Thursday, March 24, 2016

Music and Autism

My son absolutely loves music! During a meltdown, music can deescalate my son within a matter of minutes. My son has gone through a variety of music phases. My son loved PSY for about a year. He listened to Gangnam style on repeat for hours on end. In addition, he taught himself the dance, due to watching the music video over and over again.  After PSY, my son went through a huge Maroon 5 phase. During this time we decided that we should get him an Ipod. It is not unusual to find my son with his headphones on engrossed in music. I personally feel like music has been life changing for my child. I realized this after a year of music therapy, and my thoughts were solidified after I enrolled him in piano lessons. My son has ADHD in addition to autism, so he obviously has issues with sustained attention. His issues with attention dramatically decrease during piano lessons. His piano teacher has mentioned that he thinks that the piano helps regulate me son. Please feel free to see the videos that I have posted onto my Facebook page of my son playing the piano and also of him singing a solo at his preschool graduation. I may be biased, but I think that my little guy rocks it in both videos. 

The last thing that I want to mention in regards to music is that my husband and I have found that music helps my son fall asleep. We actually discovered this rather recently. A couple of months ago I went to put my son to bed for the evening. As usual, he came out of his room multiple times. That night he tried to use almost every excuse in the world as to why he couldn't go to sleep. He ended each excuse with, but I'm scared to be by myself. As a joke, I started to sing the song, "All by myself." He loved the song in spite of my terrible voice. He told me that he would go to sleep if I would download the song on his Ipod. I downloaded the song onto his Ipod, put it on repeat, and guess what? My kiddo was asleep within minutes! Last night, he fell asleep to Blake Shelton. I'm not sure what he will pick out tonight, but I'm looking forward to finding out... My advice: If you haven't used music as a tool in the past, try it, you never know it may also work for your kiddo. 

1 comment:

  1. I completely agree with you that music does something wonderful to the brain of most anyone, but certainly to a child with autism (mine had PDD-NOS and ADHD, had language delay, and many of the other features you describe in your son). My husband is a teacher who plays music as a side job, so our son has had access to musical instruments and music since birth. He has always loved it and was intensely affected by the "mood" of a song very early on. Yo, Gabba Gabba! was his favorite show, followed by the Fresh Beat Band and Jack's Big Music Show.

    At around age 5, our son started seriously plunking around on the guitar. He initially resisted any instruction, but soon he wanted to learn chords. We gave him a chord chart, showed him how to read it, and within a couple of weeks he'd taught himself most of the major chords. Barre chords shortly followed. Even before that, at age 4, he was able to correctly strum the rhythm as my husband fingered the chords.

    He started coming to us and saying, "Look, here's how to play that one song from Shrek..." and he'd be dead on. We couldn't believe this. Eventually, we realized that he has perfect pitch-- he can even identify the pitch of the air conditioner, car horns, birds, etc. and can sing any pitch accurately on demand. No wonder it was so easy for him to learn songs!

    Learning the ukulele and mandolin soon followed, and by age 5 he began improvising leads. At age 6, his guitar skills have surpassed his father's, and he started performing with his dad. Today, almost 2 years later, he's playing 2-3 public shows nearly every weekend and also sings harmony (he picks it out by ear). They've expanded to a full band as well and he's performed at over 32 separate venues and over 55 shows, sitting in with many bands and laying songs he's never heard. He plays lead, rhythm and bass guitar, and it's had a tremendously positive effect on his behaviors and socialization. He's still medicated, still prefers adults to peers, and we still have struggles at school (he's gifted and has an IEP in a district with no gifted programming, so boredom is a significant problem). Music is magic!

    I enjoy your blog. I'm a former educator as well, and it's hard to balance that with concerns about your own child. Keep up the great work!