Meet Kirby

Kirby is a 28 year old diagnosed with developmental and intellectual disabilities, and he LOVES music! Kirby lives in a small group home with a few other residents. With his own room, close relationships to the amazing staff, and an active social life, Kirby is very happy.

I have had the pleasure of seeing Kirby twice a week for individual music therapy sessions.  When I first met Kirby, I didn’t know what to expect. I have worked with adults with various intellectual and developmental disabilities, but I knew Kirby was different. Unlike some of the loving clients I was used to, Kirby has to be won over. If he isn’t interested in what you are doing, he will turn around and ignore you or make faces that convey his displeasure. Kirby needs you to prove why you are worth his time. Fortunately for me, music,including singing, guitar, and especially shakers and tambourines, is a great way to win him over. When Kirby is happy, you know it, because he is verbalizing, laughing, and dancing. This is the typical response I get during each music therapy session.


Hand Kirby an instrument, and he shakes it. Kirby displays very curious behaviors, and depending on the sound, he will either keep the instrument or throw it on the ground. In his experience, toys make sounds when you shake them, and he is thoroughly confused and annoyed when I hand him something that won’t make a sound. Because Kirby does not use both of his hands, it is important to have instruments he can easily hold with one hand. Fortunately, there are many amazing instruments that we can use in sessions such as shakers, tambourines, maracas, or a rainstick.

Music Motivates

From a music therapy perspective, Kirby is doing extremely well. Music motivates him to try new things, answer questions, and express himself. Kirby follows directions (when he wants to) and has figured out that he can communicate with me through his playing. If he plays faster, I will play more quickly and upbeat songs. Sometimes he chooses to just listen rather than play and I shift to something a little more soothing. This is very important because Kirby has limited communication skills. Music allows us to connect and practice those skills.

I plan to keep you updated on Kirby’s adventures! I have learned so much about him, and myself through these sessions. My hope is that this blog can serve as a case study about Kirby demonstrating the validity of music therapy when working with this population.