Drums

How Music Therapy Interventions Can Address the Culture of Bullying

In recent years, the conversation on how to curb bullying has been fruitful and productive. However, it remains a persistent phenomenon today, especially among children.

Bullying involves acts showing hostile intent predicated on power imbalance, which takes different forms like provocation and intimidation. A recent study from the National Center for Education Statistics found that one in five students between ages 12 and 18 have experienced bullying. The study also found that the intimidation tactics have increasingly taken the form of online or text harassment—around 15% of bullied students have reportedly experienced this.

Bully prevention strategies are crucial for schools and other supposedly safe spaces where children learn. The act of being bullied leads to stress, distress, and anxiety. Researchers from King's College London in the United Kingdom even uncovered that bullying has long-term effects on children. The study found that children who experience bullying have higher risks of mental health illnesses and hampered brain development. Indeed, Maryville University highlights that there are fundamental connections between mental health and learning abilities, and the two affect each other in more ways than we realize. Bullying has many long-term impacts, and chief among them is how it can impair a child’s capacity to learn.

Music as a prevention strategy

Bullying is a complex issue, especially with children. It encompasses the social, economic, structural, and psychological dimensions of upbringing. As a social relationship, bullying is harmful both for the victim as well as the bully. This is why prevention strategies being used are often intertwined and comprehensive.

A landmark study from the University of Minnesota in 2013 found that music therapy can be used as an effective intervention for both bullies and victims. While the longitudinal study focused on gender-based bullying, it showed how exposure to music and interaction mediated by instruments helped in easing negative dynamics among children. By exposing them to feminine-masculine types of music and instruments, the music therapy improved peer relations and self-management.

How does it work?

Music therapy is widely prescribed for many use cases. From pain management and anxiety relief to helping reduce the impacts of trauma and helping recovery, music therapy is seen as an effective alternative mediation for many conditions. As an intervention strategy, music therapy works towards multiple goals including cultivating social skills, regulating emotions, and diffusing toxic behaviors. It can also help children adjust after their non-structured summer vacation, when it’s time to go back to class again.

Music helps children develop their self-expression and socialization process. This is why it’s effective in directing and shaping social behaviors. For reducing bullying behaviors, music therapy is targeted at taking out aggressive behaviors and dis-incentivizing cliques. Psychologists from the University of Pretoria subjected students to music therapy and measured the changes in aggressive behaviors among students. The study found that music intervention, elicitations like drumming and song writing in particular—are effective in decreasing hostile behaviors. 

Choosing a method

One of the key characteristics of music therapy as an intervention is its flexibility. It’s an inexpensive but efficient way to deal with multiple goals including reducing bullying behaviors. Choosing an apt method would entail extensive goal setting in reducing bully behavior at school.

When used for children, music therapy often contain elements that are familiar to the students. More passive methods like music reminiscence and stimulation can encourage relaxation and socializing. Meanwhile, more active methods are more targeted. Singalong is a highly social method as it encourages participation in a collective setting. It’s a fun way to let them create more trust towards their peers.

Song writing and learning instruments are more advanced methods. By way of teaching skills, children learn introspection and benefit from peer learning. Incorporating classmate feedback sessions can encourage openness among children.

The potential of music therapy as an effective anti-bullying intervention program hinges on its impact on children’s overall development. The culture of bullying won’t go away in a flash, but the active engagement of children against it can be done one note at a time.

Exclusively written for MewsicMoves.Com

By: Leila Alayna

John Mews, Owner, Founder and Neurologic Music Therapist at Mewsic Moves is also trained in a social and emotional skill building drum facilitation program, “Beat The Odds® ” that utilizes drumming and rhythm to help children, teens as well as adult to connect to one another, improve attention, reduce anxiety and improve social skills throughout greater Los Angeles.

In this program development, researchers at UCLA have shown that,

Beat the Odds® can significantly improve a spectrum of behavior problems in children, such as inattention, withdrawn/depression, post traumatic stress, anxiety, attention deficit/hyperactivity, oppositional defiance, and sluggish cognitive tempo (Ho, Tsao, Bloch, & Zeltzer, 2011).

For more information on Beat the Odds® go to: https://uclartsandhealing.org/services/professional-development/beat-the-odds-drumming-program/

I also want to extend a special thank you to Leila Alayna for this special guest blog article.

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Top 10 Musical Toys For Children With Autism

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This is the time year most people are out shopping for things to put under the Christmas tree.   This can be an especially challenging time for parents of children with Autism.  So many of the available toys are far too over-stimulating for these children

Over the years parents have asked about buying musical instruments for their child.  I think these make great gifts, because they help the child engage in music making at home, which helps to reinforce what was learned during the music therapy session. 

Here are my top ten musical instruments I recommend for children with Autism.  For each one, I explain how the instrument can be utilized in a therapeutic and beneficial way. What a great dual purpose, a toy that’s also beneficial therapeutically! ( you can also click on each image or title for more information on the instrument). 

1. Ukulele

The small size of the ukulele makes it great for small children and adolescents.  It’s lightweight and narrow neck make it easy for the child to grasp.  I find the Ukulele is useful for fine motor control when picking or strumming.  You can also work on gross motor control if you rock the arm up and down to create strumming patterns. The Ukulele is also great for working on eye-hand coordination.

2. Recorder

Recorders are very popular with children and come in many colors. I often use this for language and speech development, primarily to aid in breath support and control. The recorder is also useful for working on fine motor skills that are needed to create different tones on the instrument. 

 

 

3. Sound Shapes®/Drums

I enjoy using the Sound Shapes®, because they are colorful, fun and come in different sizes, shapes and sounds. Sound Shapes® are easily stacked they don’t take up much room like most other stand-up drums and they are lightweight. The Sound Shapes® can provide therapeutic value in supporting eye-hand coordination, impulse control and to provide controlled sensory input.

 

4. Hand bells

Hand-bells come in various sizes and price ranges. I like these because they have a smaller scale (8 notes), are less expensive then others, and are quite durable. They are useful for developing fine motor skills, since you can simply press the top with your finger to make a sound. You can also use them to develop gross motor skills if you pick them up and ring them. I often use these to increase reading skills as well.  I create color-coded music, which the child “reads” by playing the correctly colored bell.  This also helps with visual tracking skills.  

 

5. Cabassa

Cabassas come in various sizes.  I prefer to use the larger ones, particularly if I want to use sensation and movement in my therapeutic approach. The weight of the cabassas can be useful for grounding a child, and you can roll the cabassa on the child’s arm, legs or back to create different sensations. A word of caution here – you should practice on yourself before using it on the child so that you know to use the right amount of pressure.  The cabassa also can be useful for fine and gross motor skills, as well as visual and auditory stimulation when you roll it around and around.

 

6. Melodica

I often use the Melodica to support a child’s fine motor skills, breath control and eye-hand coordination.  This is a less expensive option to purchasing a piano or keyboard.

 

 

 

7. Ocean Drum

Of all the drums I use in my practice, the Ocean Drum is by far the most popular.  This drum comes is different sizes and colors. I prefer the ocean drum with fish inside, since it provides added visual stimulation. This instrument can be used to aid with relaxation, grounding, sensory-input, gross motor and impulse control. The sound of the ocean drum ranges from a loud crescendo of crashing waves to the gentle white noise of the sea foam bubbles dissipating on the warm sand. 

 

 

 

8. Castanets

Castanets are fun, small and the least expensive instrument that most children love to play, mainly because they are touch-responsive. I have used this instrument to help children slow down from a fast paced-rhythm to a slower more regulated rhythm. This can be used as an auditory cue for children to understand their current energy levels and how they can learn to self-regulate. This instrument is also useful for developing fine motor skills, particularly for differentiating between using and isolating different finger movements.

9. Piano/keyboard

I recommend buying a less expensive keyboard for therapeutic use.  Children particularly seem to enjoy keyboards whose keys that light up as they are played. I use keyboards to help with fine motor skills, as an outlet to help children be creative and have fun on their own without direct instruction.  Make sure your keyboard has a record button so your child can record their creative masterpieces and play it back.  This helps them to feel good about their accomplishments, and allows them to share their work with others.  This is particularly useful to enhance social skills and to promote sharing.

10. Xylophone:                

Colorful or Wooden

Like most of the instruments listed here, xylophones come in various sizes, colors and prices. For use at home I suggested something smaller, more colorful and less expensive. I prefer the wooden xylophones since they produce a lower-pitched sound, which helps to prevent over-stimulating a sensitive child’s auditory system. The xylophone can also help with a child’s eye-hand coordination, impulse control, gross motor skills as well as reading skills if you use color-coded music to match the notes on the xylophone.

I hope you find these list of instruments helpful in bringing some of the therapeutic benefits of music into your home.   Please feel free to reach out to me if you have any questions about the appropriateness of a particular instrument for your child. If you are not working with a music therapist already, in most cases I can refer you to a qualified therapist in your area that can support your child’s development through music therapy. 

As Seen In Autism Parenting Magazine

This article has also been featured in this December issue of Autism Parenting Magazine.

 

 

Happy Holidays everyone!

Give the Gift of Music This Holiday Season!

Musically,

John Mews, BMT, MA, MFTI

john@mewsicmoves.com

www.mewsicmoves.com

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The drum set every music therapist "must have"!

When I first began my music therapy practice over ten years ago, I carried around a small suitcase full of rhythm and percussive instruments. I also took with me a heavy hand-carved African djembe drum.  I would often have a sore back at the end of a long day.  I would often wish they made these things lighter!

And wishes often do come true. A few years later that I discovered Remo’s Sound Shapes®. These were a blessing to me as I'm sure they are to music therapists around the world! These are fun, colorful, stackable and light drums that you can carry under your arm. Oh, and they also come in packs of 6, so you are totally set up for a group.

I have used these drums in the following ways to support children with developmental disabilities.

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  • Pre-Reading Skills - Playing and matching colors from left to right.
  • Gross-Motor Skills - Playing the drums and moving them from high to low and from left to right.
  • Color Recognition - Reading and matching colors to each drum
  • Social Skills - Taking turns, listening to each other and sharing drums with one another.

I have even created an early music education exercise to help children learn the fundamentals of music, music note value and colors with REMO Sound Shapes®. 

I think you’ll find these drums very useful and easily portable in your music therapy sessions. I have used them primarily for children but I'm sure you can find them useful for all ages and populations.

For more details on REMO Sound Shapes® Click Here!

Remo Connectors

Remo also makes connectors that you can use to join the drums together to make a full drum set. 

For more details on REMO Sound Shapes® connectors Click Here!

 

 

 

Here are other Remo products that I recommend:

To find out more about Remo click here!

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

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