, I had the chance to see one of my favorite singer-songwriters, Eilen Jewell, in concert. Pokey LaFarge was the opening act, and I haven’t been able to get his song La La Blues out of my head ever since.

So I used that to my advantage and wrote The “La La” Song! Only my song isn’t about the blues — it’s about being happy, singing, and working towards speech goals.

I used all kinds of consonants throughout the song, but the idea is that they can be changed to accommodate a child’s unique and specific speech goals. I wrote a greeting song a few years back that followed the same model, and was able to adapt it for use with many of my students throughout the years. I’m thinking I can do the same with this one.

Side note: I’m really digging the piano lately! Sometimes it’s refreshing to put down the guitar and use another instrument, not only for recording, but for music therapy sessions as well. I need to do that more often :)

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