education

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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What is Your Brain Doing During Music Therapy?

hand draws brain sign

A review of a recent case study on how the brain reacts to music therapy. 


“For the first time researchers have been able to demonstrate that the brains of a patient and therapist become synchronized during a music therapy session, a breakthrough that could improve future interactions between patients and therapists.” 

On July 25, 2019, a new study was published in the journal Frontiers in Psychology. It was the first research that utilized a procedure called hyperscanning in music therapy research, which allowed researchers to better understand the interaction between two people by recording brain activities in both brains at the same time. 


Both EEG (electroencephalogram) and video recording were used to capture data of the session from both the therapist and the client in a guided imagery and music session. GIM music therapist guided the client through an “imaginary journey” while incorporating music listening and images to elicit memories, emotions, and feelings from the client, and to help the client understand life issues. 


In this dyadic case study, the goal was to engage the client in a supportive music experience while discussing strong emotions. A series of classical music was played during the session while the client shared and discussed issues and concerns in her life. The researchers specifically looked for the “moment of interest” which was defined as a therapeutically important moment. Brain synchronization was observed through brain scan and video recordings during moments of interest. During one of the moments of interest, the brain scan showed that the client experienced a shift of emotion from negative to positive, which shortly followed by a similar shift in the therapist. The researchers concluded that the client and the therapist truly connected during the session, and such a therapeutic setting provided a safe environment to work on negative emotions, fear, anxiety, etc. 

This study marks a milestone in music therapy research by demonstrating the brain synchronization between a patient and a music therapist during a music therapy session. It allowed us to see what "moment of change" looks like inside the brain. The findings could set the foundation on understanding emotional processing in therapeutic interactions, and determining the effectiveness of music therapy in psychodynamic settings. 

Original Source

Jörg C. Fachner, Clemens Maidhof, Denise Grocke, Inge Nygaard Pedersen, Gro Trondalen, Gerhard Tucek, Lars O. Bonde. “Telling me not to worry…” Hyperscanning and Neural Dynamics of Emotion Processing During Guided Imagery and MusicFrontiers in Psychology, 2019; 10 DOI: 10.3389/fpsyg.2019.01561


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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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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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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.

soundshapes.jpg
  • 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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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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Image Courtesy of Stock Images/freedigitalphotos.net

5 Reasons Why Music Therapy is Effective For Children With Autism

March is music therapy awareness month and I would like to highlight some of the reasons why music therapy is effective especially for children with autism.

1.     It is multi-sensory

            Music is appealing to most of our senses, which makes music therapy unique in that we can work on multi goals simultaneously. For example, a drumming exercise helps with eye-hand coordination, eye contact, motor and impulse control.

2.     It is fun, safe and engaging

            Music therapy provides a fun, safe and engaging environment for children with autism to explore and play. It also provides many opportunities for successful outcomes which helps to builds self-esteem and increases motivation.

3.     It is structured and predictable

            Music therapy can provide a structured and safe environment for children with autism to explore.  Music that has a lot of repetition is predictable, which makes learning much easier for children with autism.  The musical repetition helps them to self-regulate, because they know what is coming up next.

4.     It is processed in all areas of the brain

            Recent research shows that when we listen to music, all areas of the brain are lit up.   Music therapists have known this for a long time, but now have the science to back it up. Music can help with speech and communication challenges, for social connection, for emotional regulation, motor control, and many other things.

5.     It facilitates communication

            Perhaps you’ve heard that “music is the universal language.”  Taking this literally, we can use music in therapy to increase non-verbal communication through improvisation. Children with autism connect to music to express their feelings, emotions, and life stories. The interplay between the music therapist and child with autism is done in a non-threatening way, opening up many channels of communication.

Please feel free to share and comment on how you find music therapy to be effective for children with autism.

#mtawareness

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

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