NOTES TO AN INTERN by Margie La Bella of Music Therapy

1. First of all, it will be very handy for you to be very comfortable on the guitar. You’ll have enough to think about without having to think of finger positions. Sit with the guitar and switch chord positions silently while you watch TV. This implies that you have time to watch TV, but even 10 minutes every day will train your fingers. Guitars are much easier to carry than pianos, so there’s a decent chance you’ll need your guitar every day.

2. You probably got a copy of a blank evaluation form when you started your internship. That’s exactly what you’re being graded on. Use it as a guide to help teach yourself what you need to learn. If not the exact eval form, then use your syllabus to push your skills forward.

3. Put the songs you want to learn on CD or MP3 and listen to them when you’re in the car,cleaning, walking, or working out. If you can’t get a recording of the material, then buy a little tape recorder and sing them yourself and memorize them that way. See if you can record the songs your supervisor sings. Suggest meeting and having a song swap between the two of you. There are several handy free programs on the internet to help you obtain new material. Download a youtube to mp3 converter and have access to even more songs. Libraries have tons of great music for kids. Find a song and google words and chords. Have a question or a problem? Google or Youtube it. Try to teach yourself how to play by ear if you can. That I, IV,V bit really helps.

4.Get comfortable with your voice and singing. I think you’ll have a voice class. Sing in the range that you sound best in and don’t push. I use a mic and little amp every day. I had one intern that was quite tone deaf and one field work student with the same problem. Know yourself what are your strengths and weaknesses- now called “need areas.” That sounds nicer.

5. I used to think that I should be able to do all the right things, and know how to handle situations I’d never been in, in all my 22 years of life. Take it from me: Life’s a big lesson.
You may think you’re here to teach/work with this group of people. Guess what: they’re here to teach you as much. Different things because it’s a 2-way street. There’s a piece of every disability within us all. Whether or not it’s disabling is simply a matter of degree.

6. Open your eyes and open your mouth! Ask for help. This is where you are NOT supposed to know everything. Ask about what you don’t know. Ask the questions you’re afraid to ask.
Ask the teachers and assistants and OTs and PTs and speech therapists what their goals and techniques are. Ask. Sometimes you can work on the “same” goals musically. Articulation, oral-motor exercises, auditory memory, attention span and simple words are naturally done musically. And Watch. How does the teacher handle that same situation? When people offer you information, they may be doing it for a reason. When they jump in and say “Johnny close your lips and say mmmusic” they are telling you that’s significant for Johnny, so next time help Johnny say mmmu-sic.

7. My internship was with tough kids, some of whom were barely younger than me. Very challenging. Here’s something that helped keep my attitude focused. Every day I’d look for one thing that made me laugh, one way that I’d been blessed, and one lesson I’d learned. Seems simplistic but it kept me looking in the right direction. One thing I wish I has access to was a person to talk to about how I felt – someone to give me a good set of ears and some good direction. (But I didn’t talk about that stuff then.) Talk.

8. Back to my present job: you’d be surprised at who can do what. Sometimes I bring in a new instrument that’s a bit tricky to play and let the kids have at it: see what they come up with. Sometimes I do an activity that I’m suspecting is too hard on one level and the kids end up showing me that they can do it a different way or for a different purpose. I’ve given two-handed instruments to kids with only one working hand and guess what: they show me that they can do it! I made four short mallets for a tyke with virtually no fingers and he never needed them. He used a regular mallet. He also strung beads in OT. We don’t know how he did it! Whew. Think I’ll take a break. Good “luck” to all the SMTs!!!

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