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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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!   

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Musically,

John Mews, BMT, MA, MFTI

john@mewsicmoves.com

www.mewsicmoves.com

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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.

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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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5 Helpful Tips to Make Your Child's I.E.P Meeting More Tolerable Than Terrifying

 

For most parents, Individual Education Plan (IEP) meetings are stressful and sometimes feel like a waste of time.  Here are some helpful tips that should help you get the most out of your child’s IEP.

 

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1. Focus on your child’s strengths

 

Rarely have I participated in an IEP that uses the child’s strengths as a focal point. I believe that it is critical to use the child’s strengths as one of the building block for success. Wouldn’t you find it demoralizing if someone only focused on your areas of weakness and was constantly trying to fix you?

2. Your child needs a break area/quiet place to go to  

Most children need a break to avoid becoming over stimulated. Take time to familiarize yourself with the break/rest areas available in your child’s school, and see if they fit his/her needs. You may be surprised by some of the so-called “quiet” areas that schools consider to be the break/rest area. For example, one school I worked with used a noisy high-traffic lunchroom as their break room. Not a great idea, right?

3. I is for Individual! Your child’s IEP should be customized for your child’s individual needs

This should be common sense but many IEP’s can be hurriedly cut and pasted from another child’s IEP, or even from your child’s previous school year. Things change over time, and your child’s specific needs will change over time as well. Insist that the IEP be customized for your child’s current needs and learning capabilities.

  4. Your child’s goals should be measurable!

How will anyone know if your child has achieved his or her goal(s) or not? Should the goals be re-evaluated? This is where measurement tools are very useful and important. Does your school have up-to-date tools to measure your child’s successes? If so, how and when are they being used? Be sure that your goals can be easily measured and observed. Otherwise, you will never know if your child is successfully achieving his or her goals or not. It may be as simple as asking your child’s teacher for a brief monthly progress report.

5. Be an ally! Your child needs you on the team!

Most IEP meetings I have been involved with started out as an emergency meeting. Schools and/or parents often wait until there is a serious problem, and then call an emergency meeting in an attempt to fix the problem. I’ve often sat uncomfortably witnessing both parents and teachers lashing out at each other in frustration. To avoid this, I believe it is very important that parents build a strong relationship with their child’s teacher and school administrators as early as possible. Keep in mind that teachers have an incredible amount of responsibility, and it’s tough to know and remember everything that is in your child’s IEP. Helping to educate them can be a great relationship builder and will go a  long way toward ensuring your child’s success in school.

Here are some books I recommend.

 

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As Seen In Autism Parenting Magazine