• Matthew Richards

The Shrink and Grow Method

The Shrink and Grow method is an intervention within an intervention. It can be used for the prevention and management of sensory overload without compromising the essence of the overarching musical task, which in this example is a nursery rhyme play-along using a glockenspiel, designed to improve independence by targeting cognition, hand-eye coordination and motor function.

Sensory overload is often the result of hypersensitivity to external stimuli and can present as unpleasant feelings and sensations, anxiety, challenging behaviours, withdrawal from social/community engagement and can negatively impact adaptive functioning on a daily basis.

Rather than operating from a consistent and unchanging zone of sensitivity, i.e. always hypersensitive to sound, always hypo-sensitive to touch etc without exception, most individuals display fluid movement across the spectrum of sensitivity, sometimes even flipping suddenly from a state of relaxation to high arousal (rapid cycling).

The Shrink and Grow method reflects this by allowing the practitioner to alter the musical task on the fly by reducing or increasing the amount of content (visual and auditory) and the level of direct participation in real-time in accordance with the sensory needs of the individual in any given moment.

Accessing the whole brain using a music intervention without sensory overload will cultivate a climate in which the individual will learn and reinforce functional responses over time, so it is important to minimise the risk where possible.

The Shrink Method (Example Tune - Twinkle Twinkle Little Star).

This method may be considered best for a hypo-sensitive state, or if a positive headspace is communicated or observed.

1 - Start with all eight keys and encourage participation using the appropriate means (pointing to the notes in sequence, colour-coding/numbering notes or using hand-over-hand support depending on capacity). Play all 42 notes of the tune. 2 - Reduce the size of the glockenspiel by removing the excess notes (the top C). Repeat one cycle of 42 notes or less. 3 - Reduce size to the chordal notes of the tune (C, F and G) and strike the corresponding notes at the beginning of each chord change. 4 - Reduce size to the note that has the most consonant tonality throughout the tune and use only that note (C in this case). Play to the beat or at the beginning of each bar.

The Grow Method (Example Tune - Twinkle Twinkle Little Star).

Reverse the process to slowly introduce visual stimuli. This method may be best if the individual has recently been anxious, displayed challenging behaviour or has reduced concentration due to lack of sleep, epilepsy, changes in medication etc.

1 - Start with just C, (see above). 2 - Increase the size to the chordal notes (see above). 3 - Increase to required notes (see above). 4 - Increase to full octave (see above).

A situation may present itself where the best course of action is to skip straight from number 1 in the shrink method to number 5, or even start from number 3. Other times introducing or reducing stimuli incrementally is sufficient. Sometimes you may find yourself oscillating between the shrink phase and the grow phase. Fine-tuning and striking a balance that serves the individual is paramount.

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