Strategic reasons for selecting methods that emphasize lyric creation

There are several advantages in selecting methods that emphasize lyric creation, mainly because of the specific strengths that these methods present.

Therapist can control and manipulate the ratio of original words to new words

The first strength of lyric creation methods relates to the extent to which the therapist can control and manipulate the process to ensure that the songwriters experience success. Significant developmental delay, cognitive impairments, and speech and language delay can impact the ease with which songwriters can create a song (Baker, 2005; Baker et al., 2005a; Glassman, 1991; Hong & Choi, 2011; Robb, 1996; Silber & Hes, 1995). To ensure that the songwriting process is accessible to these people with significant impairments, the therapist can 'blank out' a finite number of words so that the songwriter focuses on addressing the target therapeutic issues without the need for extensive writing of lyrics or music creation. Alternatively, the therapist can control the ratio of original words and new lyrics to accommodate the developmental, cognitive, and speech and language challenges with which the songwriter presents. In variations to these approaches, the clinician identifies key words or statements offered by the songwriter and then incorporates or inserts these within the lyrics of the original song. This has been illustrated (Baker, 2005) through a vignette of two young men with severe traumatic brain injuries, who had been hospitalized for several years.

The song creation by Daniel and Craig illustrates the outcome of a collaboration I facilitated between these two men with traumatic brain injuries. Both men had sustained injuries resulting in severe physical disabilities. They were not able to stand even when being physically assisted by others, and were completely dependent on others for all aspects of their care. Although they were non-verbal, Daniel and Craig were able to communicate using alphabet boards - albeit slowly - and able to nod and shake their heads to answer questions. At the time

I brought these two men together, they had been sharing a hospital room for a number of months and yet had never attempted to communicate with each other. I wondered what it might be like to be either Daniel or Craig, sharing a private space (a bedroom) with another person for months on end and yet knowing virtually nothing about that person. I also wondered what they would experience on a weekend in the absence of the hustle and bustle of therapy staff and when contact with others was centered on showering and dressing. Concerned for the wellbeing of these two men, I initiated joint music therapy sessions and attempted to establish a meaningful co-patient relationship between them, with songwriting functioning as the bridge.

Given significant issues with short-term memory and fatigue, which are typical of people with such severe injuries, I began by offering suggestions - potential topics for the song and some suggested popular songs to parody - to give the collaboration some momentum. These were based on my knowledge of their leisure interests and musical preferences. From my suggestions, the Ford Falcon was selected as the song topic. Craig spelt out 'Sweet Child of Mine' on his alphabet board, so after some discussion we titled the song 'Sweet Ford of Mine' and planned to set the text to the well-known Guns n' Roses song.

The collaboration emerged as Craig and Daniel offered descriptions of an 'ideal' Ford Falcon. At times they disagreed, although I was able to accommodate all of their ideas rather than making 'forced' choices from the list they generated. I constructed the lyrics of the song using the same words offered by Craig and Daniel, always 'checking in' with them that they were happy with what I suggested. As neither of these males could vocalize or sing, I made a recording of the song for them, and it was played regularly for family and friends (Figure 9.4).

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