Hello everyone, welcome to another blog post!
It is October which officially means it is spooky season (and also one of my favorite times of the year)! As mentioned in some previous blog posts, using themes during your music therapy sessions is great for reality orientation and centering your session around a certain topic. This blog post contains a couple of Halloween themed intervention ideas and instructions for how to facilitate them for your October music therapy sessions! Since a lot of us are still facilitating virtual sessions, I also included some ways to adapt these interventions for telehealth. It is also to be noted that many of these interventions are ideas from my incredible colleagues that I have observed before, and all credit is given where it is due!
One of the best things about these interventions is that they can be adapted for individual and group clients. I have implemented these with individual clients with autism, along with clients with special needs at group homes (6-8 people), and clients with special needs at a day facility (20-30 people). These interventions are mostly based on sustained attention and decision making goals.
- Halloween Hike
This is probably my favorite Halloween song to use- our clients really enjoyed all of the sound effects and interactive visuals! The lyrics to the song can be found here. A recording of this song can be found here. For this intervention, we worked on sustained attention. Visuals are passed out to the clients, each person either getting 1 or 2 depending on the size of the group. I have also included the visuals below! If there are not enough visuals to go around, you can have the rest of the clients participate by making the sound effects and listening for what is next in the song! During the Halloween Hike, different objects are spotted throughout the song, and it is the clients’ job to pay attention to when their object is called, and then hold it up for the whole group to see, and then drop it in a plastic cauldron (if available), or a frame drum. For example, the first thing found on the hike is an owl, and whoever is holding the owl, they hold it up, and then drop it in the cauldron.
You can also choose to make noises that associate with each object as another way to engage your clients, such as hooting like an owl. Continue this until all the objects have been called until the end of the song. During the line, “let’s get out of here!”, you can rapidly strum the guitar and have the clients run in place. This intervention can also be easily adapted for an individual client, but instead of giving them all 12 of the visuals at once, you can split them up into a field of 3 or more, depending on your client.
For virtual sessions, you can hold up the visuals and give your client a choice from a field of 2-3, and have them point to the correct one. Or, you can also create a powerpoint and have them point to them from there. If your client is verbal, you can also put numbers, letters or colors above each picture so that they can tell you which one they are looking at. Another option for a power point is to have them follow along and have them name the object on each slide, and the sound effect to go with it. For non verbal clients, you may need assistance from a caregiver so that they can tell you which one they pointed at, or you can follow their eye gaze to see which side of the screen they look at. Facilitating the sound effects and running in place would also be a great way to keep them engaged!
2. ~Spooky~ Bear Went Over The Mountain
This intervention takes the traditional song, “Bear Went Over the Mountain”, and gives it a spooky twist by playing the song in a minor key! I have been playing it in A minor, and the chords are I-IV-V. For this intervention, you can work on several different goals. I have used it with one of my clients who has a goal about decision making, or you can also use this as another attention intervention. You may also choose to use this in a group setting. The visuals needed for this intervention can be found here and here.
For this intervention, the client gets the opportunity to choose the lyrics that go into the song. The traditional version has the lyrics, “the bear went over the mountain”, but for this intervention, the client chooses words that replaces “bear” and “mountain”, with Halloween-related objects. For example, one of the flash cards says “bat” and “black cat”, which you would then insert into the song, and sing:
“The bat flew over the black cat,
the bat flew over the black cat,
the bat flew over the black cat
to say Happy Halloween!”
You can engage the client even further by having them sing along with you, or pausing before the object, and having them read the card out loud to you as a fill-in-the-blank exercise.
For virtual sessions, you can do something similar to Halloween Hike, where you can hold up visuals or create a PowerPoint, and prompt them to point to or verbalize which one they would like to use to fill in the blanks.
One of the most iconic and recognizable Halloween songs of all time is Ghostbusers! This is a great intervention that I have used with both older adults and adults with special needs. For older adults, this can work on short term memory and gross motor movements, and with adults with special needs, this can work on attention and gross motor movements.
For this intervention, I play a recording of Ghostbusters, and explain to the clients that every time they hear “Ghostbusters”, to raise their shakers high up in the air. If you are facilitated via telehealth and not everyone has an instrument, you can always just have them raise their hands, clap, or do another movement. If they have never heard the song before, I like to do a few trial runs by singing, “who you gonna call… Ghosbusters!” and model holding my shaker high up in the air. When appropriate, you can also use visuals of ghosts or other Halloween related objects.
Throughout the entire song, you can explain to your clients that they can shake along with their instruments to get some exercise, and to be sure they are listening for their musical cues of when to hold up their shakers.
4. Five Orange, Spooky Pumpkins
For this intervention, we are going to piggyback the melody from “Five Green and Speckled Frogs”, but change it into a minor key! For example, playing the I IV V chords in the key of A minor. You can facilitate this song with or without visuals, but it is always recommended to use visuals as another way to support clients’ learning.
Here is a piggybacked version of the song:
“Five orange, spooky pumpkins,
Sitting in a patch all day,
Waiting for someone to come their way!
One pumpkin was taken home,
Where it would be free to roam,
Now there are  spooky pumpkins!”
I’d love to hear from you all! What are some Halloween interventions that you’ve used in your music therapy sessions, or what are some of your favorite holidays to plan themes around?
Thank you for reading and I will see you in the next post!