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ASU students make sure the music therapy plays on for clients at home

ASU students, professor make sure the music therapy plays on — virtually.
June 30, 2020

Videos, interactive Zoom sessions help with intervention goals

For an older person with dementia, a rousing rendition of big-band music might stir some memories. And when that older person claps or sings along, the brain connection is even stronger.

That’s one way music therapists can help people have a higher quality of life. Gathering together in an interactive music session can enhance memory and build social and communication skills.

Sadly, the COVID-19 pandemic has stopped gatherings. Senior centers have closed and people with underlying health conditions are staying home.

But at Arizona State University, the music therapy has played on. Melita Belgrave, an associate professor of music therapy in the School of Music, has had her students create virtual sessions. In the spring semester, they made videos that are being used by senior centers in the Valley. And over the past several weeks, the students have interacted on the Zoom platform with adult clients who have traumatic brain injuries.

“You think about each center serving 100 people a day, and they’re used to their social interactions, with the activities changing every 30 minutes, so they’re fast paced,” Belgrave said.

“So this doesn’t mean we stop serving older adults or individuals with traumatic brain injuries. We have to provide ways for them to be interactive, and they are hungry for it.”

At a recent music therapy session, Belgrave and five students worked with two clients, who typically attend the Tempe Adult Day Health Services center. Everyone tuned into Zoom from their homes. The women had already been assessed by the center’s recreation therapist, who recommended goals.

“They’ve been referred to the center because their social skills are not where they need to be,” Belgrave said.

Therapists use a variety of techniques to elicit and reinforce the desired outcomes. Lauren Andera, a music therapy graduate student, led the first part of the session by showing a short, funny video of a cello player. Then, she asked the clients to make a beat along with the music.

“We’re going to improvise based on how we’re feeling,” Andera said.

“Think about how we’re feeling today. It’s the middle of June, we’ve been in the house a long time but now we can see our friends. We can tap on a table, click our tongues, clap our hands.”

The students watched how the clients responded to different interventions. It’s not always easy to see everything they’re doing on the small screen.

“(The students) are used to doing it live and seeing that ‘Oh, they respond cognitively when I do this and they don’t when I do this,’” Belgrave said.

“You have to be very intentional about how you are responding to everyone even when they’re muted.”

Next, Celeste Alderete, a graduate student, led the two women in a storytelling exercise about summertime rain.

She talked about rain in July and beat on a drum to simulate raindrops. Then she asked the clients to talk about rain. What sounds do they hear?

“We’re going to use our voice and our speech and the items to make a storm story,” she said.

Alderete sang the Creedence Clearwater Revival song “Have You Ever Seen the Rain” while the women interacted with the song. At the end of the session, everyone said their goodbyes.

Because virtual therapy is new, the students are learning as they go, according to graduate student Sereen El-Ghossaini.

“I was the first person to lead a session, so the data collection was as simple as a ‘yes’ or ‘no,” she said.

“Did they interrupt each other during a sharing moment and if so, how often?

“Now it’s gotten to, ‘Can I get them to answer an on-topic question?’ And I track the number of times to get a little more numerical data,” El-Ghossaini said.

Alderete said that the virtual sessions have allowed her to be more keenly observant of the clients’ behavior than she has been in person.

“On Zoom, it’s mostly their face and shoulders and you can’t really see small movements in their lower body,” she said. “You have to be aware of the small movements you’re seeing and think about what the client is doing that still pertains to the goals or objectives.”

Several of the students also were in Belgrave’s spring semester class, which, like all of ASU, had to quickly pivot to remote learning after spring break in March. The classmates were in the middle of their term working with clients at the Tempe center, which closed.

“We had seven more weeks to go, and I knew we had to come up with something meaningful,” Belgrave said.

The students ended up creating a series of weekly videos, which are now posted on the home page of the Foundation for Senior Living, which oversees the Tempe center as well as facilities in Glendale and Phoenix. With a theme of “around the world,” the student groups performed songs, taught interactive movements and showed how to make rhythms with ordinary items like a plastic container filled with pasta. Clients can watch the videos at home and family members can help with the activities.

“Every week I would cry when I would watch those videos,” Belgrave said. “They rose up and they learned.”

Virtual therapy is so new that there isn’t much research on it, and it likely won’t work for everyone or in every setting, Belgrave said.

“There are limitations when we can’t make music together. You have to do interventions that are interactive — that will get something out of the client,” she said. “You have to be very intentional.”

And while there have been technical glitches, the technology itself hasn’t been a hindrance.

“The use of something new can help older adults and people with traumatic brain injury feel connected to society because they’re doing something that everyone else is doing,” Belgrave said.

“They feel they’re not behind the times.”

The experience has opened the students’ perspectives about virtual therapy.

“This could be another way of providing services,” El-Ghossaini said.

“I’ve had clients who had to cancel in the past because they were not able to get a ride to the site. So it’s awesome that we could have this option available and still have them be involved.”

Top image by iStock/Getty Images

Mary Beth Faller

Reporter , ASU News


ASU launches Family Hub for engagement opportunities, family news

A new online hub allows families to easily engage in Sun Devil life

June 30, 2020

Arizona State University launched the ASU Family Hub on June 30 as a new way to help parents and families create personalized university experiences.

The key functions of the ASU Family Hub include bringing Sun Devil families together and offering information on campus programs and events, resources for supporting students and opportunities for families to get involved at ASU, regardless of where they live. A family of five in maroon and gold celebrates in front of the Old Main fountain Sun Devil families around the world and across many generations can sign up for the ASU Family Hub to get connected to events and resources at Arizona State University. Download Full Image

“This hub is a great idea and will help make my life easier,” said Shari Weiss, whose incoming first-year student is her third child to attend ASU.

Families can customize their experience within the hub, from receiving information relevant to their student to specific opportunities related to their own interests and passions by joining different communities.

“I've never been able to organize all of the marketing pieces for family involvement over the years, but now I look forward to getting involved, knowing that all those opportunities are going to be in one place,” Weiss said.

The hub was designed to encourage families across the globe to take advantage of the many lifelong learning opportunities, Sun Devil traditions and events that ASU offers. Families can share their excitement for upcoming lectures and exhibits, cheer on Sun Devil Athletics, opt in to the ASU Mentor Network and volunteer to support family experiences and student success.

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The ASU Family Hub will connect parents and family members to university resources for their children and engagement opportunities with other families. Graphic provided by CampusESP.

All registered families will be automatically enrolled in the hub to learn about the many engagement, involvement and lifelong learning opportunities available within Sun Devil family community.

“We want this to be more than just a place to learn about ASU events and deadlines,” said Kellyn Johnson, director of family programs at Arizona State University.

“We want this to be a true hub, a strong community in which families engage with university programs, support student success, connect with each other and build an ASU experience rooted in their interests and aspirations.”

Families who have not already received an email invitation can register here to activate and complete their profiles.

Written by Will Argeros, EOSS Marketing