Mewsic Moves in the Media - The Acorn

Mewsic Moves in the Media - The Acorn

Mewsic Moves in the Media - The Acorn

On August 13th, 2014, I had the opportunity to announce the Glee Choir in front of Calabasas City Council. I was honored to stand before the council members and share my passion and joy in providing music therapy programs for families of children with special needs, especially the Glee Choir program.

A few days after the meeting, I was thrilled to receive a request for an interview from Sylvie Belmond, who is a reporter for The Acorn newspaper.

Sylvie had lots of questions, and we talked for almost an hour.  She wanted to know more about music therapy and the Glee Choir program that I had created. At the end of our interview, Sylvie said she felt it was important to let others know the importance of music therapy and how it is very different from music lessons.  A few weeks later, Sylvie’s article appeared in the September 4, 2014 edition of The Acorn.

I am very grateful to Sylvie for writing such a wonderful article, and to The Acorn for publishing it. I also want to thank Debi Frankle, MFT/Owner of Calabasas Counseling and Grief Center, Calabasas and Ping Ho, Founder – UCLArts and Healing for contributing to the story.

Credits to: Sylvie Belmond – Reporter at The Acorn

www.theacorn.com

Click here to read the article: http://www.theacorn.com/news/2014-09-04/Community/Glee_Choir_for_adults_with_special_needs.html


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For FREE songs, videos and tips on how to support children with special needs through music click here.

Image Courtesy of Stuart Miles/freedigitalphotos.net

Parents: This 5-Minute Ritual Can Change Your Life!

Parents of children with special needs usually adhere to a strict schedule of appointments that follow a set routine.  But sometimes even the best-planned schedule will require last minute change ups, and when this happens, chaos often follows, which can last throughout the rest of the day. 

Athletes use a visualizing process called, “mental rehearsal” to help them achieve their best performance. Have you ever tried visually planning your day first thing in the morning?  

I promise you that if you practice this 5-minute ritual on a regular basis, you’ll find you're mentally better prepared for any eventuality, your general outlook improves, and you’ll feel much more grounded when things do go “off the rails.” 

There are 5 simple steps to this ritual, one for each minute.  I suggest you do this as soon as you wake up when your mind is in its most relaxed state. (This doesn’t work if you oversleep your alarm of course!)

First Minute: 

Find a quiet place and breath deep. (Maybe play some slow classical music as background to help you relax) One of my favorite places to do this is in the shower.

Second Minute:

When you are feeling relaxed and calm, mentally start listing things for which you are grateful (e.g., I am grateful for my family, I am grateful for my health, etc.)

Third Minute:

Mentally forgive yourself and give yourself permission to make mistakes today. You can even visualize yourself in a stressful situation and guide yourself to a relaxing place of peace and resolution.

Fourth Minute:

Visualize your day's schedule and imagine that each item on your list is working out perfectly for you and your family.

Fifth Minute:

Acknowledge and appreciate that you are doing your best, your partner is doing their best, and your children are doing their best.

End with a deep breath and give thanks for the gift of Life.

Once you complete this morning ritual, you can go about your day knowing and trusting that things will work out for the best. You’ve given yourself some time and space to mentally plan as well as to guide your subconscious into planning and preparing your day to be a success.

Here are some books I recommend to parents who have children with special needs.  These are great resources to help you find balance – taking time for yourself and your children to create a happier and healthier home life.

For FREE songs, videos and tips on how to support children with special needs through music click here.


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5 Main Benefits of Drumming for Children With Special Needs

Does your child have challenges with speech and articulation? Eye-hand coordination? Or even having difficulty with social skills or social cues? Then drumming maybe the right tool for your child to overcome and build on some of these challenges.

There has been a lot of research on the benefits of drumming over the past few decades. Drumming has been shown to help reduce depressions, boost immune systems and build self-esteem. In this blog I want to focus on five main benefits of drumming for children with speical needs.

1. Increase Communication and Speech

Drums can reinforce speech, vocalizations, sounds and even help with sentence building. You can use drumming to reinforce word syllables and then expand to full sentences. Have the child sound out each syllable or word as they simultaneously play it on the drum.

2. Support Eye-Hand Coordination/Motor Skills

Drumming can help strengthen upper body control, arm movement and increase eye-hand coordination, particularly if you use more than one drum. Drumming with mallets helps with reaching, grasping, fluidity of movement and fine motor skills.

3. Develop Social Skills

Groups drumming, with the proper facilitation, is a powerful exercise for people of all ages to strengthen social skills. Group drumming teaches children to listen, pay attention, turn-taking, sharing, and taking cues from one another.

4. Support Emotional Needs/Impulse Control

Drumming can help a child learn to regulate their emotions. It can be very useful for expressing emotions and to "get it out." Drumming can vent aggressions, and invite in a calmer state of mind, particularly improve impulse control.

5. Improve Self-Esteem and Fun!

Drumming is catchy and can be a lot of fun. If you have ever been in a drumming group you can surely attest to this. Drumming is a great way for children with special needs to play and to get physical exercise.

Drumming combines motor movement with auditory and visual feedback, which makes it a great tool for strengthening a variety of skills for children with special needs. Since drumming is multi-sensory, it facilitates greater engagement, encourages learning, brain function, and skill building all while having fun! I have seen drumming to be very effective for my clients. I hope you'll give it a try!

To get you started, I wrote a song that helps facilitate a fun drumming experience while working on various skills mentioned above. To download the full song, click on the image to the right, check it out and let me know what you think. Happy drumming!

You can also view my youtube video on how to make your own rhythm sticks! Click Here To View

For FREE songs, videos and tips on how to support children with special needs through music click here.

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I am a Music Therapist! I am an Advocate! #mtadvocacy

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January is Social Media Awareness month for music therapy advocacy.  #mtadvocacy

To me, an advocate is someone who believes who-heartedly in their cause, and demonstrates by example those values and beliefs, and seeks to educate others on the merits of their particular cause. 

I wasn't always a music therapy advocate. During my undergraduate studies in music, I soon realized that a career in music wasn't for me.  I knew the power of music, but I really wanted to be in a healing/helping profession. My faculty advisor suggested I consider music therapy and recommended I read Case Studies in Music Therapy, by Kenneth Bruscia. That day I became a music therapy advocate!  

This discovery caused me to move from Newfoundland to Vancouver to get my degree in music therapy.   That was 14 years ago this month!  Wow, how time flies.

Over the years I have learned and applied the modalities of music therapy, and have seen some amazing transformations in many of my clients.

My music therapy clientele has mostly been children with special needs, primarily autism. Over the years, I have heard so many parents say that they had tried every kind of therapy out there, but that music therapy is the only one that worked.  This is why I have been such an advocate for music therapy in everything I've done since -- as a music therapist, marriage and family therapist, child advocate, student executive, college professor, online blogger,  and in various committee positions.  Here is how I advocate for music therapy every day:

  • Doing
  • Showing
  • Proving 
  • Blogging
  • Modeling
  • Sharing
  • Educating
  • Loving
  • Encouraging
  • Supporting
  • Promoting
  • Researching
  • and more...

These are just a few qualities I have committed to as a music therapy advocate. Can you think of other qualities to add to this list? Please write in the comments below.

To celebrate music therapy advocacy month (#mtadvocacy) I am offering 50% off all my original songs.

Click on the image to the right and it will take you to the song list. 

Enter Code: MTAD2014

Offer Ends: January 31, 2014

Get Your Discounted Songs Now!

Happy Music Therapy Advocacy Month!

#mtadvocacy

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For FREE songs, videos and tips on how to support children with special needs through music click here!

Top 10 Christmas Gifts For Children With Special Needs

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At this time of year, parents often ask for Christmas gift suggestions for their child with special needs. For these parents, it can be quite challenging to find the right gift - a gift that is fun, not over-stimulating, and has some therapeutic value.

So in time for the holidays season, I have created a top-10 list of my current favorites. I have also included its potential therapeutic value under each link so you can see which gift would be best suited for your child. (Click on each item to view its description)

1. Sounds Shapes

  • Gross motor skills
  • Impulse control
  • Sensory input

2.  Cabasa

  • Fine motor skills
  • Stimulation and sensory needs

3. Ocean Drum

  • Relaxation
  • Sensory needs
  • Impulse control

4. Melodica

  • Fine motor skills
  • Oral and breath control
  • Eye-hand coordination

5. Ukulele

  • Fine motor skills
  • Eye-hand coordination
  • Gross motor skills

6. Kazoo

  • Oral motor skills
  • Breath control

7. Legos

  • Fine motor skills
  • Joint attention skills
  • Task focus
  • Sharing
  • Turn-taking skills
  • Problem-solving skills

8. Eggspressions

  • Social skills
  • Emotional awareness
  • Emotional Development

9. Trampoline

  • Sensory input/needs
  • Gross motor skills
  • Balance/coordination skills 

10. Dizzy Disc

  • Sensory input/needs
  • Gross motor skills
  • Balance/coordination skills

 

I hope you discovered something new and useful from this list. If you have any toys that you would like to add to this list, please add it in the comment section below.

Happy Holidays!

John Mews, MA, MTA

For FREE songs, videos and tips on how to support children with music click here.

 

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How a Music Therapist Adapts Songs to Fit Each Client's Need

I want to share an experience with you from a therapist who used my song, Leaves are Falling Down. click here for song

Nam Kim Kyo, a talented and creative music therapy colleague of mine share with me some of her adaptations of this song. She kindly has allowed me to share these with you to give you some ideas on how you might use this song with children who have special needs.

First check out her art props! She had her clients decorate the foam leaves into smiling life-like characters! What a great idea. Can you tell which one her client made? (You've got to love the big eye expression.)

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Client A:

This client has been diagnosed with Autism and has minimal verbal and communication skills. One of Nam's goals was to teach her client to recognize body parts and colors. Nam presented her client with red, yellow, orange and brown leaves made of foam. She then encouraged her client to match the correct colors while providing verbal, visual and musical prompts. She said her client seemed to be very engaged and was able to match the verbal/musical prompt to the proper leaf colors with success!

Client B:

This client has been diagnosed with Autism, Seizure Disorder, is non-verbal and is considered low functioning. Nam is working on teaching him how to reach, grasp and release, as this client often grabs objects but has trouble letting them go. Nam cleverly adapted the song's activity by turning the drum upside down, then having her client pick up the leaves and drop them into the upside-down drum with a verbal and musical cue! Fun!

These are just two ways in which you can adapt this song to fit an activity. I want to thank Nam for sharing her stories and artwork with us and encourage her to keep up the great work. 

How have you adapted songs to help address any of your child or client's needs? I would love to hear from you. Please leave a comment or suggestion below. 

Nam.JPG

Nam is practicing music therapy specializing in supporting children with autism and teaches music in Vancouver, BC. Canada.

 

 

 

For a download of the song click here.

For a download of the adaptive drum song instructional video click here.

For FREE songs, videos and tips on how to support children with music click here.

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Why is it Important to Teach Your Child to be Thankful?

Does you child have a lot of expensive things, such as an iPad, Xbox, Nintendo DS, DSI, 2DS, or an iPhone even?

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If so, did they receive these gifts as a reward? Or have you been showering these expensive gifts on them simply because they are your child? And when they received these gifts, did they express their gratitude?

Over the years I have seen children with the most expensive shoes, gadgets, and clothes. Many of these children had severe behavioral problems, like acting out in school and/or showing disrespect for their parents and teachers. I asked the parents how they received these gifts, and I found that often these gifts were given for no particular reason - not even because it was their birthday or Christmas.

I believe that children who aren't taught to express gratitude will face many difficulties later in life. Positive psychology demonstrates that the more we are grateful, the happier and more fulfilled our lives will be. Betsy Brown Braun , a child development and behavior specialist, states that not only is it mannerly to say "thank-you," but that thankfulness is connected with living a happier, more resilient, empathic and self-fulfilled life. 

I had the good fortune of being born into a very giving family. Yes, things were given to me when I didn't necessarily deserve them. But fortunately my parents also taught me to be grateful for the gifts I had received. 

Teaching children to be thankful can be a challenge because as they naturally develop their sense-of-self, they tend to become self-centered. But, a child that has learned to be grateful will have better social skills, empathy and self worth.

As a music therapist I have taught children to be thankful through music.  I was inspired by the season of Thanksgiving to write a song entitled, "I am Thankful." This song includes two tracks, one with vocals and one without so you can sing along and insert the things for which you and your child are thankful. The song also comes with a lyrics sheet and chords so you can play along if you are musically inclined. One mother told me she played this song to her two young boys and was excited to hear them going through the house singing about the things they were thankful for! 

Here is an easy way to teach your child to be grateful. In the spirit of Thanksgiving, I am offering a 50% DISCOUNT on this song through the end of November. All you need to do is click on the picture to the right and type in this code when you place your order: THANKS

Get it soon as it is only available until November 30th! And share with as many people as you can!

Gratefully yours and Happy Thanksgiving!

John Mews

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10 Years as a Music Therapist And Still Using The "Top 10 Greatest Hits"

After Ten Years as a Music Therapist, I Still Use the “Top Ten Greatest Hits”

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I am celebrating my tenth year as a music therapist. I have spent many hours learning new songs, as well creating new ones and developing adaptations.  However, I’m finding that I tend to use the same classic favorites over and over! These songs have such great utility in that they can be easily adapted for many different purposes.  These top ten melodies reliably get kids to start toes tapping, hands clapping and bodies grooving.

I use these songs as a platform for improvisation to inspire and motivate children with special needs.  It also saves me from having to create something new all the time!

So here are my Top 10 ”Greatest Hits” which I’ve found work well with children in music therapy:

  1. You are My Sunshine
  2. If You’re Happy and You Know it
  3. Shake Your Sillies Out
  4. Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star
  5. Head and Shoulders, Knees and Toes
  6. Row, Row, Row Your Boat
  7. Do as I’m Doing
  8. Alphabet Song
  9. We’re Gonna Rock Around The Clock Tonight
  10. London Bridges
  11. Hey Dum Diddley Dum

Ok, I threw in an extra one for fun and good measure!

What are you favorite Top 10 Greatest Hits? Maybe together we can create a Top 100 Greatest Hits! Please share and comment below.

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Image Courtesy of Stuart Miles/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Help Your Child With Autism by Changing Their Routine

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 Routines are important for most of us. We typically wake up at the same time, find the keys in the same place, and all the dishes are properly put away. We create routines and consistency in our lives to reduce stress and to keep things going smoothly.

This is particularly important for children with autism because they process information in a different way than most children.  Keeping things predictable can help reduce stress, filter out distractions, and help them to focus on the task at hand.

But what happens if our keys go missing? Or we find our car has a dead battery? What would we do? Panic? Fortunately most of us have developed healthy coping skills to deal effectively in situations like this.

I’ve seen therapists as well as parents create strict routines for their children with autism, and they keep those routines going for far too long! I often ask, what happens if the school bus is late? What happens if the fire alarm goes off  at school? What would your child learn from these strict routines about dealing with the unpredictable things in life?

Yes, I agree, whenever we start something new, we must first adhere to a strict schedule to eliminate distractions and keep the stress level down.  But I do believe that once your child has learned this routine and can manage it without stress, then we need to start implementing changes to their routine.

For example, I begin and end each session with the exact same tune, but with different words (“Hello” and “Good-bye”). Depending on the child’s functioning level, I will slowly incorporate a few changes to the lyrics and sometimes the order of which the song is placed in the schedule to see if there is a response to this change.  This can be a powerful tool in helping teach a child with autism how to cope when things don’t go exactly as they might expect. Then we explore options about what to do next, where we can go, how we can change things, what our options are and most importantly, how to manage the stress caused by the change.

How are you helping your child cope with changes in their routines or in everyday life? I hope you find this helpful and are encouraged to experiment by implementing subtle changes into your child’s routine.  This will better equip them to deal with the realities of life. Every moment something changes and something is different. Their success in life depends upon how well are they able to cope with change.

I’d love to hear how you incorporate subtle changes into your child’s daily routine to help them cope with change. Please leave a comment below.

Here are some resources I recommend to help you and your child cope with change.

 

Image Courtesy of Stuart Miles/freedigitalphotos.net

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