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?


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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10 Years as a Music Therapist And Still Using The "Top 10 Greatest Hits"

After Ten Years as a Music Therapist, I Still Use the “Top Ten Greatest Hits”


I am celebrating my tenth year as a music therapist. I have spent many hours learning new songs, as well creating new ones and developing adaptations.  However, I’m finding that I tend to use the same classic favorites over and over! These songs have such great utility in that they can be easily adapted for many different purposes.  These top ten melodies reliably get kids to start toes tapping, hands clapping and bodies grooving.

I use these songs as a platform for improvisation to inspire and motivate children with special needs.  It also saves me from having to create something new all the time!

So here are my Top 10 ”Greatest Hits” which I’ve found work well with children in music therapy:

  1. You are My Sunshine
  2. If You’re Happy and You Know it
  3. Shake Your Sillies Out
  4. Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star
  5. Head and Shoulders, Knees and Toes
  6. Row, Row, Row Your Boat
  7. Do as I’m Doing
  8. Alphabet Song
  9. We’re Gonna Rock Around The Clock Tonight
  10. London Bridges
  11. Hey Dum Diddley Dum

Ok, I threw in an extra one for fun and good measure!

What are you favorite Top 10 Greatest Hits? Maybe together we can create a Top 100 Greatest Hits! Please share and comment below.

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Help Your Child With Autism by Changing Their Routine


 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.




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

Using Music to Help Children Develop and Strengthen Impulse Control

Have you ever found yourself in the middle of a parking lot and your child keeps wandering away and you shout “STOP!” for fear they’ll get hit by another car? And their response was more like you said “RUN!” and they just bolt away from you? This might seem like a dangerous situation to you, but to your child it’s a fun game!

Children at a young age learn to play chase with family. They often run around the coffee table shouting, “I’m going to get you” or “I’m coming after you.” To a young toddler this is a fun interactive bonding game and they haven’t yet learned to differentiate dashing at home vs. dashing in public!

To change this, try making “STOP” a fun and playful game!

I would often see a child running down the hallway after a session.  The parent screams “STOP” and what do you expect? Yes! The child continues running around laughing! Then you feel like you have no control and are tempted to put them on a short leash right?  Well, you don’t need to. Here is one of the songs that I use to make the “STOP” game easy and fun, and you’ll find it works anywhere. 

I use the song “This is the way” and at the end we all stop…and freeze.  This is very important for young toddlers, and particularly children with special needs, because they often have difficulty with controlling their impulses. Working on these impulses will help your child gain self control and you will find improvements at home, at school, and in public places. STOP now means STOP and its FUN to STOP!

It may take several tries to learn the rules and enjoy playing the STOP game.  Remember to stay positive and reward your child when they do STOP and FREEZE!

Adding music and play makes learning fun for everyone!

The video on the right shows two ways in which I used music to develop and enhance impulse control. 

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Image courtesy of Chris Roll/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Chris Roll/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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Here are some musical adaptations on how you can help develop and strengthen impulse control in children.

Five Tips for Making Back to School Easier For Families of Children with Special Needs

Can you believe it? I know many parents are cheering right now that its back to school time. However, I know those of you with children with special needs are probably feeling something quite the opposite.  Back to school time can mean lots of anxiety, tantrums, and stress!


image courtesy of: david castillo dominici/FreeDigitsPhotos.net

image courtesy of: david castillo dominici/FreeDigitsPhotos.net

Here is a short list of things you can do to help your child transition back to school:

1.Begin Introducing Day/Night Schedules

          Your child has been on summer vacation mode and it will be a challenge to quickly get them into a different routine. So get a jump on it by gradually setting earlier bedtimes each night, and reintroducing regular morning rituals such as waking earlier, combing hair, and brushing teeth.   You might even take them for a short drive in the car afterwards to get them used to leaving the house. 

2. Start Introducing School Routines at Home

            From a teacher’s perspective, the challenge is getting children to pay attention and do their homework.   You can help by giving your child small tasks at home to practice, such as spelling a word or staying seated while working on a puzzle.  This will help them get used to staying in their seats for longer periods of time.

3. Take Practice Runs

         After introducing some school morning rituals, why not actually take your child to school?  This will help familiarize them with the trip and they’ll be less anxious and better prepared for that first day of school.   

4. Take Pictures

            Take pictures of the school, the classroom and the teacher on the first day (with permission of course).  You can use these at home as visual aids to help your child understand the order in which things are scheduled to happen over the course of the day.  This should greatly reduce anxiety about the “unknown.”

5. Make it Fun and Musical for Everyone

            While practicing these transitions and routines it’s easy to get frustrated or anxious, so I’d recommend turning them into a game or a musical.  You can make transitions easy by singing while you are doing them. For example, if it’s time to brush our teeth, you might sing “Brush our Teeth, Brush our Teeth” to the tune of “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star.”  You don’t need to be a music genius.  Just be creative and make it fun!

I hope these tips will help you start off the school year on a positive note!  Best of luck and please click the links below for more FREE tips and hints on keeping your home, life and family relationships healthy and vibrant.

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Music Therapists Sharing Favourite Apps

image courtesy of KROMKRATHOG/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

image courtesy of KROMKRATHOG/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

At our annual MTABC (Music Therapy Association of BC) business meeting I was struck by something that one of the presenters said.  “We need to focus on abundance and less on lack," she said.  Those words have stayed with me all week.

I was there to present my favourite iPad apps and how they can be very helpful tools to music therapists. There truly is an abundance of great apps helpful for music therapists, and some of these are even free. I was happy to share my favorites, and to explain why I found them to be so useful. 

I'd like to continue sharing the abundance of these great tools, so I thought I'd post my favorites here too. I invited all music therapists in attendance to post their favorites as well. That way everyone benefits!

Here is a list of our favourite apps for music therapists from MTABC. Many of these apps can be used across multiple populations. I have done my best to put them in categories according to appropriate population benefit.


Multiple Populations:







Celtic Harp 








Recorder HD 


History of Rock 


History of Jazz 


Small Talk Phonemes


Adults:  Mental Health, Brain Injury, Geriatrics and 
Speech and Language

Trivia Tunes


3D Brain 


Small Talk Dysphagia 


Small Talk Oral Motor 



Baby Chords 


Piano Pals 



Songify – Turn Speech Into Music 




Dust Buster


Wild Chords


Pic Card Maker


Endless ABC


Vid Rhythm




Magic Piano


Falling Stars


Glee Karaoke




Music Therapists: Helpful Tools

Turboscan – quickly scan multi page documents into high-quality PDFs


DeepDish GigBook – Organizing all your songs




iReal b – Music Book and Play along




Don't take it from me, its in the Research! Music Therapy and Autism: Significant Supporting Evidence

Image courtesy of samuiblue/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of samuiblue/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

I can't count how many times I've been asked by parents and other professionals about scientific evidence to prove the efficacy of music therapy interventions with children with autism.  The study in the link below was conducted in comparison to other non-music based therapies, and the evidence was....significant!

I encourage you to click on the link below to learn more about how music therapy can help a child with autism.  I have seen these effects everyday for the past ten years and am excited to finally be able to share with you the research that supports our daily work.

Here are just a few highlights of what the researcher found:

  • Music Therapy produced longer events of joy and engagement of initiation
  • Music Therapy develops social skills 
  • Music Therapy is effective in increasing attention, focus, behavioural cues and interests
  • With Music Therapy, children were better able to express their emotions and share them with others.
  • There is significant evidence that Music Therapy supports social, emotional and motivational development in children with autism.

I often say to parents, "once a child is motivated and is having fun, their self-esteem is elevated."  A child with confidence can achieve more and will often work harder.  This is fundamental to our strength-based music therapy programs.  We begin with an improvisational program, building upon areas of strength to build confidence.  We then massage this into the overall goals and objectives of the program.  We have found this approach results in early successes and improved overall outcomes, just like this research indicates.  So don't take it from me, read the research yourself!

Here's the link:

Best Practice Autism: Autism and Improvisational Music Therapy

Mewsic Moves in the Media

We were so delighted to be interviewed by Janis Warren from the Tri-City News!

Janis came to our office to interview me about the benefits of music therapy and to help celebrate our new office opening in Coquitlam. Janis' timing was musically in sync as she happened to stopped by when the Glee Choir was midst rehearsing some of their favourite songs.

Janis decided to take some pictures and captured the moment in a beautiful way. Please find Janis' story below on music therapy and how we help Connect the Community through Music. Thank you Janis for such a moving story.

Making The Music Connection by Janis Warren, Tri-City News

  Making The Music Connection

Glee Choir Performs and Receives Amazing Community Support

Ever since I began my music therapy practice some eight years ago, I have looked for ways to expand the reach of my practice, and to bring the benefits of music therapy to more families.  So at this year’s MTABC conference, I was keenly interested in Johanne Brodeur’s workshop on grant writing and fundraising.

At Mewsic Moves, we have had great success with various programs over the years.  We’ve been particularly pleased with the success of our Glee Choir program, which we started last year.  This program is a result of a long held dream of mine to offer a place for those with special needs a platform to express their joy and love for music. 

We ran multiple sessions of the Glee Choir program over the past year.  The members were so excited to share music and it was obvious that they loved performing.  Their joy and enthusiasm was truly irrepressible, and we felt we needed to culminate the year with a Christmas performance. 

We made the decision to put on the concert just two short weeks beforehand.  It began with a community school donating space, lighting, sound and volunteers!  We were overwhelmed with the support of the local businesses that donated dinners, Festival of Lights tickets, artwork, gift cards and numerous other gifts, which we used to raise money for future music therapy programs for those with financial challenges.   

We had over 100 friends, family and supporters in attendance.  The night was filled with smiles and joy, beaming parents, and amazing music straight from the heart. All of us at Mewsic Moves were deeply touched by this heartfelt performance.  It rekindled a passion within me to expand the horizons of our practice.  Since we were able to create such a beautiful event in just two weeks, imagine what we could do with more time to plan!

So we are planning another Glee Choir this summer, which will be even more amazing.  We hope to raise even more money to expand the number of programs we can offer, particularly for those who have challenging financial conditions. 

So we look forward to the continue expansion of our horizons in our quest to bring the benefits of music therapy to more of those who can benefit from it. I encourage all of your to join me in setting your vision to a new heights this year and do your part to advocate and promote music therapy in all your workplaces and communities!

Happy Expanded Horizons!

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Check out some of our photos from our Concert: December 14, 2012