Music is healing. Any musician, or singer realizes that early on as they find themselves turning to playing their musical instrument of choice, or using their own voice to release their own pain. Most even at some point come to realize they can even help heal others with their musical creations.
I began playing the piano at a very early age, as well as singing in church choir, and later learned to play the alto saxophone through public school. Although I always knew in playing music there was solace, release, and healing, as I often turned to it when needing to lift myself, it was not through my own playing that I learned the immense healing power of music. It was through my own child with autism.
My youngest son lost speech, eye contact, and attention span around 21 months. The early intervention therapist had one visit with him, and instructed us to get to a pediatric neurologist right away, as she knew immediately this was classic autism.
Everyone seemed to have a grim outlook. Most were telling us he would most likely not regain speech, and if he did, it would never be as it should be. I heard stories of how these children who lost speech triumphed over one day being able to say a few words here and there, and that we should rejoice with any improvement, but not to keep our expectations too high. I was told by the neurologist after waiting months to see him that we would just have to wait and see whether he would be high functioning or low functioning. He was officially diagnosed as Language Disorder with Autistic Features, or as the neurologist informed us, better known as autism spectrum disorder, as his very verbal older brother was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome the very same day.
I was unwilling to accept he would be non verbal for the rest of his life. I could see the soul inside, and I knew he had so much to say.
During this time while he was not communicating at all, we noticed that each time he heard music, he began to move his body, and look for the source of the sound. We began playing music often throughout the day by radio, playing instruments, and singing, all of which he responded more and more to. Our speech therapist, his teachers, and I soon began singing everything we said to him.
We watched in awe as the power of music brought him back. Just as suddenly as it left, his words came back. One day out of the blue, in a sing song voice, he asked for juice. I cried so hard while he stood there looking at me as if I had lost my mind! Then in a more frustrated tone of sing song, he asked again. I ran to the refrigerator and got it for him, and he sang, “Thank you, Mommy”!
Granted, that was only the beginning, and there was still a great deal of work to be done, as he still did not respond, or seem to know how to communicate his needs consistently, but what a beautiful beginning it was!
He is 10 years old now, and is able to fully communicate. He still has the classic signs of high functioning autism, but through the power of music, he quickly regained his ability to communicate verbally. It was still a very long road from there, as he still often had trouble communicating as he wanted and needed to for several years. He would become very frustrated in trying to find the words, or communicate his feelings. He was a head butter, and a runner. I often wondered how we would ever get through those years, but these days, there are no signs of those behaviors of frustration we saw all those years ago.
Obviously, he still has autism – high functioning autism, but he does not have nearly the challenges that so many professionals expected him to have, all because of the beautiful healing power of music.