Season 0 Transcripts (Coming Soon)
Matt: Welcome back to Mollynook podcasts, I’m your host Matt Wilkinson. In the second episode I talked to my friend Colleen McDonough, a licensed music therapist, to discuss music therapy: what it is exactly, and some of the techniques that she practices in the field.
Matt: So you’re a music therapist.
Matt: What’s that title again?
Colleen: MT-BC. So it’s “music therapist,” with a little hyphen, “board certified.”
Matt: The reason I asked is because music therapy is a fairly new, um, practice. In the grand scheme of things.
Matt: I would— I mean, this is just my assumption, but because it’s so new I’m sure a lot of people write it off as like, ‘oh it’s just playing a song,’ or, you know, hitting notes on the keyboard or whatever.
Colleen: Yeah something that our professors consistently prepare for— or help us prepare for— and talk to us about is… is this idea that we’re going to have to advocate for our field. Um, and one of my favorite professors, I thought she always put it the best way, in saying that we don’t want to aggressively fight for people to understand what music therapy is. We kind of have to show them, over time, in a way that we’re not, like, pushing people away. So we’re advocating constantly but we have to find ways to demonstrate what we’re actually saying; and research is a big part of this. So that’s, that’s part of the battle; figuring out ways to demonstrate why and how music therapy is actually effective. Um, and thankfully there are a lot of people who are working on that— working to show that, and there are a different side of things. There are neuroscientists who are trying to understand how music affects the brain, you know, so you kind of have, um, this really logical side of understanding it; and then you have the equally as important emotional side of it— to understand that on a human level— I think one of the biggest things for that is just as humans we are intrinsically musical. Even people who say that they can’t sing, can’t hold a rhythm, they’re tone deaf… so many people will say that to you, but you walk into the grocery store and there’s music playing. Some of the people who make the most money in the world are musicians. People go to concerts and spend thousands of dollars going to see these musicians; or they spend years practicing to be a great musician. Music is— it’s constant— I guess, just sort of in our lives. and there is no one that you’re gonna talk to who doesn’t have some sort of connection to music, you know? So that’s what’s really nice, is that music therapy can technically work for everyone on some level because everyone can connect to music.
Matt: did you— you might have, um— there was some writer who made the the point, I guess, that when it comes to the ways that we tell stories or the ways that we create art, the only universal art is music. Like, music, well it transcends language, and that’s what makes it so—
Colleen: Yeah everyone can find some type of music that they enjoy on some level.
Matt: Let’s talk broadly about techniques. When you go to school and then you graduate, and you go out into the world, what are some of the techniques, or what are some of the ideas that you take with you?
Colleen: Um, so one thing to understand— one important thing to understand is— is the overarching techniques that we use. So one is recreative: so this is using music that already exists and then, either, I’ll make— I’ll recreate— the song as the music therapist, I’ll have my clients recreate it with me, or we’ll create some type of new version for it; whether that means that we do a parody that uses the music and the structure of the lyrics, or we’ll do more of a lyric substitution kind of thing, where you take the idea of the song but you’re adding your own personal lyrics in, like the clients are adding their own personal lyrics in, and making the song apply to their situation or apply to their life.
Colleen: Yeah. Recreative is probably used the most often because it’s so versatile and because just the act of making music together can start to form that trust within, um, the music therapy relationship, because making music is a really vulnerable thing. People sort of, like I said before, there are a lot of people who, when asked to sing, they’ll say, ‘nope, I can’t, I’m tone deaf, I sound horrible,’ and— and to that I’ll always say, ‘one it does not matter how you sound. I don’t care, the rest of the group doesn’t care, you know, this is a completely judgment free zone,’ and you know it’s, it’s easy to say that as a therapist, I come out and say, ‘okay guys it’s a judgment-free zone,’ but you have to create that as a therapist— and you have to make everyone in that group understand that nobody’s here to judge each other, you know? When you open your mouth to say anything there’s, no judgment. And the same applies to when you open your mouth and sing, and the same is if they’re playing an instrument. We do a lot with percussion instruments, and any rhythm that someone creates, anything that they personally decide to do or create, is— that’s their music, you know? Anyone, anyone, can do that. Um, yeah, so recreative is really good. Compositional is— I’ve seen it work really well with people who are more creative because they’re a little more open to it, but some people need to sort of be… pushed a little more to embrace compositional music therapy, because the same thing with singing, a lot of people will say, ‘oh I’m not creative enough to write a song,’ you know, ‘my words aren’t pretty enough,’ or, ‘I don’t know how to write music,’ or anything like that, but it’s as simple as me giving them four chords and then they give me the words and then we put it together. And then you can add layers and things like that— and it often ends up being a really cool composition, and then along the same lines there’s improvisational. So this is just making up music on the spot and that can also be really daunting for people, um, especially when they don’t have a lot of prior music experience. But if you kind of work— work towards it over time, it can be really freeing. It can be kind of a release.
Colleen: I know that I when I first started my degree and they were like, ‘okay one of the main techniques of music therapy is improvisation,’ I and all of my other classmates were like… ‘I don’t know how to do that, like you you expect me to make up a song on the spot or, like, make up music just in the moment?’ And then when you realize that it doesn’t actually matter what music you make up as long as it’s part of that process and you’re kind of still working towards your goals it’s, it’s actually kind of a beautiful thing. It’s a really cool thing to experience other people, especially, um, kids. Kids are great at improv because you put a piano in front of them and all they want to do is kind of bang on it. And then putting their energy into something creative like that, you can have a lot of fun. You can really, um, focus their attention on something, um, and then you can, you can work from there and create something that’s more structured. And then the last one is receptive. Receptive music therapy, which has a lot more to do with listening and experiencing music, it can be very intimate. Where it’s just you and a client and you’re making the music, and they’re listening to it, and focusing on your words, and focusing on your music, or you can play it from a speaker and you have a group of people who are all doing some sort of systematic, um, muscle relaxation because that can be something really nice— a technique where you’re teaching your clients how to do how to use these techniques on their own— so part of it is, like, training the brain with music, I guess.
Matt: That’s super cool. No, that’s super cool. Let’s, uh, I guess talk more specifically now about your experiences and things that you did with people who did have intellectual and developmental disabilities— because that is kind of the focus of the website.
Colleen: So— so my experiences with, um, the developmental population in general was mostly at camp, but I also did one of my field works in a bilingual special needs classroom in north Philly. Um, so what was interesting— most interesting— for me is because I had done my first summer at camp, or— I’d done two summers at camp—
Matt: Wait can you quickly explain what the camp is?
Colleen: Yeah, of course. So Camp Huntington is a a camp for children and adults with special needs in general, um, developmental disabilities, intellectual disabilities, and for the most part they’re pretty severe, so Camp Huntington takes a lot of campers that most other camps that— that, um, work with people with developmental disabilities won’t take. Um, their behaviors are too extensive, that kind of thing. So all of us are trained in emergency, like, procedures— not just first aid but also, um, restraints and things like that, so, and— that and seizures and all of those kinds of thing just kind of happen on a regular basis, and that’s just how camp runs. But my experience at camp was I was first a general counselor, so I worked one-on-one with, um, a young boy; an eight-year-old, who, uh, was autistic and was non-verbal. And then my second summer I ran the music program, and then the third summer I oversaw all of the activity programs, um, and I should specify that I wasn’t technically doing music therapy there, I was running the music program as someone who was in training to be a music therapist. So I used music therapy techniques, um, but at no point will I refer to that as music therapy. I did in the classroom, in, um, in the special needs classroom— that was music therapy.
Matt: So— I guess, I actually am just curious, like, what were you doing at the camp, then? Like what was, um, what was the music program like?
Colleen: So, um, I ran the music program in my— in my big music hut, which was actually outside with a roof, and I had a lot of different instruments. So like I said before, percussion instruments are really good, um, to get people involved in music. Especially because singing can— can be difficult, sometimes, but most of the campers at camp, they were so ready to sing. Like all the time. They were ready for their solo and we would actually have, we had a lot of, um, talent shows. So part— sometimes if, if we had extra time at the end of our, um, our groups, and it would always be groups because there are different bunks at camp, and they’re all, kind of, put together at similar functioning levels. I use the term ‘functioning’ loosely just because people are labeled as high- and low-functioning, kind of, in the developmental disabilities community and I don’t always know how that term goes over with people. But it’s just kind of— intellectually and cognitively and in terms of how mature the campers were they were put together based on those things. So they were split up into three different main groups so you have the E bunks which were the really ‘technically low-functioning’ guys, mostly autism, mostly non-verbal, then you had the B bunk guys— all boys, um, but most of them were younger, kind of like adolescent, early 20s, that kind of thing. And then you had the G bunks which was all of the girls. So with a lot of the E bunks we would do a lot of different sensory things to music, so, um, it would be a lot about getting them to even, like, think about touching some of the instruments, because you’ll have certain instruments that have different textures and playing them, maybe, on their arms or, um— you will always, always, always have hello and goodbye songs in music therapy sessions for the developmental population because it provides structure. It tells you when the music is starting and it tells you when the music is ending and one of the main things in hello songs is you address everyone in the group so you, you call them by their name, you see, like, their attention level for the day, you might ask them how they’re feeling if they’re verbal, or if they’re not verbal, ask them to play how they’re feeling, if they can’t understand the question, then it’s more about seeing what kind of eye contact you can get, see what kind of interaction they’re having with the instruments, um, so it’s more about just— kind of going with the flow and seeing what they’re interested in doing with the instruments they’re provided and seeing what their reactions are when they’re given music stimuli. Sometimes I would even, like, if I had plastic drums and things like that, I would put paint on top of the drums because that sensory feeling of the paint was more attractive and would sometimes get them into playing the music a little bit more, too, because they had the added sensation of the paint. Or I would have them play guitar with me. I— the guy that I worked one-on-one with my first summer, I would play chords to a song and he loved strumming the guitar, he loved that sensation of strumming the guitar and he would put his ear right next to the hole and then I would sing whatever song that I was doing the chords for and they would usually be songs from his favorite tv shows or whatever, and that would help him engage more. So for some of the campers it was really just about them actively participating in something because some of them would go to activities and just sit there, you know? You couldn’t— couldn’t get them to make anything in art, you couldn’t get them to play anything in sports, you know, so music was kind of the place where they would perk up a little bit and pay a little bit of attention and engage.
Matt: Yeah that’s really cool. That’s so cool. That’s— I can’t, um, I can’t believe that there would be any pushback against music therapy.
Colleen: There was one young man who I worked pretty closely with, he would wear headphones all of the time and he would have music playing softly because he was really startled by loud noises, but in music, uh, he loved the backstreet boys. So we would take his headphones off and you— like— the difference was palpable. You you took his headphones off and initially he’s a little wary because he’s scared of loud noises, but you start playing some of his favorite songs and he’s dancing, and he’s playing different instruments, he wants a bandana tied around his head, he wants to be a pirate, it’s like you never saw any of these things, any of these, um, behaviors outside of music. So as a music therapist it was really reassuring and validating for me that, um, he was in the right place. You know, he was he was in a space that was, um— not only did the rest of us think it was good for him, that he genuinely seemed to be enjoying himself when he didn’t seem to find enjoyment in many other things. And that’s just kind of something that I learned along the way— that sometimes music therapy with different people is, it’s really about those really small progressions, you know? Like getting someone to finally play the drum, or getting someone to finally open their mouth and sing a little bit, or dance, or do something differently, or interact with another camper in a way that they hadn’t before, um, so I saw a lot of campers open up in music in ways that I didn’t— didn’t see them do it outside, you know?
Matt: Amazing. That’s so cool and that goes back to, you know, this is a recurring theme which I guess makes sense because this is all about art; art, music, theater, it just hits differently, you know? Like having someone talk to you or, like, work with you in a traditional therapy format is super cool and super important but music therapy, and music, and art, and theater in general affect us in different ways than that, you know? So it’s important to have both, or it’s important to have this other way of exploring ourselves as people and also exploring our emotions through that context.
Colleen: Yeah absolutely. And one of the big things that we focus on learning as part of music therapy is the verbal processing because it’s one thing to just, like, play the song or just to make the music together, but then after it’s done, to be able to start to vocalize the things that you were feeling— or why did you sing that note that way, or why did you decide to hit that drum then, or how did it feel when you were closing your eyes versus opening your eyes when we were all playing music together? If people are verbally able to do that and acknowledge some of the things that are happening, that can be just as important as what’s happening in the music you know? So I… yeah talk therapy is, can be really important for some people and sometimes music therapy doesn’t always work, but I think that the combination of the two is what really can change things.
Matt: Yeah that’s awesome. So, yeah, okay. I could talk to you all night about this.
Colleen: I think we could, yeah.
Matt: And there’s so much more to talk about, so I hope that we can do this again. Do you have any closing thoughts? Or do you have like a remark that you want to, um, end this on?
Colleen: I guess remember that music is a powerful thing, um, but that it’s also really just a daily thing— a really human thing and it it doesn’t always have to be, um, you know something poignant.
Matt: Hi. Welcome to the premiere episode of Mollynook podcasts. I’m your host, Matt Wilkinson. In this episode, my friend Megan McGrath, now a graduate student at UNC Greensboro, describes her research on student’s perspectives of how musical performance, dance, and improvisation can help promote valued communication outcomes in individuals with and without developmental disabilities.
Matt: So I read your thesis—
Megan: You did yeah?
Matt: Yeah. What’s so funny— and I could probably cut this in— there’s some video from you and me at ACRES, and you make a joke about, ‘oh you could just read my thesis’ and I was like, ‘I’m not going to do that’ and now here I am.
Megan: There you go!
Matt: So that’s mostly what I want to talk about today. Before you even started writing it, like, what was the idea that kind of launched you in this direction?
Megan: Yeah. So I think, um, I guess the— the question, um, or the interest, looking into my thesis, was the idea of how, specifically, performance arts and improvisation can aid in social communication skill development and mastery for special populations. Um, as far as the methods sort of went, it was about a 15-week class, it was a college class, that students registered for— so Penn State has a program called LifeLink which is an extension of a high school degree for individuals with special needs where they will come to the college campus, experience college life, be able to live in a dorm, and learn various life skills while taking some introductory level classes. So this was offered as one of those introductory level classes.
Megan: Additionally, students from Penn State were able to register for the class, so in the pilot year that I was a part of, this included students from the Communication Sciences and Disorders major, I believe, one or two students from the Special Education major, and then one or two students from the College of Theater. And the structure was really unique in that we were all taking the class together, so it wasn’t the idea that the typically developing students, the students from Penn State, were graded differently than the students from the LifeLink program. Um, we were all considered on, like, a level playing field; or equal status within the class structure. Um, and so the class was about 15 weeks; we met three times a week for maybe 45 minutes, um, and we had a few different units within the structure of the class. So there was a vocal unit, there were two dance units, a hip-hop— so more modern dance, and then a more lyrical dance, um, unit. And then improvisation as well, so we started with the improvisation and that kind of helped to break the barriers, um, and allow us to express ourselves and be creative and kind of learn the structure of the class, um, and then those additional units, as far as dance and voice, were added later on. And then at the end, um, we practiced, as far as compiling all those skills and all those units into a final performance.
Matt: That’s so cool. I know you didn’t, like, you didn’t structure the class in terms of— like you weren’t the one that was deciding which goes where, but you mentioned that improv played, like, a really important part in, um, kind of freeing people up a little bit— like get into that a little bit more? Like, what—
Megan: Yeah— yeah. So, I think the really unique aspect of improv in and of itself is that it provides a structure, but then once you’re within the structure of the activities, it’s loose. So within one activity you play it the same way every single time, but the ideas, and the creation, and the way you build upon other people’s ideas, differs. Um, so while the game might be exactly the same, the outcomes are very different; and so what it does is, for a lot of people, um, who would be a part of special populations, they have a preference for routine. Especially, like, people with autism typically follow a daily structure that doesn’t change. So, I know a couple people who every Tuesday is pasta night, and every Wednesday is chicken, and every Friday is pizza— because that’s a structure that is predictable, and that provides a sense of safety or security in that predictability; because I think like a lot of us change can be very confusing or difficult, and even more so for people who are part of special populations. So the unique part about improv, specifically, is that it can be played the same way time and time again, but the outcomes, and the the information, and the way you respond to the information changes. Um, so it gives that foot in the door, as far as that predictability, um, but it also allows for the novelty of real life to come into play— in that life is not always predictable.
Matt: I had never heard improv and, like, how it’s used described quite like that before.
Megan: Yeah. Well, and I think that’s like the novel part of— of what this class was doing and and what my thesis was trying to bring in, like, this isn’t something that’s necessarily been bridged fully before. People— there’s music therapy, which is totally growing and a really cool, um, premise, but as far as improv goes— it’s not something that’s necessarily been looked at in depth as to why, um, it can work. And I think in my in my thesis we show that it can work, um, and hopefully, too, that for future data can show that it can work too. But looking at why, it really, I think, comes down to the idea that it’s predictable, but it’s not always the same. So it allows for that, um, understanding, and— and those coping skills to come into play which are so necessary.
Matt: Yeah that’s so cool. And I think, um… so there’s a lot of, like, fun units that get brought in. You were talking about hip-hop, and um, like, the fight dancing and stuff—
Megan: Oh the capoeira.
Matt: Yeah, capoeira. I think, um, I think they— they definitely each serve their own function. Like, you can see with capoeira the, like, turn-taking that goes into that to make sure that you’re not getting kicked in the face, but, um, from a broader perspective, what do those units serve beyond just, like, the fun of learning a new dance technique?
Megan: Yeah, absolutely. Um, I think it’s the idea that it almost feels like implicit learning. So you don’t realize you’re learning until you have the skill and you’re like, ‘oh my gosh where’d that come from?’ Um, so, for example, with the capoeira, but with almost all— each of the units, and each of the the kinds of, uh, subdivisions of the units have their own sort of skills that they address. Um, but there are quite a few things that overlap among all the different activities. So capoeira, for example: you need the eye contact with your partner, that way you know when they’re gonna kick, or you know when they’re going a certain way or another way and you can follow. Um, a big part of conversation is that back and forth, so it’s feeding off of your partner. So if you said, ‘I want to have chicken for dinner,’ and then I said, ‘I’m really cold,’ that wouldn’t make a lot of sense. But if you said, ‘I want to have chicken for dinner,’ and I said, ‘oh yeah that sounds really good, maybe I do too,’ um, that makes sense; and that’s a functional conversation. So if in that dance, your partner were to kick, your response would not be to kick because then you’d both kick each other, it would be to duck. Um, so it’s kind of implicitly teaching that skill of taking the information your partner’s presenting you and then understanding what to do with it. So it’s really physical, verbal, non-verbal, it interplays quite a few different skills, and, you see that with almost all the units. They might vary a little bit, just in that verbal aspects/nonverbal aspects, but for the most part there’s a pretty decent overlap.
Matt: I like that idea of implicit learning. So then my question with that would be, like, with implicit learning, like, is it observable? Like when someone— when two people kick over each other’s head, does that actually translate into better social interaction skills?
Megan: Yeah. So that’s kind of— that’s the question that everybody wants to know, sort of thing. Um, it’s— it’s the idea, like, ‘yeah. This is great, if it works in the classroom. but then what about outside?’ um, because that’s really the goal with everything we do. So whether I’m teaching a kid how to produce his ‘S’ sound, uh, in the therapy room, and all we’re doing is, ‘put your tongue up behind your teeth,’ or whatever, the goal is that they take it outside of that room or that context and apply it broadly. Um, it’s hard to know, um, from just this baseline study how or to what extent, I guess, it’s being applied, um, just because of the way the study was done and because this is kind of one of the more, uh, one of the more initial research. So that should come in the future, um, but what we do know is, like, in their reflections— which was how the data was gathered— so in reflection papers after small group discussions, quite a few of the students— both the students with special needs and then the typically developing students, the Penn State students— noted ways that they applied these skills outside of class. So the idea of, within the vocal unit, understanding, um, your head voice, or a voice that’s higher and a little bit softer, versus your chest voice, which is— it feels lower in your body and it’s a bit more powerful— and learning when to use those voices. So a lot of them said, ‘I know to use my chest voice if I’m ordering at a restaurant or going to a job interview,’ um, and then also things about posture that they learned within the dance unit, um, so the idea of standing up tall, which presents, um, a look of confidence. Personal space was something they talked about, eye contact is something they talked about, so it’s— we don’t have the statistical measures as far as observation outside of the classroom, but we do have the data saying they are cognizant that these skills should be applied in various contexts, and they’re trying to apply them in various contexts. So even just knowing that they should be using these skills outside of— outside of the the classroom context, and then knowing when to use certain skills is a huge foot in the door; and hopefully we can continue to get data as far as the authenticity of if this is actually being applied, but the fact that they know to apply it and think about applying it, is pretty impressive.
Matt: I love that idea. I love that this is, like, continuing to expand and grow and stuff.
Megan: Absolutely. Well, and— I think that theater is something that— that regardless of who you are, teaches you lifelong skills. Um, sort of things like, I was a very different person before I started a theater. And there were things that I learned and that I know how to do, and I don’t think I would be the same as far as public speaking, as far as eye contact, as far as non-verbal communication, and physical expression, and things like that, had I not done theater. So I think that the foundational, um, question was realistic to me in that I could see how theater had impacted me, and will continue to impact me, um, so I don’t think it’s far-fetched to say that it can impact quite a few other people, too.
Matt: No, definitely. Something that I like to touch on when I talk about For Good is the idea of, like, in addition to teaching individual skills, the theater has this, like, it’s this very specific kind of, um, goal oriented program where every single person has to work together to accomplish something—
Matt: The goal being, like, putting on a performance. And I think there’s a lot of like— like the camaraderie that is built through doing a performance is like nothing else; where not only are you depending on everyone else to do their part, but you’re, like, empowering each other to like get up on a stage and, like, perform in front of a lot of people, you know?
Megan: Absolutely. And that’s not something that just anyone would do, so it really does take you out of your comfort zone. But what it does is supply that foundational sense of comfort and confidence through the teamwork aspect and— and you don’t all have to be the same, and the goal isn’t that you’re all the same. Some people are ensemble members, some people are dancers, some people are the leads… it doesn’t matter because we all come with different skill sets but we find a way to use those skills in a way that’s mutually beneficial for everyone, which I think is super cool.
Matt: Yeah, no, definitely. Giving people an opportunity and seeing what— what comes out of that.
Megan: Yeah. We’re hard to— to accept something that you see as ‘fun’ as also educational, um, but I think in reality that’s what’s most, um, concrete. Or something that you carry with you way longer— is the idea. You have those positive memories associated with it or, or you can laugh and have fun, like, that was one of the themes throughout all the reflections was the idea of— of, ‘we were having fun and so I was motivated to participate,’ and that motivation, and that intrinsic motivation— so the idea of doing it for yourself versus doing it, um… extrinsic motivation might be, like, ‘to get a sticker’ or ‘to be able to get a prize out of the prize box,’ or something like that. But the intrinsic motivation is— is the, really the best way, to learn. And to maintain learning. Um, and so I think that, like, the aspect of fun should not be taken as a negative. It’s really one of the most positive things, um, within the educational sphere and the learning— learning focus. Um, and it’s just making sure it’s a focused fun.
Matt: Nothing motivates you more than the idea that you’ll enjoy yourself when you’re doing it.
Matt: So I was going to ask— this is just, like, an aside. This is honestly— this is more just because I’m curious now, like, do you think, um, there are skills being developed, or like, there are, um, positive reinforcements happening for the Penn State students as well? Like it’s, it’s clearly not just like a ‘one-sided’ thing.
Megan: Oh absolutely. And— and technically the question, um, in my thesis was how it affects social communication, period. So it’s more of a global design in that it was typically developing peers and, and students with special needs, and the data comes from both. So I think that, like, there’s a reason you take this class, whether it’s, you want to work with special populations, whether it’s because it satisfies a gym credit, whether it’s because you needed a Gen Ed, but I think that you see that, like, a lot of the participants in the last three years, that the class has run, end up seeing a lot more growth in themselves than they originally thought they would. Um, because not everyone comes from a theater background, not everyone has an interest in theater, not everyone has an interest in working with special populations, um, but I think that the— the underlying learning is the idea of how to communicate better, period. Um, and how to interact with the world in a way that’s really effective. In a way that’s— that’s based in a foundational knowledge. And so we all have different levels of understanding related to that, and we all have different levels of understanding our own emotions, or being able to read someone else’s emotions, or understanding what to do with that. Um, and so I think that a lot of times the Penn State students ended up feeling like, ‘oh my gosh like these are things that I never really thought about and now that I’m thinking about them, I can improve upon them,’ um and I also do think— I mean it’s not something that was necessarily measured— but that advocacy component is, like… is huge. I think in just understanding there are different kinds of people in the world, and, and being able to humanize these people or these disorders and, and understand that these are people who have similar interests, or, you know, also want to go out on their 21st birthday, or really want to make new friends, and like, those are things that are just innately human. And so I think it’s skills in learning how to connect regardless of, uh, intellectual status, regardless of level, like, commonalities in behaviors, or things like that. Like, it’s just connecting human to human, which I think really helps you as far as patience. As far as, um, learning how to modify your behaviors to help someone else succeed. Um, definitely teamwork, like it it’s almost an all-encompassing— but it’s— at the end of the day I think the whole entire thing is just, ‘how can I relate better to other people?’
Matt: Yeah. Well, I think that comes from an element of, like— so obviously I don’t do research, um, you know? So, like, when I talk about why I do Mollynook films, it comes from, um, my perspective of, like, ‘isn’t this so cool that there— that we can… isn’t it so great,’ I guess, maybe I should say, ‘that we have, now, these opportunities to, like, give opportunities to people who have genuinely really cool and exciting ideas,’
Megan: Absolutely. You know, and— I think that’s the value of— of us all being uniquely human. It’s the idea that we have a different set of interests or skills, and we all look at the world in a different way, and just because you look at the world in a way that might be more different or, or, or, influenced by a disorder or a disability or something, like, that doesn’t mean that your voice isn’t important, and doesn’t mean that your voice isn’t, um, revolutionary in, in what it can offer. Um, and I think that’s, like, and I think that’s where my profession is going to. Is the idea of understanding ‘person first’ which means I’m not just looking at your disorder, I don’t even need to know your disorder, necessarily. I look at you as a person. I look at your strengths and the things that you have challenges with, and I use your strengths to help improve on those challenges. And I don’t even like calling them ‘weaknesses’ because it’s not— it’s not necessarily something that will continue to be weak, it’s, it’s— we’re addressing it as a challenge. It’s something that’s difficult but it’s not unattainable, um, and we’re moving towards that. And moving towards that in a way that’s bolstered by a team, and a community that loves you and supports you and makes you feel confident. I think it’s something that’s— that’s really meaningful and definitely has a place, um, in practice and in research and in the future, so…
Matt: That’s so powerful. I love that idea.
Matt: I think we’re— I think that’s— that’s good. I’m gonna stop the recording, um, thanks for… sorry I’m trying to do an outro or something.
Megan: Alright let’s hear it. It better be a good one.
Matt: Yeah. I was gonna say… it’s gonna get so sterile. Like, ‘thanks for sitting down and having this conversation with me.’ No, seriously. Thanks. This is really coo.l I think, um, I think I learned a lot and I got to like see a lot of new— I got to interpret things in new ways which is kind of the point of this, so yeah.
Megan: I think, absolutely. Bridging the academic with the functional and and being able to interpret it in a in a real context is absolutely the goal; but it’s got to have that foundation, so, a little bit of both.
Matt: Hi. Welcome to what I’m calling the ‘pilot’ episode of Mollynook Podcasts, I’m your host Matt Wilkinson. Before the idea for Mollynook Podcasts truly took shape, I recorded a script writing session with my friend Kaleb— a young filmmaker with Down syndrome— for a little behind the scenes look at our screenwriting process. Here that is, along with some perspective from him on his inspirations as a filmmaker.
Matt: Hey dude.
Kaleb: Hey Matt, what’s up?
Matt: How are you?
Kaleb: Good, how are you?
Matt: Good. Since I can’t film anything in person, I thought this would be kind of fun— you know— to do a little bit of, uh, a little bit of script talk, but also, kind of, make this— form this into, like, a little podcast/interview type thing.
Matt: So I think a good place to start, then, would be, um, what are you working on— what are we working on— right now? Do you want to talk a little bit about that?
Kaleb: Because, in the previous—
Kaleb: in the previous movies that we did, Marty and Doc finished saving Elvis. And Kaleb’s done being a werewolf… but I might have to get my wolf back.
Matt: Yeah. That’s a great way to phrase that. That’s super cool— yeah. So Kaleb has to get his wolf back.
Kaleb: Because, because Victor Lucifer took his powers.
Matt: Victor Lucifer being the new antagonist… and, Dracula!
Kaleb: Yeah. And, um, Victor Lucifer wants to take… or, not take over… yeah. Victor Lucifer, he would say, um, ‘I’m gonna take Kaleb’s job that the fruit farm.’
Matt: Yeah. So, Victor Lucifer— where’d you come up with Victor Lucifer? Where’d that idea come from?
Kaleb: Um. My dad had a dog, Teddy.
Kaleb: And he named him, ‘Lucifer,’
Matt: Oh so it’s named after a dog?
Matt: Cool. Okay. Well let’s keep— do you want to pull the script out and we can keep writing it?
Kaleb: Yeah. Yeah I— I made up the updated scrip.
Matt: So let’s, uh, let’s just jump into it. Do you want to read me, um, the script again?
Kaleb: (Presented in screenwriting format)
Kaleb (as Hannah):
Hi, it’s me, Hannah. This is my first time on YouTube. I’m in the woods of England. What in the world was that— weird. I thought I heard something in the background.
Hannah’s pictures with Kaleb pop out from nowhere.
Kaleb (out of screenwriting format): Where we gonna get that?
Matt: Oh. We’ll take them and then we’ll put them in.
Kaleb (as Hannah):
Guys, look at this these are pictures with me and Kaleb. I’m getting deja vu moments. wait a minute— when I heard that ‘awoo’ sound it reminded me of—
Interior [sic.] werewolf appears in the dark.
Guys look at this. Wait a minute… this is no wolf. It’s a werewolf! I wonder if it’s Kaleb… whoa. Kaleb doesn’t have blood on his teeth.
Hannah looks terrified. Her hands start to shake. She begins to fight the werewolf. The wolf starts to attack Hannah. Hannah screams like heck.
Matt (end screenwriting format): Let’s talk a little bit about this beginning. How long did it take you to write this?
Kaleb: Um, like about 10 or 20 minutes.
Matt: Yeah. It was pretty easy?
Matt: I think it’s really good. I think it shows that you, um, you’ve put a lot of thought into it. So— let’s talk about, um, first right off the bat, change ‘interior,’ to ‘exterior,’ because it’s outside.
Kaleb: Every time!
Matt: No, you’re good.
Kaleb: ‘e’ ‘x’
Matt: Yeah, there you go. Okay. I like her dialogue a lot—
Kaleb: Thank you.
Matt: —the only thing I would— I would include, is she turns into a werewolf to fight the werewolf, right? Do you want to write that in?
Kaleb: Alright. So, ‘begins to fight,’
Matt: So right before that. Yeah. Alright. Cool. Um, should we talk— let’s, let’s, um, talk— since we’re kind of talking about story anyways— I, I can probably name them but, like, what movies are you inspired most by?
Kaleb: Other films?
Matt: Yeah. Like what movies inspire you?
Kaleb: Um. So this one’s a TV show, actually.
Kaleb: Um, ‘Wizards of Waverly Place,’
Matt: Yeah— there’s a werewolf in that.
Kaleb: Yeah. Because, um, I— I’m a I’m a big fan of wizards and werewolves.
Matt: Yeah. Cool. That’s exact— that’s direct inspiration for it. But that’s not the only werewolf thing that you’re inspired by, right?
Kaleb: Right. ‘An American Werewolf in London,’
Matt: So, ‘Wizards of Waverly Place,’ ‘American Werewolf in London,’ can you talk about ‘Back to the Future?’ Is ‘Back to the Future’ as an inspiration for you?
Kaleb: Um, yeah. Um, it’s because, um, whenever they go back in time— and my huge thing with that is, um, whenever he went back into the past, Marty McFly saw himself.
Matt: Is it him seeing himself that you like? Just that concept?
Kaleb: Yeah. I can fix all my mistakes.
Matt: Yeah. That’s a cool idea. Can you talk about, so, what stories are you most interested by?
Kaleb: What do you mean?
Matt: Like— you like these werewolf movies, you like these time travel movies, is it because they have like exciting, other worldly, elements? Like, what do you— what are you drawn to when you watch a story that you like?
Kaleb: I like the transformations of Michael J Fox, Mason Grayback, Michael Jackson, because um, I— I want to make films that inspire me. So I could make one and cast people in there, like you,
Matt: Yeah? Thank you.
Kaleb: and I want to do the stuff that you do.
Matt: Oh, thanks man. You’re basically my co-director at this point. We’ve made two— almost three films together.
Kaleb: Yeah I want to make films because, um, whenever someone is acting in a film, and singing, and, um, the fans go, uh, ‘oh Kaleb! Can I have your autograph?’
Matt: Yeah. Yeah— so you want to sign autographs?
Matt: So you like the idea of people seeing, like, what your— what your talents are.
Kaleb: Yeah. And— and, um, I was wondering if you could share these movies with the movie theater. And show them.
Matt: Yeah I’d love to. I’m going to try, dude. Like, seriously.
Kaleb: And you can put one on Ellen.
Matt: Yeah that’s, like, the next step, right? That’s the big goal.
Kaleb: What about: we can send ‘Back to the Future’ on Ellen and we can send ‘The Werewolf who Loved’ to the movies.
Matt: ‘The Werewolf who Loved’ would do really well in the movies, I think.
Kaleb: Yeah. You could put both in there.
Matt: Yeah. How do you feel when you act?
Kaleb: Um, like, seriously. Seriously.
Kaleb: I want to act seriously.
Matt: Like as a professional actor?
Kaleb: Yeah. Because professional actors don’t put the middle finger up.
Matt: Right, they don’t. Sometimes they do.
Kaleb: Yeah… only if a brother does it to me…
Matt: Yeah. Yeah.
Kaleb: Doing this.
Matt: Yeah. So you want to be a serious, professional actor.
Kaleb: Yes. As long as there’s appropriate bloopers.
Matt: Yeah, appropriate bloopers. I think ‘The Werewolf Who Loved,’ bloopers are really nice. But what do you like about acting?
Kaleb: I like working with your dad, and Allie, and you, of course.
Matt: Yeah, of course.
Kaleb: You know how Elvis’s fans do?
Matt: No. How did Elvis’s fans do?
Kaleb: Um, so they went to a concert and what they did— they ripped his shirt off.
Matt: (laughs) You want that to happen to you?
Kaleb: Well, clearly, yeah. But not too much, though, because I have really expensive shirts and everyone bought those for me and I don’t want to let them rip.
Matt: Yeah. You’ve got, like, a lot of shirts that I wouldn’t want to see torn up. So you like writing scripts that you want to see—
Kaleb: Um, yeah. And I like writing special thanks.
Matt: Yeah, you like— I know. You like writing special thanks. Do you want to read your special thanks out?
Kaleb: Yeah. So, Matthew Wilkinson—
Matt: That’s me.
Kaleb: Yes. Mark Wilkinson, Allyson Stump, Christine Poorman, the ‘Back to The Future’ cast, Huey Lewis and the News, ‘The Wizards of Waverly Place’ cast, and the ‘Henry Danger’ cast.
Matt: Good list.
Kaleb: Yeah. Can— can you put that in the credits?
Matt: Yeah when we do the next one I’ll put that in the credits