Tag Archives: interaction

Expression and Interaction

MQ is one of the new clients I saw for the first time this recent Tuesday. She has Tuberous Sclerosis – a condition I honestly have never heard of until last week. As there is no cure for this condition, the main therapeutic goals for her are simply expression and interaction.

At the start of the session and up till slightly after the mid-way point, MQ was showing apprehension about my presence, being resistant to changes and unfamiliar people. She refused to sit in the chair next to the piano when I was there, and at one point she even took my arm and gestured for me to stand further away so that she could have more physical space. While we complied with all these, E was constantly trying to re-introduce the physical proximity between us, trying to make MQ comfortable with me being near her.

At the start, while E and MQ improvised on the woodblocks, I was tapping on the xylophone, 2 meters away. Then E tried to introduce the wind chimes.

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MQ resisted greatly to this, presumably because it sounded too clashing for her. But when E started to play a gentle piano accompaniment, and I softly tinkled the high notes, MQ stopped resisting and seemed to pause to listen.

Halfway into this exchange, E whispered to me to get the hand chimes, while she continued the piano accompaniment so as not to break MQ’s focus.

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This was the instrument which MQ seemed to really identify with. I held 2 in my hands at first and played to her. She seemed to enjoy the sound and started swaying from side to side in wider motions. When E suggested to her that she take one and play it herself, MQ allowed me to hand her one, and allowed me to stand closer to her in the process. That was when things really started to take off. It was as if the instrument allowed MQ to unleash all the musical expression within her. With E still playing the comforting accompaniment on the piano, MQ was swaying more vigorously than ever, smiling, laughing, vocalizing. And… She had finally allowed me to stand face to face in front of her, without pushing me away!

We remained like this for the rest of the session – the 2 of us with a hand chime each, swaying together, smiling.. and E supporting with the piano.

E later commented that it is unusual for MQ to allow a totally new and unfamiliar person to stand that close to her within the time span of 1 session. No doubt the music helped to make her feel less threatened when confronted with change and unfamiliarity.

Expression and interaction – achieved – at least for this session.

On Humans and Starfishes

“Those who failed the test must take the re-test on Wednesday afternoon.”

“I can’t. I have to finish my art coursework. I’m very stressed over it. I need to finish it.”

“You can go finish it after the re-test. This isn’t my rule. This is the H* Department’s rule. If you don’t turn up we’ll have to call your parents.”

“Call lor. I’ll tell my parents to write a letter. Ask them to complain.”

And that was the end of that, because I didn’t see why I should continue arguing with her. I walked away, feeling that my day had been somewhat ruined by that short exchange.


On Wednesday afternoon, she came. I greeted her with a smile and spoke to her in a welcoming tone. “I’m glad you came!”

“I just need to finish the questions I failed, then I can go?”

“Yes! Remember not to repeat your mistakes!”


And she did pass, this time.

And then we started talking.

“Why are you so stressed over your Art? Shouldn’t you have finished your coursework in June?”

“It’s because… the new art teacher this year… she wasn’t clear about the deadlines… so we started later. Now I’m stressed I cannot finish in time.”

“I see…”

“Yeah… I’m really scared I’ll do badly for my N Levels.”

“Why would you do badly? You’re not that bad, you’re actually one of my better students.”


“Yes. Just remember that Stalin was from Russia, Hitler from Germany. NOT the other way around.”

She replied with a sheepish grin.

“I don’t even know what course I want to go to after I graduate. I like Psychology, and Design, but I also want to do Early Childhood and become a pre-school teacher. I scared study Design, next time no future. Then I also wanted to go into Law, but that one super hard to get in.”

And on and on she rattled.

I found myself getting to know this girl whom had been nothing but just a face in the classroom, a name on paper. Papers which always produced somewhat decent grades, hiding among the many others as a blur of words and content. That was all I knew about her before she chose to open up.

After discussing with her the pros and cons of studying something which “might not have a future”, I ended by telling her: “Do what will make you happy.”

She seemed to think about that for awhile, and in that moment, we were not teacher and student, pitted against each other by the cruel system, but two humans, sighing and dreaming in the midst of this rat race of life and our search for happiness.

Also a timely reminder that even behind the seemingly worst students, there are fears, hopes, stories and dreams. We just need to take time and effort to reach out to them. And while every starfish you touch may seem insignificant to the world, you may mean the world to that starfish.

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Trying Lessons

At the risk of sounding like a primary-school kid, I am going to write this sentence:

Today, someone was mean to me.

I asked a simple question, expecting a helpful response, and the person lashed back with a reply laced with harsh under/overtones.

And me, being me, crumpled up inside, though I think I did a pretty good job of not showing it on the outside.

Later on, the person apologised, which I thought was quite nice, because as far as I know, this person doesn’t always apologise to everyone he/she steps on.

But I asked my heart, “Do you feel better?”

And a small part of the heart shook its head (if the heart has one), because from the moment when the words cut in their harsh manner, the wound had already formed, and blood had been spilled. The plaster of an apology may have stopped the bleeding, but it does not close the wound.

All my life, I have been easily (sometimes too easily) hurt by words and their intentions. Maybe it happens when your language of love is words – you are just that more sensitive to them.

But since last year, I came up with this thought:

Instead of dwelling on the words and their owners that have hurt me, I could turn the situation around, and hope that I will never be the one using words to hurt people as I have been hurt.

A feeble attempt to make light of my bleeding emotions, but at least, I’m trying.