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'Someone who speaks music has finally arrived...' - parent of my client with ASD

These words stuck out in a recent interview with a parent of a long-standing client with ASD. Anna has always been extremely kind about my spreading the word about Music Therapy by sharing the story of her son, Thomas, who I've worked on a weekly basis for over 6 years.

I first met Thomas at his (mainstream) primary school . I think it would be fair to say that it was a very challenging environment for him at times. Some of his main difficulties came from feeling constantly over-stimulated by a confusing and demanding environment and becoming stressed as a result. The need to pour out his feelings into the music was palpable, especially when he first arrived at sessions with me. We have worked a lot on helping Thomas to manage other input and tolerate others' contributions.

Anna often points out the fact that the family are not musical and, in fact, when I first met them they didn't have musical instruments at home. It was very obvious that Thomas was particularly attracted to the keyboard - they now have a keyboard in almost every room of the house, such is its calming, regulating and engaging effects.

Thomas is unusual in that he has 'savant' level musical ability. He is able to play complex pieces by just listening to them. Sometimes when we have played more difficult pieces together, I will need the sheet music whereas Thomas is playing entirely by ear. Anna explained in our interview that having a mentor and someone that could relate to Thomas through the music has been wonderful for him. It's true to say that because we can talk through the music, it feels as though I can offer an understanding that isn't always possible in every day exchanges. This sense of relief tends to have the effect of enabling Thomas to become more amenable to more conventional ways of talking as well. I have noticed over time that his ability to talk to me and answer some questions has developed tremendously.

These days, we have been having some more 'hybrid' sessions where we are still working on Thomas' therapeutic needs but we since we are no longer 'fire-fighting' the feelings of being overwhelmed, we have capacity for some piano technique as well. Thomas is able to play some very challenging pieces but I have been trying to help him to maximise his potential by using his hands in a more pianistic way. Now that he is less over-loaded at his new school, he is able to take on a bit of strategically placed tuition here and there, which has been lovely.

Listen to the full interview with Anna here in Episode 2 of our new Podcast:

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