Autism, Music and Creativity
Autism, Music and Art
Autistic children and their many talents
As I think about the early years when my son was around 3 years old my wife and I started to see he was developing slower than we thought he should. He was not making eye contact and he had not yet begun to speak. This worried my wife and I and we knew he was in need of therapy to help him make the necessary progress he should for his age. One of the benefits of the early intervention program was that our son was visited twice a week by therapists and health professionals who were trained to assist autistic and special needs children and provide them with the support and therapies they deemed necessary for the child. Our son was diagnosed with asperger's and a seizure disorder (epilepsy). As the therapist earned our son's trust we were able to see progress. One of the therapies that seemed to benefit Matty was music play. He seemed to enjoy the sounds and when he heard children's sing alongs he began to be more expressive and smile. Music seems to be a very positive thing for autistic children as it allows them to feel and sense the sound which results in them smiling and participating in the sing along activity. My son always enjoyed when the therapist would play a music cd or cassette and that was something he seemed to always look forward to.
As he began to grow and become more responsive he learned to enjoy music and the computer. When our son started to find his way using the computer a whole new world opened up for him and he enjoyed playing the toddler software games and the music sing along cds we bought for him on the suggestion of his therapist. There was something about the music that seemed to settle him down and he would listen to the childrens tunes with great anticipation and eagerness. I also played music at night for him to ease him to sleep and it had a very calming effect on him.
I remember one of the very first music cds he loved to listen to as a child was Welcome to Pooh Corner and a song that helped him sleep was All the Pretty Little Ponies sung by Kenny Loggins. I found it to be a gentle song and it seemed to help him drift off to sleep. My wife and I loved to play that as we watched our son gently fall asleep. That was a wonderful time in our lives and seems to have passed by so quickly.
The beauty of childhood is the times when our parents read and sing to us at night before we go to sleep. I remember when Matty was a toddler we would give him a choice of a book and song he would like to have read and played for him. He was a big fan of Dr Seuss and he loved the silly rhymes as that always drew smiles from him. My wife played him all the nursery rhyme songs as a toddler and he enjoyed the Disney classic songs as well.
When Matty turned 4 years old we noticed he started to enjoy singing and he was good at remembering lyrics and singing in tune. It was quite remarkable how well he sang and how he could carry a tune. I remember when he first sang America the Beautiful and how nice a job he did and I was quite impressed as he sang the whole song in its entirety perfectly. There is something quite remarkable with autistic children and how they are so creative and have such a childhood innocence about them. They are very bright though sometimes it is hard to reach them. It seems music does help them establish communication and allows them to express themselves.
Matty would also love to draw as a young child on paper with crayons and on the computer with paintbrush and it was a lot of fun seeing his drawings. I remember when he drew a picture of our family and he indicated all of us in the picture. He also included a picture of his teddy bear which was his companion at bedtime. He always had his teddy bear by his side when he was a baby up until he was 5 years old. He felt safe and we thought it was very cute. Eventually his teddy bear would compete with sponge bob for that position at bedtime.
I remember taking Matty to his first baseball game when he was 5 years old and the one thing that stands out in my mind was when the crowd was prompted to sing Take me out to the ball game and how Matty seemed to enjoy it and how he sang it at home whenever I had a baseball game on. He sang it exactly how he heard it the very first time at the ballpark.
My son is also very good at remembering lines in movies and commercials and I get a kick out of him quoting lines from his favorite Disney/Pixar movies like Finding Nemo, Monster's Inc., Cars, Toy Story, Up and so many more. He also loves singing and whenever Maria has the Karaoke machine playing Matty is the first to sing as he really enjoys it. He is shy in front of others but when he is in the mood he will sing and to every one's delight.
We wanted to enhance Matty's experiences and since he loves music we surprised him one Christmas by asking Santa to bring him a Casio keyboard which teaches him how to play all types of songs and learn how to play sheet music. We realize it takes time and we don't pressure our son but we like to see him learn and play since music is a big part of his life.
As an autistic child we always encourage our son to find things that interest him and to develop and learn as that will help him develop self confidence and allow him to grow and experience fun and enjoyable activities. Our son also enjoys building lego structures and finds it fun to build his own creations. He does not like to follow the directions. He tends to use his own judgement in building and he seems to find a way to build the things he wishes to. He certainly had some fun times with Pop when he would visit and particularly enjoyed building skyscrapers and parking lots for his growing car collection.
Our son always finds a way to keep busy and when he is on the computer or listening to music it becomes a challenge to divert his attention as he becomes very focused. We are very proud of our son and happy he enjoys music, art and is making improvements in expressing himself and growing into his own person. We are always looking to help him make progress and learn something new so he can tell the world.
Edward D. Iannielli III