Learning Concepts Through Music Therapy

Have you ever asked your child to put something "in" the box and he/she puts in elsewhere? Then it is most likely that you child may have challenges with differentiating basic concepts such as in, on, over and under.

I have worked with many children who are confused with these everyday concepts and have no idea how to differentiate between in, on, over and under. This is a common challenge for most children and especially common for children with special needs and those on the autism spectrum disorder. 

Over and over again I have parents and other professionals asking me how I teach children how to differentiate between these concepts. I simple tell them, "I use music" as a fun and motivating tool to help them learn, understand and practice these basic concepts.

Just the other day I used the drum to help a 3 year old boy on the spectrum differentiate between "on", "under" and "in". We were singing 5 Little Monkeys jumping on the DRUM. I revamped the lyrics to make it more applicable in our music therapy session. When we were done with the monkey I asked him to put the monkey in various locations such as, "on the drum", "in the drum" and "under the drum". The little guy had so much fun hiding the monkey in all the areas he had no idea he was learning these concepts.

After this session I was inspired so I wrote a song to help you and your child learn these basic concepts through music. Feel free to adapt the words of this song to make it your own as well as to match the concepts to the particular environment for you and your child. In this song I kept all the concepts familiar to a music therapy setting (as it's mostly my working environment), but you may want to adapt the lyrics to school or home. For example, the first line is "I put my mallets in the box when it's clean up time". You may want to change it to, "I put my crayons in the box when its clean up time.

Please feel free to share your personal lyrics with us as we love to hear from you!

I hope you and your child will have fun learning these basic concepts and finding creative new lyrics to adapt to your particular environment. Have fun making the most with MEWSIC!

Download the song here! or by clicking the image to the right.

 

 

 

Click below to hear a sample of the song.

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Top 5 Qualities to Look For in a Music Therapist

I recently read a blog on the top 5 qualities to look for in an individual therapist or family therapist. It got me thinking. What do parents or other professionals look for in a music therapist? What are the key qualities to look for in a music therapist?

Here are the qualities I have come up with for top 5 qualities to look for in a music therapist working with children.

1. Team Player

It is very important to find a music therapist who works well in a multi-disciplinary team. When I first began my practice I was so "green" and I consulted with other therapists such as Occupational, Physical and Speech Therapists. I learned so much from them and more over, I learned how to work together to make sure the best success was achieved for the child. Make sure that your music therapists has a wealth of consulting and works well with others in the child's team support system.

2. Creative and Fun

It is important for a music therapist to be creative. It is often imperative that a music therapist be able to make up songs and activities "on-the-spot" to match your child to where they're at. A music therapist often needs to adapt songs and activities to engage or motivate a child in the desired activity to achieve various goals.

3. Adaptable & Knowledgable

Just because a music therapist has a bachelor or masters degree it doesn't end there. Music therapists are required to follow up on continuing education and researching the latests educational resources in their specialized client population.

4. Compassionate and Patient

Working with children with special needs, especially autism can be most challenging at times. It is very important that the music therapist you are seeking to work with your child has a deep desire and compassion to work with children with special needs. You have every right to ask your therapist what inspired them to choose to work with children with autism. It is also crucial that music therapists working with children with autism have a great deal and gift of patience. Considering children with autism function and experience the world in different ways than we do, it is crucial that the music therapist you choose has a great deal of patience in waiting and understanding how your child acts or reacts in certain situations.

5. Problem-Solver

Working with children with special needs considers a great deal of problems-solving skills. It's imperative that the music therapist that you choose can "think on their feet" and come up with a solution that your child is dealing with through a musical activity or therapeutic intervention. You can simply ask your therapist in an interview, "what is the most challenging client you have worked with and how did you problem-solve to come up with a solution?"

I hope you find this list helpful in choosing the music therapist that is the best fit for you and your child's needs. For a list of music therapist in your area you can contact your local music therapy association or the American Music Therapy Association website. 

If you have other qualities that you think are important I would love to hear from you, please write them in the comment section below.

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The Reason I Jump: Understanding Autism - "A Must Read"

The Reason I Jump by Naoki Higashida (translated into English by David Mitchell and KA Yoshida)

Have you ever wondered why those with autism jump, flap their hands or make high pitched noises? This book answers all those questions that I once had as a student in this field. Rarely do I read a book all the way through in a week, let alone one night, but this one I just could not put down. I first heard about this book through social media posts, and then when I saw John Stewart interview co-author David Mitchell on The Daily Show.  I ordered the book on Amazon the next day.

I wish this book was available to me when I first started my career as a music therapist! This book offers tremendous insight into the inner world of those living with autism, and does a great job explaining the reasons for various behaviors and reactions.  This book gives answers to questions that took me many hours to understand with my clients.  This book will serve as a refresher for those with lots of clinical experience with this population.  For everyone else, this book is a great read and a real eye opener about what it means to live with autism.  

This book answers many questions many of you have likely pondered including:

  1. Why do you make a huge fuss over tiny mistakes?
  2. Why do you flap your fingers and hands in front of your face?
  3. Is it true that you hate being touched?
  4. Why don't you make eye contact when you're talking?
  5. Why can you never stay still?

One of my favorite sections from the book relates to how people talk to those with autism. The interviewer asks the question, "Do you find childish language easier to understand?"  Naoki, a 13 year old with autism replies , "whenever anyone treats me as if I'm still a toddler, it really hacks me off."  I observed this many times in my practice, and this was mostly done by their parents! I have long encouraged parents to speak in an "age appropriate" manner, both with language and expectations. There are lots of gems like this in the book, and I highly recommend this book to all professionals working with this population.

Get your copy now by clicking here!

You can also find other books on understanding autism below:

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Mewsic Moves Wins an Award!

I am so thrilled to announce that I have received the “Top Music Therapy Writer” award from Autism Parenting Magazine for 2014!  This is a terrific magazine that provides education and support to families of children on the spectrum.  The Autism Parenting Magazine was also proud recipients of the 2014 Gold Award for Online Resources (websites, eMagazines and blogs) in the category of Family/Parenting from the Mom's Choice Awards®. 

Here is a list of some of the articles I contributed to the Autism Parenting Magazine:

I encourage you to check out this excellent magazine!  Also, look for more articles from me this year.  If you have questions or are interested in learning more about music therapy, please reach out to me.  Your question might even inspire me to write my next article!   

Autism Parenting Magazine

Click on the picture to the right to subscribe to the Autism Parenting Magazine.

Musically,

John Mews, BMT, MA, MFTI

john@mewsicmoves.com

www.mewsicmoves.com

You can also check out the Autism Parenting Magazine by CLICKING HERE

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A Music Therapists Adaptation of "Leaves are Falling Down"

A music therapist will often be called upon to come up with a song in the spur of the moment to facilitate a positive therapeutic intervention.  Over the years, I’ve built up quite a collection of these “on-the-spot” creations to help children with special needs relax and learn special skills.  It occurred to me a while back that other music therapists might find these songs useful, so over the past year I recorded some and wrote out the musical score.

Jennifer Hezoucky, MT-BC, Jacobsburg, OH.

I recently I received a very touching email and newsletter from Jennifer, a music therapist in Jacobsburg, Ohio who bought my fall song, “Leaves are falling down.” She shared with me a beautiful video of how she used the song with young pre-school children.  Here is what she wrote:

What's Happening this Fall!

“At Creative Learning Daycare my preschool music class has been singing songs about fall. What a great way to incorporate learning when you have a seasonal theme! I love searching for new songs to use with my groups and I came across a song written by John Mews who is a music therapist and owner of Mewsic Moves. His song is called "Leaves are Falling Down.” There are many ways to use this song but I chose to use my new NSL 30" drum and scarves. Instead of using the stand that the drum came with I chose to set it on the floor so that the children can sit around the drum and experience playing one instrument as a group. I placed colored scarves in the middle of the drum (preferably fall colors) and held up each scarf as we sang what color was picked up. This was a great activity to introduce group drumming and color recognition.”

This song was created and written by John Mews, music therapist and owner of Mewsic Moves. I am always looking for songs to use with my music students. This one was fun to sing while drumming!

Click on the video to the right to watch how Jennifer adapted this song on the gathering drums with pre-school aged children.

Watching her video with those beautiful children really warmed my heart. Seeing the wonderfully creative way Jennifer used my song to create that moment made me feel very glad that I’d recorded it.

I love your stories, and am so grateful when you share them with me!  Thank you Jennifer for your amazing work and for sharing this beautiful video.

To view Jennifer’s webpage go to: http://lifesongtherapy.com

Now that you get a sense of how this song can be used in creative ways I would like to offer each reader a discount on this song!

Now you can get a 50% discount of “Leaves are Falling Down” through the end of November. (Offer expires November 30th)

Click on the "buy now!" button to the right and enter this code at checkout: LEAVES

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For FREE songs and tips on how to support children with special needs through music  Click Here!

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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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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

5 Main Benefits of Drumming For Children With SN

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

I am a Music Therapist!.jpg

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!