What It’s Like to be a Therapist at a Camp for Kids with Special Needs | Cacia King | Listen & Learn Music

This past week, I was on Nantucket Island in Massachusetts, at Adam’s Camp New England. For the past three years, I have been one of the music therapists for Adam’s Camp. Every year, this camp has pushed me to the limits and taught me new skills, while creating incredible bonds with children, their families, and other therapists along the way. 

To say I love this camp would be a serious understatement! I look forward to my weeks at Adam’s Camp more than almost anything all year.

What It’s Like to be a Therapist at a Camp for Kids with Special Needs | Cacia King | Listen & Learn Music

At Adam’s Camp, each therapist is on a “team”, broken up by age groups of the campers. Each “team” has 5 therapists, 5 campers, and 2 volunteers, and the camp runs for 5 days, with a culminating presentation for each child about the progress they’ve made during their intensive week at therapy camp. 

When I was told that I had to do music therapy “on-the-go”, I had no idea what that meant or what it looked like. I was nervous that I wouldn’t be able to adapt as a therapist or serve the clients. I was totally wrong!

Music has so many applicable uses, and It’s great to have that reminder every summer that music can be and do anything I need it to! 

Besides being the camp DJ, as the music therapist, I often serve the role of  “Queen of Transitions”. Every time the campers need to move to the next activity, I would sing a marching song to give them a musical cue, such as “When the Saints Go Marching In”.

When the Saints Go Marching In | Listen & Learn Music

Even better, when it was time to take a bathroom break, I would sing a special marching song with lyrics about marching to the bathroom. By using my songwriting skills, familiar songs, and my voice, I was able to help the campers transition through camp activities all week long!

At camp, we often take our campers out into the community, whether it is to the beach, out for ice cream, or visiting cool museums and sites. This can be stressful not only for our campers but also for the therapists. 

What It’s Like to be a Therapist at a Camp for Kids with Special Needs | Cacia King | Listen & Learn Music

To help ease this stress, I always kept a calming song in my mind so that I could facilitate taking deep breaths or other calming strategies with the group so that everyone maintained or regained a regulated state, such as “Slow and In Control”

Slow and In Control | Listen & Learn Music

Of course, we also use music for fun at camp! The youngest campers are consistently motivated by the scarves, cabasa, and ocean drum. Each year, the clients are able to share with peers, use the ocean drum together, and make social connections through our structured music therapy time during camp. And every year, the campers are most successful at sitting and attending to task during music therapy (something that I take LOTS of pride in!). 

Music therapy has an important role to play for many children with special needs, and it’s important to think about not only what we can achieve during music therapy sessions with our clients and students, but also how we can apply music to our kiddo’s everyday lives. 

Adam’s Camp has taught me to look beyond the window of time during which I see my clients and students, and has shown me how I can be adaptable so that music can serve my kiddos every day of the week, whether they are at school, at home, or out in their communities.

The second week of Adam’s Camp New England is coming up soon, and I can’t wait to see how the week will unfold, and how music can make an impact for my next crew of campers. I have constantly been challenged by Adam’s Camp to think of music therapy in flexible ways, and I hope you can challenge yourself in that way, too! 

Let me know in the comments below: What is an on-the-go way that you can utilize music for your clients or students?

You can listen to all of these songs in their entirety right here. Lyrics, chords, mp3, and instrumental track for these original songs are available for download. As is the case for all Listen & Learn Music creations, we invite you to adapt these songs as needed to best serve your students and/or clients.