question mark ask listen and learnI get lots of email from Listen & Learn readers. I try to answer each and every question that lands in my inbox, which sometimes takes me hours at a time. So instead of writing the same responses over and over, I thought it might be beneficial to share reader questions and my answers right here for everyone. The first question in my “Ask Listen & Learn” series is as follows:

The children I work with are hospice patients. Our goals center on bonding between mom and patient (not that they have problems bonding, it’s more creating memories) and getting a response from the patient. My patient’s response is declining, due to diagnosis, but the patient still responds to music more so than to other stimulation. AND the patient still communicates…will smile to show pleasure, and pouts when upset — will seriously pout by sticking out lower lip when we give the little sibling too much attention during session (it’s pretty cute) and will also turn head away and roll eyes if doesn’t like something (also very cute). I guess my request is for music that is less teaching a skill and more geared towards significantly lower functioning kids.

As a music therapist who works primarily with children in an educational setting, it is easy for me to get tunnel vision as I write my songs — so many of them do tend to “teach” a skill or concept. However, because many of my students are significantly lower functioning, I often adapt the majority of my songs to suit their abilities.

This being said, I am well aware that as busy therapists, parents and teachers, we don’t always have time to rewrite lyrics to existing songs in order to make them suitable for our own children and students. Here are a few Listen & Learn songs that may be appropriate as-is for this particular reader’s patient:

  • The Feelings in My Heart: This reader actually cited this particular song as one that was effective, so I’m sharing it more for everyone else’s sake. It doesn’t necessarily require a response from the child, but if he/she is capable of facial expressions, then the child can respond non-verbally.
  • Patrick & Polly Pumpkin: I thought I’d throw in a seasonal song here, too. This song doesn’t require any response at all, but it has a nice theme — friendship and feeling loved.
  • On the Disney Channel: Even some of my lowest functioning students, those for whom most skill-based songs are too advanced, light up when I sing this one. The characters and shows are familiar and fun, and the song itself is just for enjoyment.

Another option for this patient is a singable story. This is something that not only you, the therapist, can do with the patient, but it is also an activity the parent and child can share on their own later. My personal favorite is The Story of My Feelings, by Laurie Berkner.

If you have a question you’d like for me to answer here at Listen & Learn, simply send me an email (and be sure to include that you’d like it shared on the blog). I would love for Ask Listen & Learn to become a regular feature!