Last year, while looking for age appropriate reality orientation material to use with my adults of varying levels of ability, I decided to take a look at Rachel Rambach’s Listen & Learn website. It’s a wonderful resource for music therapists, teachers, and anyone looking to assist a loved one with learning every day tasks, moving, socializing, and the like (look her up once and you’ll forever be stopping by her page to see what great ideas she’s come up with)! In this particular instance, I came across her “Months of the Year” songbook (complete with mp3 recordings of each song and chorded lead sheets).
I initially began learning and using these songs with my adult community group, to expand on various topics related to seasonal activities, holidays, and general reality orientation. We started using them back in June of 2010 and I haven’t stopped using them since. Not only are they good for reality orientation, they’re great for working on memory recall, self-expression, turn-taking, and other social skills. I typically play through the song, encouraging my clients to sing along when they’ve learned it, and then follow it up with “quizzing” the group on various facts about the month (i.e. how many days there are, what number of month it is, what holidays take place in the month, what’s the weather typically like, etc). They LOVE it and it’s really helped in building meaningful relationships between each member (they’re constantly giving high-fives and saying “great job!” to each other, after a correct answer).
After a short amount of time, I realized that these would be great to use with another group of mine, as well, though a small obstacle showed itself: one person in the group (who happened to be the highest cognitive functioning client) was deaf. Although she was supposedly fluent in sign language while she was still attending the state school, since she’d graduated high school she had used less and less sign language as the years passed. One of her goals was to begin communicating more, through the use of ASL, and this proved to be a great tool for doing so! I began creating a “ASL Lead Sheet” for each month, as it came, and presented this along with the song to help engage the client in the activity, to increase communication between her and her peers, and to begin rebuilding her sign language vocabulary. I typically take the chorus, since that’s what repeats most often, and put it into sign language in the best way possible. Here is an example, used recently:
My ultimate goal for this particular client is to get her to be able to independently recall each sign on the second verse, following modeling during the first verse. We’ll get there eventually! In the mean time, she’s progressing quite well, and I’m learning more sign language, too! While it was initially quite the task to come up with each sign, copy and paste each month, and the like, I finally took time out of my day to complete the year’s cycle. Now, all I have to do is pull out the new month’s lead sheet and it’s ready to go. No excuses! How do YOU use sign language in your sessions? Happy singing (and signing)!