The music has that certain magic that can help a child with academics, help them be more confident and expressive, help them get along better with others and help them improve their cognitive skills. For some children, particularly those with special needs, the magic of the music can mean this…and so much more!
Research, along with our own day-to-day experiences, has proven to us the power of music and its positive impact on children who have special needs. This program, started by music educator Don DeSimone and his wife Tiffany, who works in the public school system as a special needs aid, was originally designed for children with autism.
The Autism Research Institute notes that, “Music Therapy is particularly useful with autistic children owing in part to the nonverbal, non threatening nature of the medium.” Our personal experiences have proven this to be true. In fact, some of the children in our Rock The Spectrum program are content to have their teachers play music for them rather than play it themselves. The peace they achieve and the connection they make with their teacher through the language of music can be described to us in no other way but, “Magic.”
The Institute further notes that, “Music Therapy is particularly effective in the development and remediation of speech. The severe deficit in communication observed among autistic children includes expressive speech which may be nonexistent or impersonal.” Again our personal experiences support this claim. While it’s true that almost all the children we teach begin to speak more and become more assertive, it is also true that this pattern does not stop at the door of the autistic child, where its results are even more important and magical.
Finally, The Autism Research Institute notes that, “It has been noted time and again that autistic children evidence unusual sensitivities to music. Some have perfect pitch, while many have been noted to play instruments with exceptional musicality.” Once again, our personal experiences have borne out the position of The Institute. We have found that in many cases our students with autism excel at a pace that is faster than that of the overall student body.
There is plenty of research to suggest that music is a beneficial part of the lives of children with autism, which is why Rock The Spectrum was launched in the first place. However, it is the proof that we see in our day-to-day experiences that fill our hearts as reward for this program.
Further, we have come to find that music not only benefits children with autism; but our program now has several adult students reaping the benefits of the music. In addition, we have found that music is a benefit to those with other special needs. Students in our special needs classes are primarily autistic; however we also have in the program children with other special needs, some on the autism spectrum such as Prader Willi Syndrome and Asperger Syndrome, and others not necessarily on the spectrum such as Mental Retardation and Down Syndrome.
The story of any one of these students will touch your heart. For instance, there is the 9 year old girl with Prader Willi Syndrome who would come in and watch her older sister and younger brother take their lessons on guitar and drums respectively. One day we asked her if she would like to see our piano, and she sat down and pressed a few keys. A few weeks later she was willing to take a piano lesson; and the magic was evident immediately. It was also evident that her favorite thing to do was to play “songs”, where she would play a rhythm on the bass side of the piano while her instructor played a melody over it. The spiritual place she enters upon playing her “songs” is unquestionably a peaceful place for her. Since then, she has stuck with her piano lessons each week where her instructor and she trade off “teaching” and “playing songs.” She also practices regularly at home and now can find notes on the keyboard, play the C-Major scale, play chords and of course play her songs! In fact, one of the most magical nights in the history of Neighborhood Rock School came in 2010 during one of our Concerts To Save The Arts at her brother and sisters school, where she joined them on stage and played keyboard with the band in front of hundreds of appreciative fans.
Most of the children in the Rock The Spectrum program are taught for free. Those with the financial means sometimes choose to pay 50%; but the bottom line is that we at your Neighborhood Rock School hope to never allow money to come between a child with special needs and the magic of the music.