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Saturday, April 14, 2012

Music

One of our older son's first Christmas gifts was given to him the year he wasn't quite six months old. It was a Fisher Price light and sound piano that he had seen another child open at a playgroup Christmas party a few weeks earlier.

When he saw the other child open that piano, he threw his entire body in every direction possible to get to that piano.

At a time when very little seemed to make him happy, I was determined to get that piano for him for his first Christmas. Only, that piano must have been in high demand. It was sold out everywhere we looked.

My husband and I became obsessed with finding that piano. Ok, well, perhaps I was more obsessed, but that quality in me payed off, because we did eventually find that piano in the small town in West Virginia where I grew up and where we had brought our son to celebrate the holiday. He loved that piano.

He played with it every day. He would bang away at the keys, drink in the lights and delight in the sounds. It made him happy--or at least, it made him less unhappy than he spent most of the other time back in those days. I was happy he had something.

The following holiday season, my husband and I were driving with our son in the car. A year older, he still loved that piano, and he carried it with him most of the places he went. He sat there in the back seat of our van, the tiny piano on his lap, pecking away at the piano's six colorful keys.

My husband and I were strung out and exhausted, and the van offered a safe reprieve for us. Our child was safe, and we could zone. In fact, I was zoning that particular day when I first heard it, a little clumsy at first and then more sure as our son practiced.

At eighteen months old, that child was pecking out the first eight notes to Beethoven's Fifth Symphony.

"Dum, dum, dum, duuum!" I heard. "Dum, dum, dum, DUUUUUMMMM!"

Shocked, I sat up in my seat and looked at my husband only to see the same look of shock coming back to me from his face. He had heard it also. Why, our child was a genius! Oh, sure, lots of people say that; but in our case it was absolutely true! ;)

In the years to come, we would learn of our son's exceptional ability to learn and produce music, a quality not unusual for many children with autism. As he grew, his babbles came in the form of song, such as Bach's Toccata and Fugue in D minor.

It was not unusual for us to pass away our time at a local Target while singing Mozart's Sonata in C major. Music had infused every area of our lives. (Thank you to the "Baby Einstein" video series for laying a foundation for the classics with our son.)

This child lived his life through a filter of music.

It was in music therapy during the those years that he voiced words with any sort of purpose or regularity. Yet, I was told that language within music was processed on a different side of the brain than speaking language. If this child sings, I was told, don't automatically expect him to talk.

Perhaps that has proven to be true; however, what music and music therapy did provide for him was a reason to connect, something to draw him out of his world, something to share.

And, while music may not have produced spoken language with our son, it did lead to an effective mode of communication; for, when he was looking for a particular toy, he would sing music particular to that toy. And, when he was looking for a certain VHS, he'd sing a distinguishing song from that video.

By the way, he also conveniently learned to sing songs in order to tune out people around him, school work and the world in general. It's an avenue of escape and solace. He did that to me just the other day.

"Don't you think that a little Mozart is going to scare me away, young man!" I informed him in frustration. "I know that you can hear me, so I'm going to just keep on talking!"

I "har-umphed" indignantly but then thought about the ridiculousness of what I had just said. Truly, this child has opened my world to a wealth of gifts that I don't know if the typical life of my dreams would have ever provided.

Our house is busy. Our kids are happy, and our halls are ever-filled with the sound of beautiful music.


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This entry was written in response to the letter prompt "M" in the Blogging A to Z April 2012.

26 comments:

  1. What a fabulous post this was, I loved it. I am learning more about autism all the time. This one church we attended, my wife was minding the children 6-10 years old and I helped her during the church service. We were told one boy was autistic. There was about 7 other kids in the group. Well, I stuck with that boy the whole time. He tried to remove his clothes, he moved around better than a basketball player and when we went outdoors he tried to visit all the playground equipment alone.
    Attending him was a full time job plus overtime but I was glad to do it.
    I remember that incident and get saddened when I learn that autism is on the increase.
    I enjoy watching a certain TV show called "Touch" in which I think the young lad is autistic.

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    1. How wonderful that this family had a church to attend where they felt comfortable enough to leave their son in the care of you and your wife. Too often, that isn't the case, and special families end up giving up trying to go to church. Thanks for that, even if it was one time. And, thanks for reading.

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  2. Wow - I wrote about music today as well. I absolutely loved hearing about your musical journey with your son and how it reached hiim in such special ways. The mind is an amazing thing indeed. May he always retain this gift...

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    1. Oh, I'm sure he'll retain it in some way. I don't think that love goes away. Look at those pictures you posted of your mom! Wouldn't you agree?

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  3. What a wonderful story, Amy. Music is one of the special abilities that people with autism often have, and it must be a relief to you that he has this thing of beauty in his life to enrich it. This is such a mysterious disability. I remember many years ago, when autism was much less recognized, watching a talk/variety show on which one guest was an adult man who was blind and had autism (he was called a "savant") who could play the most complicated music on the piano after having heard it only once. I was amazed and fascinated. I'm glad your son has this to make him happy (and you as well). And I love this line: "Don't you think that a little Mozart is going to scare me away, young man!" Every mother says that, right?

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    1. lol. I know. I catch myself saying many absurdities. I should write them down, shouldn't I? Hm...

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  4. This was a wonderful story to read. Everyone has their gifts, and the more deeply a person dives into the extremes, the more likely they are focused heavily in one particular area.

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    1. I know I've said it before, but you are so poetic.

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  5. Music is magical. And carousel's play music. ♥

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    1. True! And he will NOT let me sing along with carousel music! (Yes, I can sing). He just wants to enjoy free from intrusion!

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    1. It really is. I need to get a recording of it.

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  7. What a great story. I've heard before about the link between autism and musical talent.

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    1. Paula, there is a YouTube clip of a boy (late teen/early twenties) in England who is non/low verbal but can sing incredibly! He has an album! Check it out!!

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  8. Such a wonderful story illustrating the true blessings of music!!

    Kathy
    http://gigglingtruckerswife.blogspot.com/

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    1. Who really would have thought that music could do so much? Before this life, I know that I didn't. Yes, it really has been a blessing to him. Thanks for reading.

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  9. Love the idea of a home filled with music. So glad your son has that venue to express himself, and for everyone else to enjoy.

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  10. Wonderfu lost. Music is so irritant develop,entally and emotionally for children on so many levels. Bravo.

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    1. So true, but finding the right avenue for him was TOUGH. All the baby music classes just didn't fly with him. It took a while for me to learn that I had to let him lead the way.

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  11. I'd forgotten Baby Mozart - that really take me back to the baby days. Ben loved that video so much!

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  12. Baby Mozart was before my son's time. But, he did love music when he was little - he did very well with music therapy. He had a roommate in his residential school who would listen to music on headphones all day if he could, and his current roommate has an electric piano. It's so good to hear that music has been such a good tool to reach your son - and it helps everyone else, too. Does he only listen to classical? Or have you tried other forms of music??

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    1. Yes! Am just getting to that point. He has an opinion about his music and I would just LOVE to ask him. So far, any music I turn on, he turns off. I don't know if it is the feedback from the different speakers I'm using or if it is the music itself. But, he's definitely growing up. He likes the music they play in the Hollister stores, and he'll sit by the speakers and rock out. :)

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