Music Therapy Addressing Back to School Needs

Schoolboys playing musical instruments in music class

September and October can be very challenging months for both parents and children transitioning back to school from a relaxing and non-structured summer. Going back onto a routine can be tough for both parents and their children.

Once school starts, most teachers will be very attuned to each child's needs in their classroom. Perhaps you've gotten a call to have your child taken from class because of your child's performance, behaviors or even social isolation? If this happens, it can make the transition even more stressful for both the parent and the child.

Parents then might try to find services that will support their child and address the concerns of their teachers. What kinds of therapy might help? occupational therapy? speech and language therapy? physical therapy?

What about music therapy? Maybe you've never even considered it. This form of therapy has been around for almost 80 years, yet surprisingly people are still unaware of its effectiveness, particularly for helping children with special needs.  

The fascinating aspect of music therapy is that you can be working on multiple goals simultaneously, such as speech/communication, fine/gross motor, social skills, emotional regulation, and others. For example, when playing a drum, a child can work on their gross motor skills, and at the same time be learning to regulate by maintaining a steady rhythm.  If you add in vocalizations, it can help them with communication.  Very few forms of therapy can compare to the versatility and efficacy of music therapy. 

Here are a few examples of why music therapy can be an effective therapy for your child to help with any of the goals and concerns that may arise during this hectic transition starting back to school.

1- Music can increase social skills

2- Music can help regulate your child

3- Music can increase your child's attention span/focus

4- Music strengthens your child's auditory skills

5- Music helps with memory and sequencing skills

6- Music is fun, engaging and rewarding

7- Music can help increase communication skills and language development

8- Music can help with understanding and processing children's feelings

9- Music can help with social-emotional development

10- Music can help with fine and gross motor skills

 

If you would like to learn more about music therapy please contact me: john@mewsicmoves.com

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

 

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Autism Parenting Magazine Lists Music Therapy/Mewsic Moves as a Resource!

I've had the privilege of writing multiple articles for the autism parenting magazine over the past few years. They have covered many great topics and have been an amazing resource for parents, educators and therapists over the years. Some of my articles they've published are:

Last year the Autism Magazine also awarded us with the Top Music Therapy Writer for their magazine in 2014!

Just last month they have created an online resource for parents and I am so excited to announce that Mewsic Moves has made the list! We are so grateful to the Autism Parenting Magazine for all they do for families across the country, online and around the world. Thank you for being such a great tool and resource for so many. 

You can find the resource list by clicking HERE.

You can also get your FREE copy of the Autism Parenting Magazine by clicking HERE.

Please share this resource with families of children with special needs and others who may benefit from any of these resources. 

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

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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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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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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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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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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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