Preschoolers got you in a pinch? Practical Suggestions for Smooth Sessions

Anita L. Gadberry, Ph.D., MT-BC and  David L. Gadberry, Ph.D.

A group of young children can be intimidating –aren’t they supposed to listen attentively and follow instructions? This session will explore session planning, adaptations, and behavior management skills that will help the music therapist lead enjoyable sessions that are conducive to learning and skill development.

A music therapist and a music educator will share their seasoned suggestions for leading successful early childhood groups. With a focus on child development (emotional, cognitive, social, physical, musical) and behavior prevention, session planning and execution can be successful. The presenters will share ideas for planning, preparation, observation, and delivery. Examples of musical and non-musical strategies for behavior management will be proposed. Potential adaptations and extensions will also be offered to make groups truly inclusive.

Participants will

  • Consider client’s age, culture, language, music background, and preferences when designing music therapy experiences.
  • Use non-music materials consistent with music therapy goals and clients’ learning styles (e.g., adaptive devices, visual aids).
  • Structure and organize music therapy experiences within each session to create therapeutic contour (e.g., transitions, pacing, sequencing, energy level, intensity).
  • Provide a safe and contained environment.
  • Recognize and managing aspects of one’s own feelings and behaviors that affect the therapeutic process. (from the CBMT Board Certification Domains)

Presenters’ Bios:

Anita L. Gadberry, Ph.D. is the director of music therapy at the University of North Dakota. She serves as the Public Relations Chair and the North American Regional Liaison for the World Federation of Music Therapy.


David L. Gadberry, Ph.D. is currently teaching music education and music courses at Minnesota State University, Mankato. Gadberry earned his doctorate in music education from the University of Kansas and has a research focus of behavior management, folk music and pedagogy.

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