Monday, August 24, 2015

Why Music Therapy is AWESOME!

One day, a very tired mother and her four year old son with autism were driving home from therapy appointment number 525,600 (give or take).  They had been up since "Sonofabitch o'clock" and the mama really needed something, anything to just perk her up a bit to get her through the rest of the long ass day.

Naturally, she reached for one of Broadway musical Cd's because obviously this was a job for a show tune.
She tossed in RENT and was ready to go to her mental vacation place of pretending to be a starving artist in a NYC hovel.  Squatting in tenement with a dicey heroin addiction sure does make for some show stoppers! La Vie Bohme!

"It's time now, to sing out
Though the story never ends
Let's celebrate
Remember a year in the life of friends

Remember the LOOOOOOVE" 

And that's when she realized as she belting it from the bottom of guts that she was singing a duet.  A little voice that was usually silent save the occasion stim noise or shriek was singing WITH HER.   

And that's when a very tired and frazzled mother said  "WHAT THE FECK!?!?! Are you singing?????"  as she tried to keep one eye on the road and and another on the rear view mirror.  

Sure enough, he was singing what would later become "Seasons of Ove."  (Took a bit more to get that "L" sound down but eventually it came.  All these years later, it's still in heavy rotation on the little boy who is now a tween's play list.

And this is when she well, when I started seeing how music would be a way to get the words out.  I've mentioned quite a bit about how much the Kiddo loves going music therapy.  It's really one of the highlights of his week.  An event that comes with no behaviors. (I know!) Goofy and giddy? Yes.  Meltdowns and anger, nope.  If I had it my way, we'd just live at music therapy.  Or we would just let our therapist move in.  I mean, I'm sure his family would miss him but hey, they could visit in the summer.  We have a pool.  

I thought about researching and giving you a real sciencey (It's a word!)  article about why it's great for kids with autism but dammit, I am not that kind of blogger.  You all know I'm more of a verbal vomit and storyteller.  You want some facts and figures?  You can Google.  You want a first hand experience?  That I can deliver!

What does it do for my boy?  In a nutshell, gives both sides of his brain a workout at the same time.  It's stimulating those synapses to fire back and forth.  It's helping with his motor planning.  For the Kiddo who has trouble walking down a hallway without bumping into the wall, he's able to able to sing while playing piano and then reach over to pick up a tambourine.  All the time while never dropping a note or stumbling a step. Words he cannot say, he can sing.  Any word I now try to help him pronounce I sing to him first.  His therapist said it best "Sing everything!" and by Golly, we sure do.  We are a walking musical in this house.  I've made up songs about taking showers to packing up the car when we take road trips.

If you ever thought musicals were silly because of folks who suddenly burst into song, well you might not want to come on over here.  That's pretty much all we do.  I'm living IN one and I will continue gladly as my son goes from singing words who couldn't even say previously to being able to say them like he's always been doing that.

Besides the speech, this does wonders for his anxiety.  As you can imagine, if you really can't communicate being able to express how you feel becomes nearly impossible.  I liken it to being dropped in the middle of a country who's language you don't know.  How social are you going to be?  Think of the chronic state of stress and frustration you would be in.  The heightened state would do a number on anyone.  Going to sessions makes my son relaxed.  He is happy from the moment he wakes up realizing today is the day he has his appointment.  The therapy is client led, meaning he's really choosing the direction of what's on the plate that day.  I imagine feeling in control of something helps build a trusting relationship between client and therapist. It sure has in our case.

It's also built up his self esteem.  There's no doubt in my mind.  Music is his thing.  I'm not talking some stereotypical autism super power here.  This is just very much part of him.  A singing Kiddo is a happy Kiddo and it's contagious.  The Kiddo has gotten cashiers in supermarkets singing Jingle Bells with him at the checkouts and kids in his school singing "Hey Soul Sister" on the playground.  Although I'm not a believer of making a big deal about eye contact with him, I can't help but notice how spot on it is with him when he is singing or playing piano.

Maybe he and I aren't having the typical back and forth exchange of a conversation all the time but when I am singing with my son I feel connected to him to the core.  Autism isn't the trip I planned on but my tour guide is showing me the song in his heart.  


  1. Music soothes the soul and the savage beasts that are my children. So glad you found something to relax him...and you!

  2. That is both fascinating and not surprising at all! Amazing what song can do for the soul.

  3. Music has been the one thing my daughter and I have always been able to connect with. It has also served as a way for her to connect with her brothers and my husband. It has such wonderful healing power, and it can be such an amazing learning tool. All three of my kids know their phone number and address because of a little song I made up and I use it as a way to keep my own nerves in check. Great post!

  4. While I've yet to find a music therapist in my area of Jersey, my kiddo has taken to instrumental music and for his birthday asked for another. His one teacher used his educational evaluation recommendations to change the way they work together and his new teacher was impressed at how well he reads music plus is developing a musical ear to catch right/wrong notes and self corrects.

    It's a great motivator and he loves the positive feedback from practicing. He's up to drums, piano, violin...and it's awesome

  5. and although I still haven't written in my blog, I want you to know that singing and music are my life!

  6. This is my favorite part of your blog: "Maybe he and I aren't having the typical back and forth exchange of a conversation all the time but when I am singing with my son I feel connected to him to the core. Autism isn't the trip I planned on but my tour guide is showing me the song in his heart." Thanks so much for sharing!