Rebekah Tarplin, LPMT, MT-BC Small Steps Music Therapist & Instructor
Having a sensory friendly approach often makes it easier for individuals with sensory sensitivities to participate in social activities and community events.
Summer is the time for barbecues, picnics, and a wide variety of outdoor activities. A sensory friendly event is one designed to be less sensory stimulating and overwhelming. Having a sensory friendly approach often makes it easier for individuals with sensory sensitivities to participate in social activities and community events. Just a few simple steps can go a long way to make your event more sensory friendly for individuals with sensory sensitivities.
Tip 1: While some individuals with disabilities may not respond when spoken to, they may also be startled or upset by the softest sounds. If the event has loud background music or sudden bursts of sound, it may be helpful to turn down the music, or limit the music to one area.
Tip 2: Individuals with disabilities also tend to be more sensitive to touch and textures. Oﬀer a high-five or handshake and allow the person an opportunity to decline. Having a designated “quiet room” may also be beneficial as a space to provide a break from crowds in needed.
Tip 3: Some individuals with sensory issues are highly aware of smells in the environment around them. Be sure to turn oﬀ or remove artificial air fresheners from areas used during the event. You may also request that staﬀ or volunteers refrain from wearing perfume or cologne on the day of the event.
Tip 4: Some individuals follow unique diets or are averse to diﬀerent tastes and textures. If food will be oﬀered or available, be sure to have a wide variety of options and, if possible, provide a way for people to notify you in advance about special dietary considerations.
Tip 5: Lighting, especially bright lights, can be diﬃcult for a person with a disability. Some may wear hats and/or sunglasses indoors due to their light sensitivity. Oﬀer areas of dim lighting, or cover intense lighting in the ceiling with sheets or tablecloths.
If attendees know the event is sensory friendly, it may increase the chance people who may have been anxious about attending will feel more comfortable and welcome. If you are uncertain of what to do at any time, just ask; most individuals or their families will be happy to give tips and suggestions of how to help.
Please consider making all of your events sensory friendly! If you are interested in more information about sensory friendly events or music therapy and sensory integration, please contact us: email@example.com or 404-446-6945
Natalie Generally, LPMT, MMEd, MT-BC Owner/Director Small Steps Music LLC
Think about how much we would miss in living, laughing, and loving if we didn’t listen.
I love “eye shopping” (my 12-year-old's term for meandering around stores for endless hours at a time without ever buying one single item) around stores like Hobby Lobby, Ikea, Michaels, Target, and other home style oriented shops. Each time, my eye is drawn to the same words on posters and pictures: “Live Laugh Love.” I think about all the areas of life that covers, but one important “L” is missing… Listen. Listening is just as, if not more important than those other “L” words. Think about how much we would miss in living, laughing, and loving if we didn’t listen to our inner thoughts, spouses, co-workers, children, and our surroundings. I challenge you to change your listening habits in a fun, simple, and powerful way!
Incorporating music into your daily life can make summer living, laughing, and loving even more fun! It's an easy way help you connect with the important people in your life while adding the listening component. If you aren’t already grooving to music for day to day tasks, try it by yourself or with your family. Here are some music missions to keep you movin,’ groovin,’ and listening all summer:
Mission 1- Everyday tasks and music: Put some music on and get to work!
Repetitive Tasks (computer, seated work)
Travel- road trip playlists, including songs related to where you are going
Ringtones – you can add different ones for people you talk to frequently
Mission 2- Music “Moods” Create a playlist for different moods. You might even be able to pick up on someone else's mood by the music they are listening to. Here are a few examples:
“Let’s Do this/Warrior/Workout Mode
“Kappa Cray Cray”
“I’m the Bomb”
“It’s a Good Day”
“Time to Relax/Quiet Time”
Mission 3- For Your Ears Only - Music Time Just for You **Schedule Your Personal Time as Appointments**
Mental Moment – listen to music while you jot down everything on your mind
Playlists for what you are going through (i.e. lost love, found love, illness, etc.)
Pick your theme song! This is the one that picks you up anytime you hear it. It will change from time to time and that’s okay; but, have it handy all the time!
The most important thing to remember about music is to pick what you and your family like… it won’t motivate you, empower you, connect you, or keep you listening if it’s not your favorite stuff! Here are some of my family’s favorite artists and soundtracks this summer:
Angry Birds Soundtrack
Don’t forget to Live Laugh Love and Listen….. If you are interested in connecting with your loved ones through music or finding more ways to incorporate music in your day to day activities, contact us: firstname.lastname@example.org or 404-446-6945
Caroline Beson, LPMT, MT-BC Small Steps Music Therapist
I did not realize that we would be welcomed so very kindly."
When I joined Small Steps Music in 2015, I was so delighted to discover that Natalie Generally seemed to have a connection with so many community members. I was brand new to this area, and wanted to find ways to “plug in.” Natalie would tell me about present and past contacts in the school systems, clients that had been referred by a friend or family member, and when we went somewhere together, there was always someone there who knew her well and would greet her (and me!) with a big smile and a hug.
So when Natalie invited me to Peachtree City Seventh Day Adventist Health Fair, I was very excited. I knew that I would have a chance to meet other healthcare providers, munch some salad from a salad bar, and give blood alongside other members of my community that cared about health. I did not realize that we would be welcomed so very kindly.
We met a few exhibitors that remembered speaking with Natalie the year before at the same event. We met a Licensed Professional Counselor who related to us that she had seen this story about a music therapist coordinating with a popular music artist to help a patient meet rehab goals. We met a Speech Therapist and a Physical Therapist who empathized when we said that we serve seven counties. We met a Certified Life Care Planner who helps families affected by disabilities get the numbers that they need to project costs over time. We saw Raissa Chandler, Founder of Southside Support, who showed us a new, easier-to-navigate resource list for parents of children with special needs.
We came home with quite a few new handouts that may be helpful for us or the clients we serve. I know that the handouts and flyers that we went out went into good hands. Our community has been good to us so far, and we will continue to nurture the ties that bond us. After all, we are all in this together.
If you are interested in learning more, contact us: email@example.com or 404-446-6945
It certainly can be tough for adults who spend a lot of their time alone. I know that when I am alone on a rainy day, I am often hearing my “inner voice” with the same laments of that old song, “Stormy Weather.” But- I don’t have to let gloom and misery be my soundtrack. In my music therapy practice, I work with young clients who still have great energy and hope even on the rainiest days. Earlier this week, I wrote a short song with a group of young children that went like this:
I simply suggested “rain outside makes me feel…” and they agreed on “happy.” The opportunity to jump in puddles made all the difference in their appreciation of the rain. If only I could share the world of childhood creativity with more people in my community! I know that this interaction would have caused much of a stir in any nursing home or adult day care. I’d really like to share experiences such as this one through an “intergenerational music group.” It is a group of people in different generations whose purpose is to enjoy the company of those from another generation, and experience growth through musical interactions.
Collaboration between intergenerational groups such as young children and older adults in a music therapy setting can be a powerful medium for members of both groups. Old and young people are motivated by playful activity, and can do an excellent job of caring for one another. In a music group setting, everyone is gaining new experiences- trying some improvisation for the first time, testing a new instrument, or finding one’s own voice, either again or for the first time.
So the next time you find yourself or someone you love brooding on a rainy day, see if you can bring a sense of childlike wonder into your life. If you are interested in starting an intergenerational music group, contact us: firstname.lastname@example.org or 404-446-6945
Caroline Beson, LPMT, MT-BC Small Steps Music Therapist
It’s “the Holidays.” The time when “all is merry and bright.” But there are so many reasons we can feel resentful instead of joyful during this time of year.
First, the media coverage: Whether or not there is a “War on Christmas”, the unemployment rate, the presidential candidates… And did you hear that a new Star Wars movie coming out?! Then, add on family responsibilities: the gifts to buy, the decorations, the additional “stuff” that you take on, the difficult task of avoiding a dozen sweet treats offered to you. And on top of it all, we are approaching the winter solstice. Our days are short; darkness fills each evening, perhaps reminding us of dark times.
This isn’t the “Merry Little Christmas” we imagined. For us, it isn’t a “Happy Hanukkah” or “Joyous Kwanzaa.” For whatever reason, we simply aren’t feeling that awesome burst of positivity. Many of us have been focusing our energy on the obtaining of joy in these holidays; we put extra pressure on ourselves to make the holiday perfect in order to gain maximum joy. But real joy doesn’t work that way.
I don’t know about you, but the feeling “joy” comes very rarely for me. It can be especially elusive when I feel that I’m on the spot. Pressure from others and from myself often brings about the opposite effect. I feel resentful or apathetic when I feel that I must choose a positive emotion.
The truth is: I can choose any emotion I want. As an adult, I can make decisions that help me modulate my emotions. I like to save anger and sadness for times when I am by myself or with someone who understands me well, and can handle my difficult feelings. To keep myself away from the negative emotions, I use a “reframe” of the situation. When I am upset because someone has done something that I find disruptive, I can choose to yell to express anger, or I can choose to make a comment that expresses my concern that the other person’s behavior is interfering with my space. I modulate away from feeling angry by first reframing the situation: instead of “that person is so mean, they need to learn their lesson…” I think, “that person probably forgot what was going on around them, they might need a reminder from me.” and then by acting in accordance to the reframe.
How can we use the reframe to bring joy closer during the holidays? I will provide some examples.
There is a long line at the store. Initial emotion: anger. Desired emotion: joy and acceptance.
Your first reaction might be, “This is crazy. What was I thinking coming here? I can’t possibly wait through this whole line.”
Your reframe might be, “I can use the time in this line as a break from thinking about my mile-long to-do list. I can make a quick phone call to a friend that brings me joy” or “I didn’t want to shop in this store anyway. I’m so glad- this gives me an excuse to leave now. I can shop online or buy these things later!”
A cheerful coworker gives you a gift. It’s something that you don’t think is appropriate. Initial emotion: criticism and resentment. Desired emotion: joy and gratefulness.
Your first reaction might be, “Ugh, another gift that I feel I need to write a thank you note for… and I would never use something like this! What idiot thought of that?”
Your reframe would be, “This person wanted to do something nice for me. The execution was interesting, but I am glad that they were thinking about me.” You can skip the thank you note, regift the gift, return it, or donate it to charity. It doesn’t really matter. You just need to focus your efforts on finding the tiniest “nice” part that can give you a bit of joy.
You hear a song that you loathe, or someone singing your favorite song wildly out of tune. Your initial reaction: irritation. Desired emotion: joy.
Your first reaction might be to cover your ears and scream “La La La La” or to simply let this music turn your mood sour.
Your reframe would be to imagine a person who would find this joyful. Would a child love this song? You might imagine that someone else is singing. (Use your “mind’s ear” just like you use your “mind’s eye” to imagine moving furniture around a room).
Sometimes the reframe leads me to joy. Other times, it helps me turn away from anger and toward acceptance. Sometimes it gets me to a place where I can feel gratitude mix with melancholy- like saying “I am missing something or someone that is no more, but so glad I have the memory.” If you decide to try the reframing technique, give yourself credit when you bring yourself to any emotion that is more comfortable to you than your initial emotion. Celebrate often with music that lifts your mood, the kindness of friends, or a moment of silent meditation.
Remember that one or two flashes of joy can provide fuel for future joy, like a snowball gaining size and momentum as it rolls down a hill. If you had a talk with someone who was caring and tender, spend a few moments reliving those feelings. Conversely, if watching the news makes your blood boil, turn it off. You can read the headlines from a print news source at a time when you feel you can better manage the negative stories.
Lastly, keep in mind that music can be a major mood moderator. You can control the kinds of music you hear, so if the radio is souring your mood, change the station. Surround yourself with music that suggests joy, happiness, and comedy in order to push away the negative moods and truly find joy in the holidays.
All out of ideas for “joyous” songs? Try the songs on my Youtube playlist “JOY”: