Dallas Morning News Reviews Jeff Strong’s Different Drummer book

Dallas Morning News Different Drummer review

Dallas Morning News wrote a review of REI creator Jeff Strong’s book, Different Drummer: One Man’s Music and Its Impact on ADD, Anxiety, and Autism.

Here is an excerpt from the review:

Throughout Different Drummer- “One Man’s Music and Its Impact on ADD, Anxiety, and Autism”, Strong gives numerous accounts of how well the fast pace of drumming appeals to the functions of the brain.  Intriguing stories of children with autism being changed by the fast pacing of the drum will teach readers how to assist in changing behaviors damaging to the person with a disability as well as those around him.

People with disabilities are often misunderstood as having a temper, a strong will, when in actuality it is a disorder often times uncontrollable until someone brave and caring, like Strong who finds the way to calm the beast inside.

Since William Congreve, an English playwright and poet wrote, “Music hath charms to soothe the savage beast”, no one has written and understood behaviors as well as Jeff Strong demonstrates in his newest book, A Different Drummer.

You can read the entire article here

You can also read more reviews and order the book on amazon.com

REI Creator Jeff Strong’s book Different Drummer Featured in onlinedrummer.com article

Jeff Strong at onlinedrummer.com

Onlinedrummer.com has an excellent review of REI creator Jeff Strong’s book, Different Drummer: One Man’s Music and Its Impact on ADD, Anxiety, and Autism.

Here is an excerpt from the article:

Music performers and educators will of course find the book to be useful and gratifying, but parents of those with developmental disorders, mental health professionals, general practitioners, and educators across the board should also take note. In fact, they would all be wise to run out and pick up a copy of this book and consider Strongʼs other materials. If you yourself happen to have one of the conditions mentioned here, itʼs an absolute no-brainer to give this a try. If you have a friend who suffers one of these issues, your recommendation could help change their lives.

You can read the entire article here

You can also read more reviews and order the book on amazon.com

Strong Institute Director Jeff Strong Dissects an REI Rhythm in a New Video

In his book, Different Drummer: One Man’s Music and Its Impact on ADD, Anxiety and Autism, Jeff Strong mentions many of the rhythms he uses as the basis of REI. This video explores the development of one rhythm to give you an idea of the intricacy of the patterns he uses as well as the process he goes through to determine the best rhythm to use in a given situation. This rhythm is in the time signature of 21/16 and is one that he finds helpful in reducing a hand-flapping motion often seen in people on the autism spectrum.

You can also watch and comment on this video on YouTube here


REI for an Adult with ADHD

A large percentage of our clientele are adults with ADHD. Given that our program was created by an adult with ADHD, we are particularly adept at and excited to help other adults. This client, a 33 year-old male had the classic symptoms for AD/HD (ADD, ADHD) such as difficulty sustaining focused attention, restlessness, trouble getting started on projects, and impulsivity. He also had significant anxiety, addictive behavior and mood issues. According to his REI intake form he described himself as:

laid back personality, good sense of humor, creative, spiritually inclined, can have a hot temper, high energy, symptoms of difficulty falling asleep, restlessness, and problems focusing when reading, distractible, impulsivity, difficulty starting tasks, difficulty stopping activities, procrastination and delay, addictive behavior, and overall anxiety.

Due to his symptom make-up, age and gender Jim’s REI Custom Program consisted of 16 progressively-created REI Audio Tracks with each track scheduled to change every seven days.

Jim did very well on the program, the details of which you can read here

You can also get an in depth look into REI for attention and other issues related to ADHD in Strong Institute Director Jeff Strong’s book, Different Drummer. Learn more here

Jim, a 33 year old male, had the classic symptoms for AD/HD (ADD, ADHD) such as difficulty sustaining focused attention, restlessness, trouble getting started on projects, and impulsivity. He also had significant anxiety, addictive behavior and mood issues. According to his REI intake form he described himself as:

laid back personality, good sense of humor, creative, spiritually inclined, can have a hot temper, high energy, symptoms of difficulty falling asleep, restlessness, and problems focusing when reading, distractible, impulsivity, difficulty starting tasks, difficulty stopping activities, procrastination and delay, addictive behavior, and overall anxiety.

Due to his symptom make-up, age and gender Jim’s REI Custom Program consisted of 16 progressively-created REI Audio Tracks with each track scheduled to change every seven days.

In his first week on track one he found that he had a more stable energy and mood throughout week. He still had some anxiety and depressed negative thinking (due to circumstances and life changes). But he was less impulsive in his decisions and was able to refrain from addictive behavior (internet use and playing music loudly). He also found some improvement in focus, but still some difficulty focusing in meditation and schoolwork. He did not see any improvement in his ability to fall asleep.

Week two, on track two, Jim saw improved focus when reading, but still had some focusing problems when practicing meditation and contemplation. He found improved focus when writing. He was able to start assignments and work on them without frustration. He had fewer feelings of anxiety this week and found it easier to redirect himself and refrain from addictive behavior (internet and listening to music). Still, there was occasional difficulty falling asleep at night.

Week 3’s track three provided less anxiety and better focus when reading and in meditation. Yet he struggled a bit with some impulsive decisions that drew him into addictive behavior. His sleep was still so-so.

Week 4 offered JIm some improvement in sleep. For a few nights this week he did not feel stuck in a tired state of being unable to fall asleep. He continued with better focus when reading. And had fewer addictive thoughts and actions compared to the previous week. He seemed to be less anxious overall, but noticed some anxiety over the weekend.

His negative Response: “Still some anxiety. Experienced some intense anger, frustration moods and thoughts with resentment and bitterness with highly charged emotions to the point of physical movement. Some depression as well. Still some impulsive, addictive behaviors – internet and loud music, but not as bad as last week.”

As is common with the REI Custom Program, Jim seemed to really make headway in his symptomatic improvement in week 5.

Week 5 Jim continued the gains from last week. Not many addictive thoughts and he was able to redirect. By the end of the week, it was easier for him to refrain from impulsive, addictive behavior. He said it was “easier to redirect my mind”. He had less anxiety overall but it was still present. He stated that “I realized this week that I have had long term anxiety problems in addition to ADHD (my father also has had anxiety problems). Intense feelings of frustration, anger and resentment earlier in the week, was significantly reduced by the end of this week.” His focus when meditating and reading has improved, but he stated that there was still room for improvement. He also stated that he feels, “my mind has slowed down, with less racing thoughts and intense moods.” He was able to fall asleep this week.

Week 6 he had an improved ability to fall asleep and was waking up at a good time. He also had better focus when reading and meditating.
His thoughts and feelings of resentment and anger did return this week, but not with as much intensity as the previous week. His feelings of anxiety were most often in the morning. He had some restlessness and frustrated moods and some difficulty concentrating. And he was more inclined to impulsive and addictive behavior this week.

Week 7 Jim had significant improvements in anxiety and mood. And he had no harsh feelings and thoughts of resentment. He found it much easier to get to sleep – no restlessness or rampant thinking when lying in bed to go to sleep. He also had a better overall and more stable mood throughout the day and week. (During this time he moved and registered for school, which resolved some problems.)
There were addictive thoughts this week, but not as frequent or intense as earlier weeks where it was a problem. Still had some restlessness and hyperactivity — and listening to music with headphones at night and during the day when he wanted to be doing other things.

Week 8 Jim noticed he was better able to focus when reading. He also experienced far less fear based anxiety. He did find it harder to get to sleep at night this week, even though he had just listened to the audio. He also had a bit of regression for restlessness and frustration. This week also included a lot of time spent with addictive music listening (to relieve anxiety or restlessness?). This seemed to be triggered by a “difficult relationship incident” that he experienced at the beginning of this track. In spite of this incident he described having, “better moods upon realizing what I need to do and responding. But there was some negative imagination and frustration going on…”

Week 9 Jim saw continued improvement in focus and also noticed improvements in sleep. He also saw some changing moods this week: frustration with negative thoughts and charged feelings. He stated he is “Probably still experiencing anxiety.”

In week 10 Jim reported, “Significant improvement in mood this week compared to before. Very little anger, frustration, and resentment. More stable mood and energy throughout week. Improved sleep and rest. No problems waking too early and getting back to sleep.”

He still experienced some impulsive decisions into addictive behavior at night after work, still listening to music with headphones but with less frequency and duration.

Week 11 Jim reported, “Starting to see an overall consistency in all areas. Less anxiety, more solid sleep, more stable moods, better focus, and attention. Almost no feelings of anger, resentment, and frustration compared to a few weeks ago. Did not see any clear regression in any areas. Still having some problems with impulsivity towards addictive behavior (listening to music and internet activity). A couple of nights it was harder to fall asleep. Better focus when reading, but my mind will wander off. Focus could be better in meditation.”

He also reported a drastic shift in routine: He moved out of state and enrolled in a graduate program, which brought about a resolution to a long difficult period of change.

Week 12 Jim wrote, “Less restlessness and anxiety. Saw less of an impact from consuming sugar in juice and cookies over holidays. Stable moods and energy. No frustration or angry moods. Felt more “centered” emotionally and mentally over the week, even though in new environments. More overall focus and calmness.”

He did have some difficulty with attention when reading and some impulsivity. He still exhibited some impulsive behavior to addiction (listening to music w/ earphones and internet). And he saw some difficulty focusing in mediation/contemplation. During this time he traveled for the holidays.

Week 13 Jim reported, “No anxiety this week. Pretty stable moods for the most part. I have noticed better ability to learn and focus when reading. I can move through the text at a slower, more concentrated pace. However, my mind may still wander off. Some impulsive decisions towards addictive behavior. A few nights it was harder to fall asleep. No problems waking early and getting back to sleep. Some difficulty focusing in meditation/contemplation. Routine Change: No, but still adjusting to change and being at home where I grew up which has had an impact on mood and behavior.”

Week 14 Jim wrote, “Really the first major test of my focusing abilities this week, being in a classroom and studying afterwards. Able to remain calm and focused during work and class. A very noticeable difference and change from earlier time periods doing school work. I do not recall any anxiety and my moods were quite stable overall. Generally more calm and centered.”

From Jim’s Week 15 notes: “Some improvements in impulsivity. No anxiety from what I recall. Overall much more centered and focused mind, stable moods and energy compared to the beginning of the program. Ability to fall asleep easily on nights when audio was not played too loud.”

Throughout his entire Program, his daily feedback consistently states that his current track “calmed me down and helped me focus” while it played.

At the 15 week point Jim had progressed well enough that it was determined that he should use each track for a 4 week period to help with his long-term focusing and to solidify the changes he had achieved so far.

At this point he has had 2 further adjustments and is progressing along well with the improvements he has seen and is seeing progressively better long-term focusing effects.

You can also get an in depth look into REI for attention and other issues related to ADHD in Strong Institute Director Jeff Strong’s book, Different Drummer. Learn more here

Reduce Aggressive Behavior with REI

by Jeff Strong

Strong Institute Director

The following is an excerpt from my book, Different Drummer: One Man’s Music and Its Impact on ADD, Anxiety, and Autism.

I could hear the screaming as we pulled into the driveway.  I looked with concern at Lloyd, who simply raised an eyebrow.

Knowing they were expecting us, Lloyd and I walked right into the house and were immediately confronted by Ty who was running through the entryway screaming and flailing his arms.

His mother was following behind, trying to catch him.

Lloyd motioned for me to set down the drum and grab a chair for him as he took stock of the situation. Then he sat down behind the drum and began playing.

He started with a loud slap to the head. The drum’s shout filled the huge room and reverberated off the hard surfaces, drowning out Ty’s screams. Lloyd paused then gave the drum another hard slap. 

Ty turned to look, but continued screaming, hitting and pushing his mother away as she caught up to him and tried giving him a hug. 

Lloyd tapped the head with the tips of his fingers, laying down a soft patter that was barely audible in the midst of the chaos in the room. 

Once out of his mother’s arms, Ty made another lap around the room then came running toward Lloyd and grabbed at the drum. Lloyd was unfazed and kept playing, holding the drum between his legs as six-year-old Ty pawed at it.

Ty’s mother took advantage of Ty’s focus on Lloyd and the drum and was able to get a hold of him. Ty squirmed, but didn’t put up much of a fight as Lloyd raised his volume and began playing in earnest. 

I was still stunned by the difference in Ty’s behavior from the last couple of sessions with him. This was our third meeting with Ty; and although Lloyd had told me before we met Ty that he was prone to aggressive outbursts, I hadn’t seen one yet. The Ty that I had observed up until that point was a quiet boy who was intent on occupying his own world, generally oblivious to everything around him. The screaming, running, and lashing out where new to me.

These behaviors, however, were something that I became intimately familiar with in the following decades.

I thought of Ty’s screaming and physical aggression as I entered the yard of the residential facility where I was getting ready to conduct a study. Located in a rural area not far from where I was living in Arizona, this home for adults with autism had been profiled in a newspaper article. I called the home, hoping to be able to play for the residents. Only a year before, I had seen the remarkable calming effects of one of my tapes when it was tested at an adult vocational center. (I talk about that research project in Chapter 9). I was told that this facility was having troubles with its residents’ anxiety and aggressive behavior; I hoped to make customized recordings for each resident to see if my drumming could help. 

Once through the entry gate, I saw a man coming toward me. He started yelling obscenities as I approached, his pace toward me quicker than my pace toward the administrative office. I started to say hello and ask him where the director was, but he simply continued on in great detail about how he was going to hurt me—punch me in the face, kick me in the groin, elbow me in the chest—if I crossed him. 

This was Charlie, one of the residents and one of the reasons I was at this facility. 

His threats were directed to me at a high volume and without making eye contact. By my observation and experience with other men with autism, I didn’t feel that he really intended to act on his threats. He had the characteristic monotone, lack of eye contact, and overall flat affect that characterizes many with this condition. He also lacked the usual intensity and in-your-face aggressiveness that typically precedes such an attack.

Nonetheless, given his history of unprovoked aggression, I was careful not to get too close or to upset him if I could avoid it. I did, however, sit down on the bench near the garden and pick up my drum, which he regarded curiously, and begin to play, which prompted him to watch me even more closely. I was pretty confident that he had never encountered anyone entering his space and drumming. The novelty of this situation seemed to disarm him, because he stopped talking and watched me.

I began by quietly playing calming-type rhythms at the characteristic REI eight-beats-per-second pace. Over the next few minutes, I slowly built up the volume of my drumming and before long he sat down next to me. A few minutes later he put his hand on the shell of the drum. 

After approximately four minutes, I began a series of more intense rhythms to see if his behavior would change. This is what Lloyd used to do to invoke a response in a listener and to gauge their level of engagement in the rhythms. Within less than 30 seconds, Charlie grabbed the hardware lugs that tension the drum and tried to pull the drum from my lap. Because I have become accustomed to anticipate a reaction of this sort (I’d lost hold of the drum many times before), I pulled back and just barely managed to hang on.

After a short struggle, he let go of the drum and leaned away from it, though he stayed on the bench. Using the calming-type rhythms I started with, I began playing again. He settled back on the bench. I continued playing for another ten minutes or so, careful to not play rhythms that were too intense or chaotic. He noticeably calmed during this time and was sitting still, gazing off in the distance as I stopped playing and walked away.

Charlie’s response was not unlike Ty’s when Lloyd finally got into a groove. With his mother’s arms around him, Ty stood holding the drum as Lloyd played. I stood in awe as Ty was drawn into the pulse and power of Lloyd’s drumming. Lloyd played for almost ten minutes and all the while Ty stood and held the drum. Ty was calm and allowed his mother to hold him by the time Lloyd stopped playing, so we decided to call it a session and leave.

When we got to the car, I asked Lloyd what he did to calm Ty down. 

“I hit the drum with intensity to get his attention. The first slap didn’t do anything. So I played another,” he described.

“That’s when Ty looked at you,” I said.

“Yes, but he was still out of control. I needed to do the unexpected, so I played exactly the opposite way next. Instead of yelling, I whispered.”

“I could barely hear what you were playing. What rhythms were you using?”

“Nothing special. The whisper was the important thing. He needed to search for the sound.”

“And he did. He came right over to you. It was amazing.”

“He was still out of control, though.”

“Yeah, I noticed you switched rhythms or something. The sound was so, I don’t know, pleading.”

“I was talking to him. Asking him to join me. To surrender his violence.”

“Then he just stood there. His mom held him and he didn’t move. Why did that happen, and so fast?”

“He surrendered,” was all Lloyd said. I got nothing more out of him.

These experiences with my teacher and mentor Lloyd were exciting, and maddening. I couldn’t understand a lot of what he was talking about at the time. I was only 20, after all, and my life experience was limited. But somehow I learned enough to use as the foundation to grow on my own over the years.  

The drum was a curiosity and the soothing patter drew listeners in, shifting their awareness from the anxiety and aggression they were displaying while allowing their brain to entrain to the rhythms and into a calmer state (I talked about entrainment in Chapter 5 and about calm in Chapter 9). In both Ty’s and Charlie’s cases, calm occurred within a few minutes. 

While I played for Charlie, Kathleen, the home’s director, came out and watched me play. I walked over to her after I finished, and we talked as we meandered through the gardens.

“Charlie, the man you just played for, is the aggressive guy I told you about on the phone,” she described. “He’s a sweet guy at heart, but we’ve been having three or four violent outbursts a week where someone is injured.”

“That’s a lot,” I said. “How badly are people hurt?”

“Not too bad, but we have to report them and we’re getting pressure to find him a different home if we can’t reduce the incidents. We’ve tried different medications and behavioral interventions, but nothing has really helped.”

“Do you know what triggers his aggression?”

“Most of the time it’s when he’s asked to do a chore that he doesn’t want to do. Other times he gets in one of the other guy’s [resident’s] faces. It’s worse during mealtimes. We have to work hard to manage everyone while they eat. Dinner is the most stressful time of day here.” 

Kathleen described that Charlie has lived in a group home situation since he was 14-years-old. He was placed there due to his family’s inability to care for him and manage his anxiety and aggressive outbursts. This facility was his fifth group home.

Due to his non-compliance and severe behavioral reactions, Charlie was not involved in many of the day-to-day activities that the other residents enjoyed. The staff reported that he did enjoy riding and brushing the horses; but they didn’t allow him to do these activities often, due to his tendency to spontaneously hit the horse with a closed fist.

Aside from these aggressive behaviors, Kathleen described that Charlie’s anxiety also manifested in the form of self-stimulatory vocalizations and sleeplessness. The vocalizations were often threatening in nature, but there didn’t seem to be a correlation between his threats and his aggressive actions. 

“His yelling and swearing seems to be a release mechanism for him,” said Kathleen.

“It sure is disconcerting, though,” I added. “When I first heard him, I thought he had Tourette’s.”

“No, he has autism.” 

Tourette syndrome is a condition characterized by involuntary repetitive physical or vocal tics (Chapter 11 has more on Tics). Charlie’s verbal threats weren’t the result of Tourette syndrome, because his vocalizations contained form and more closely resembled perseveration (the repetition of an action, word or phrase in the absence of a related stimulus). Perseveration is a common trait of autism and is an area where I tend to see marked gains; I was eager to see if reducing Charlie’s anxiety would improve this behavior.

Charlie could speak clearly with excellent grammar and vocabulary, but he only talked in an aggressive manner. The fact that he could speak and had a vocabulary, albeit a nasty one, suggested that if I could reduce his anxiety, he may become more conversational in his speech. This wasn’t a primary goal in working with Charlie, but it was one area I intended to keep an eye on as he used his REI recording. As in the case of Jim, who I discussed in Chapter 14, I have seen the spontaneous initiation of speech occur in adults with autism as a result of reducing anxiety.

Kathleen and I talked for a couple of hours, going over the details of the study I would conduct. The plan was to create a custom-made recording for each of the residents. Each recording would focus on areas of concern specific to each resident. I would also attempt to reduce the overall level of aggression and anxiety in the facility. 

You can order the book here

REI Sleep Case study – 52 year-old female with sleep problems, anxiety, mood issues, speech disfluency, poor concentration, and social isolation

We work with a lot of adults with sleep issues. Many have a history of sleeping well, only to begin having problems in their 40s and 50s. This case study is a great example, especially given that this client was highly educated and articulate. This offered us insights into the program that we often don’t gain from other clients.

M.M. described herself as “a mildly depressed, moderately anxious person who has problems sleeping”. Her symptoms before starting the REI Custom Program CDs included; difficulty falling and staying asleep, trouble concentrating, speech dysfluency, and generalized anxiety. One of her main concerns was that, because of her inability to sleep and her tendency to fidget at night, she and her husband slept in separate rooms. This had a significant negative impact on their relationship.

She also reported that, because of her low energy levels, depressed mood and anxiety, she wasn’t interested in social interactions. Her lack of social interest further stressed her marriage as well as contributed to a feeling of isolation from her friends and family.

Despite her efforts at practicing good sleep hygiene, which included taking a bath before bed, going to bed at the same time each night in a dark, quiet room, and avoiding alcohol and large meals before bedtime, she still had difficulty getting to and staying asleep. She also reported that she felt she didn’t sleep deeply enough to have dreams and when she used melatonin she reported that she often experienced nightmares when she did finally fall asleep.

Upon starting the REI Custom Program, M.M. described that the CD “was a pleasant experience to listen to” and that for the first few days she experienced a “rush of energy” that was unusual for her and bordered on uncomfortable. This energy rush passed after three days and was replaced by an energy level that was still higher than before starting the REI Custom Program but wasn’t uncomfortable for her. She described that she had more energy “just to be” and found herself able to socialize more.

She reported that she began sleeping after three days of listening to CD#1 of the Program in mid-morning. She described that she would fall asleep within 1/2 hour of going to bed and would sleep deeply for 7.5 to 8 hours. She also related that for the first time in her memory she was having pleasant dreams every night.

She found that the listening volume needed to be very low for her, as evidenced by one day playing the CD while in the shower and turning it up loud enough to hear over the water. She was irritable the rest of that day. This is not uncommon for sensitive people, so it was suggested that it would be best to alter the week three protocol to ensure that the transition from CD#1 to CD#2 would not over-stimulate her and cause her mood or sleep to be disrupted. It was recommended that she alternate days (CD#1 day one of week three, CD#2 day two, CD#1 day three, and so on) instead of playing both CDs alternately each day as it typical for the REI Custom Program.

At the end of three weeks, M.M. described that listening to CD#2 gave her more energy during the day and didn’t disrupt her new deep sleep patterns. The biggest impact for her aside from consistently having restful sleep, was that she was less anxious and her mood was elevated. She was enjoying more social contact and wasn’t tired during the day.

As the REI Custom Program progressed over the ten-week duration of the Program, she continued using CD#2 in mid-morning and continued to have about 8 hours of sleep each night. She described that the CDs “were an important part of my day: A part that I look forward to”.

Aside from improvements in her sleep M.M. felt fewer feelings of depression and anxiety. Her concentration also improved, probably as a result of no longer being sleep-deprived. And probably most importantly, she and her husband we able to sleep in the same bed. This improved their sense of intimacy. She was also more socially connected to her family and friends, which further increased her sense of well being.

This case study was also part of a larger research paper on the use REI for sleep. You can read the paper here.

You can also get another perspective on REI for sleep in Strong Institute Director Jeff Strong’s book Different Drummer.

REI for Adult Autism, Sleep and Bipolar – A Case Study

Even though the REI Custom Program is implemented at the listener’s home and we create the recordings based on a comprehensive intake questionnaire, I still occasionally get to play live for a client before they start their program.

In this case study, I met with the subject, Russell, in the group home where he was living and played for him twice before making the REI recordings. Russell was 38 years old and had been at this facility since its inception 11 years previously. Prior to then, he was cared for at home by his family.

According to records, Russell was diagnosed with autism and bipolar disorder. He had very limited communication skills and was functionally non-verbal. The facility staff described that his communication consisted of mostly pointing, directing and vocalizing (mostly with grunts and other non-language cues). He also exhibited severe often self-injurious, self-stimulatory behaviors, the most significant of which were head-banging, anal-digging, and forehead-scratching.

The issues they were most concerned about, and the reason for wanting to do the REI Custom Program, were his self-injurious behaviors and his bipolar symptoms including, poor sleep and a starvation/binge-eating cycle (where he often gained and lost up to 10 pounds through his cycles).

The severity and frequency of his self- injurious behaviors increased when he was on the depressed side of his bipolar cycle. The staff reported that when he was depressed he needed near-constant redirection to keep him from engaging in these self-abusive behaviors. He was also difficult to engage in activities such as doing chores and interacting with the animals. Instead, the staff described him as lethargic and moody.
 
He, they stated, preferred to sleep during the day or to sit by himself and self-stimulate until asked to stop. He would generally stop when asked to but approximately 30% of the time the staff noted that they needed to physically stop these behaviors. This was done by gently pulling his hand away from either his face or anus or by moving him from the wall that he was banging his head-on. He rarely put up much resistance and seldom expressed any agitation to this redirection.
 
The staff described that Russell hadn’t eaten yet the first day I met with him and had eaten very little in the past 2 weeks since his depressed cycle began. The staff noted that he had lost 7 pounds already since the end of his last manic period.
 
I met Russell in the main group living area where he was sitting by himself. He made no response when I said hello to him and simply sat in his chair with his hand to his forehead. He wore a bandage and was lightly scratching at it as I talked to him.  A staff member pulled his hand away and he fidgeted with it in his lap for a short while before returning it to his forehead where he started scratching again.
 
I began playing the drum. Nothing in his behavior changed for a few minutes until which time he was noticed to be scratching less on his forehead. After approximately 10 minutes he was no longer scratching his head and his hands were clasped in his lap while he sat nearly motionless. His gaze was fixed in front of him and it didn’t appear that he was looking at anything in particular. The staff mentioned that he seemed much calmer, referencing his voluntarily stopping his self-stimulation.
 
He continued to sit quietly with his hands in his lap for about 15 minutes after I stopped playing. At that point, one of the staff came to get him to take a walk outside, which he did without resistance.
 
I met with Russell a second time before making his REI recording so that I could observe him when he was in a manic state. The director called me about 2 weeks after my first visit informing me that he was now manic. When I arrived at the facility he was agitated – evidenced by his pacing back and forth while wringing his hands. I was informed that he hadn’t slept well the last few days and had, in fact, had been under constant supervision for the past 2 days for fear of him hurting himself with his self-abusive behavior.
 
I quickly got out my drum and began playing. His reaction was immediate – he stopped pacing and turned to me, frozen. He stood nearly still for the duration of my playing (approximately 12 minutes). When I stopped he turned and quietly left the room. One of the staff members remarked on how calm he seemed at that moment.
 
The director related that his bipolar cycles were pretty regular – the manic period lasted about 2 weeks and the depressed period lasted between 2 and 3 weeks. He currently wasn’t taking any medication for this because they had tried various ones that had not been successful. They were currently taking a break from medications of any kind.
 
Russell received his REI recording three days after my last visit while he was still in a manic period. Because he was having trouble sleeping it was recommended that he listen at bedtime. Upon my follow-up visit after four weeks, the staff noted that his daily REI tracking log reflected that he fell asleep while the recording played the first night and, aside from 3 nights the first 2 weeks, he fell asleep before the REI recording ended (this is within 20 minutes, a much shorter time than was typical for his manic periods).
 
When his cycle shifted to a depressed mood, the staff continued to play the REI recording at bedtime because it was the easiest time of day for them to play it. He continued to fall asleep while the recording played, though it wasn’t unusual for him to fall asleep within this timeframe when he was depressed before using the REI recording.
 
The staff instructed Russell on how to turn on the recording himself at bedtime and, except for a few days during his depressed cycle, he did so without prompting.
 
The staff had also taken to playing his REI recording during the day during his depressed period (in addition to playing it at night) and they noted that his mood seemed to elevate and he became more active throughout the day. The staff also noted that his self-abusive behavior had lessened. This change in self-abusive behaviors began being noticeable after just over 4 weeks after beginning REI.
 
For the next few months, Russell continued listening to his REI recording at bedtime and during the day during his depressed cycle. Staff tracking revealed that his frequency and intensity of self-abusive behaviors were progressively lessening. When I went to see him at the twelve-week point, he had no sores or scabs on his forehead, at a state that the staff describe as unheard of before starting REI.
 
The staff also described that his manic and depressed cycles were noticeably less severe. When he was most recently manic he was much calmer and was sleeping every night. The staff also described that when he was depressed he was less lethargic and easier to engage in activities. He was also eating three good meals a day.
 
After 6 months, the staff noted that Russell demonstrated an improvement in his symptoms of bipolar disorder – his cycles weren’t as deep, the lows weren’t as long, and he was better able to handle the depressed side when it did occur. The director said that he was no longer listening to the REI recording every day but when he did listen before bedtime he would sleep deeper and wake more rested. After talking with the staff, they agreed to try to be more consistent with playing his recording and in helping him remember to turn it on before going to bed.
 
You can learn more about the REI Custom Program by clicking the Custom Program tab above.

REI Improves Trantrums And Transitions

Note: This article is an excerpt from Strong Institute Director Jeff Strong’s book, Different Drummer: One Man’s Music and Its Impact on ADD, Anxiety, and Autism.

This case study includes Jeff playing live for a client, Timmy. These results don’t require a live performance, however. Timmy’s improvement in tantrums and transitioning from one activity to another was due to listening everyday to his REI Custom Program.

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Many of the people I work with who experience anxiety manifest it through other types of behaviors. Ten-year-old Timmy tantrummed when he became anxious. This anxiety was most prominent when he was asked to change what he was doing. Transitions always elicited an emotional outburst: He would scream and lash out at whoever was close.

“This is our special needs room,” described Sara as we walked into a classroom ringed by cubicle dividers. Each cubicle area was furnished with a small table and a couple of chairs. Some also contained a beanbag chair or a carpet on the linoleum floor. There was a large table in the center of the room with a dozen small chairs and two couches in the cubicle space directly across from the door.

“Why the cubicles?” I asked.

“We work with each student one-on-one for most of the day,” she explained as she led me to the couches where we sat down.

I unpacked my drum, threw it on my lap and give it a quick tune as Sara explained, “Timmy will be coming back to the classroom any minute. He’s usually pretty agitated.”

She paused, then said, “There, you can hear him now.”

Hearing a commotion coming from the hall, I started playing my drum. I jumped into a series of calming rhythms at a pretty high volume, not feeling a need to start quietly because Timmy wasn’t in the room. Instead, I wanted Timmy to hear it from the hallway.

I was playing loud enough that I could no longer hear what was going on outside the classroom. I watched the door for him, ready to adjust my rhythms based on how he acted as he came into the room.

It took less than two minutes for Timmy to peek into the room. He did this by standing across the hall from the door. He seemed to look everywhere but at me. I ignored him as I played, waiting for him to get the courage to enter the room.

Timmy stayed in the hallway for a while, alternately standing where he could see me and moving out of range. I ran through a series of calming rhythms, hoping that he would come into the room. Eventually he did, slowly migrating from the doorway and around the perimeter of the room until he came to the couch. As he navigated closer to me, I dropped my volume until I was playing at barely a whisper as he stood before me.

I continued playing for another minute or two without looking his way. He remained planted a couple of feet from me.

I stopped.

Timmy surprised me by approaching me and touching the drum. He very gently put one hand on each side and looked past me. I tapped the head with my index fingers, creating a syncopated patter, still not looking at him.

His hands moved to the edge of the drum, then onto my hands while not disturbing my playing. I kept playing with just my index fingers, but edged-up the rhythms a little, increasing in speed and complexity. Timmy’s hands gripped my two last fingers, which were hanging off the sides of drum.

As I morphed my rhythms over the next few minutes, Timmy’s grip changed with each permutation. Harder, then softer. Back and forth in different intensities as the rhythms rose and fell. We were dancing the rhythms. This dance lasted several minutes until he abruptly let go and sat down on the floor. The connection was gone.

I dropped my volume and faded out. Timmy was playing with legos, his back to me. I packed up and left the room.

Sara followed me out and said, “That was cool. He doesn’t like physical contact and here he initiated it with you.”

“Yeah, it was cool,” I replied. This connection, no matter how fleeting, was one of the reasons I loved playing live for kids and was something I never really got tired of. It was also something that didn’t happen that often. However, as gratifying as it was, I didn’t allow myself to spend much time on it. I was focused on what I needed to do in order for Timmy to become less emotionally reactive.

“Did he settle down quicker today than usual?” I asked, trying to get a sense of whether the rhythms I had chosen had contributed to his calming after the change in rooms and activities.

“Yes. He is usually pretty agitated for a while. But he seemed to connect with you. That calmed him.”

“That was fun,” I said as I wondered if this connection could be helpful in reducing his anxiety overall. Other kids I had played with seemed to carry that connection to their relationship with their REI recording. My work with past clients showed that this connection wasn’t necessary, but I felt it always helped.

Sara and I talked more about Timmy’s anxiety and she assured me that his parents were on board with him listening to an REI recording.

Sara felt comfortable using our online system, saying she preferred to play the track through her phone. I entered Timmy’s intake data into our system and Sara was able to begin playing his recording in school the next day. She would enter Timmy’s progress into her account and I would only lightly monitor it, letting our software take the lead in creating the tracks for Timmy.

The goal was for Timmy to become less emotional during the many transitions he experienced throughout the day.

Over the course of sixteen weeks, Timmy listened to eight progressively-created, custom-made REI recordings, each used once a day for two weeks during the school week. Making the recordings one after another, based on Timmy’s responses, was the key to making overall changes to his ability to handle change.

Timmy responded immediately with his first REI recording. Sara chose to play Timmy’s recording first thing in the morning because this was generally one of his most difficult times. The transition to school nearly always caused a meltdown. She also hoped that listening first thing would make the rest of the day easier.

The first day it took about five minutes for Timmy to settle in. Ordinarily he could be agitated for up to an hour. His calm lasted until lunchtime, when he had a meltdown in the cafeteria. I asked that Sara not play Timmy’s recording more than once a day because I wanted to ensure that he didn’t get overstimulated from the drumming.

Timmy’s first two weeks continued with him listening first thing in the morning, calming quickly and remaining calm until lunchtime. At the two-week point, Sara called me to ask whether another time of day would be better from Timmy. She described that he seemed to adjust to the day easier and he was arriving at school less agitated. We decided that playing his recording right before lunch might be worth a try.

Timmy again responded immediately with this new schedule. Sara turned on his recording about ten minutes before it was time to go to the cafeteria and let it play as he got his food and began eating. She described from the first day that he stayed calm as he went through the transition from classroom activities to lunchtime.

It was obvious from the outset that Timmy would calm when the REI recording played. At the beginning of the Program, he would remain calm until another transition took place. Then he would get anxious. This pattern changed over the course of about six weeks. At first Timmy had the occasional time when he handled a change without issues, but after six weeks he would tolerate most transitions without a problem.

“Timmy is now self-regulating,” described Sara at our eight-week check-in. “You can see him begin to get stuck in his pattern and almost have a meltdown, but then he collects himself. He never used to be able to do that.”

Given that he was calmer and beginning to learn to calm himself and tolerate change, we had Timmy return to listening first thing in the morning. This was an easier time for Sara to play his track and we wanted to see how well he could navigate the day’s changes without using the track during a transition.

The goal of reducing anxiety with REI is to get to the point where the listener is able to learn to self-regulate. As with Timmy, it can be helpful to use the REI recording when the anxiety is at its worst, but eventually it can become a crutch. The switch back to listening when a client isn’t having an emotional reaction to change removes this crutch.

Timmy handled this change well. For the first few days, Timmy was agitated when transitioning to lunch; but by the end of the first week he was able to transition as smoothly as he did when he listened during this transition.

The last seven weeks of the Program were designed to integrate his self-regulation skills solidly enough that he would not need to listen to his REI recording everyday. He did this successfully. I talked with Sara a couple of weeks after he stopped listening to his last REI recording.

“Timmy is a new kid. He no longer tantrums when asked to move on to a new activity. His resistance has melted over the last couple of months and now all I need to do is let him know a minute or so before we make a change that he needs to get ready to do something else. You can see him preparing himself. He stops what he’s doing for a few seconds and gets quiet. Then, when we ask him to switch activities, he does it without hesitation. He hasn’t had a meltdown in several weeks.”

Timmy illustrates the REI Custom Program path that many clients struggling with anxiety follow. The first track provides an immediate, temporary calm. Each progressive track extends the amount of time the listener remains calm after listening until we see some level of self-calming in situations that caused anxiety before beginning the Program.

Jeff Strong on How I Create REI Rhythms from Ceremonial Polyrhythms

In this video, I show you how I create a composite rhythm from a ceremonial rhythm composed of 4 drum parts. I also describe why it is important to vary a rhythm, no matter how complex it is, to influence the brain and behavior within the alpha state of consciousness.

learn more about REI at: https://www.stronginstitute.com/
Learn to play the drum for healing at: http://www.drumhealing.com/
Listen to my music for free at: https://brainshiftradio.com/