Please Don’t Send Him To Music Class

Please Don't Send Him To Music Class

Stevie loves music.

He loves to watch music videos, and loves to listen to music in the car. He loves to sing. He loves to play instruments. He just loves music and music loves him.

They have a thing going on.  When Stevie is upset, music will calm him down. When Stevie is happy, music complements his joy. Wherever Stevie goes, the music within him makes it’s way out with his beautiful singing.  Robbie has incredible abilities to imitate sounds, including instruments.

To hear a clip of him singing a classical piece from Baby Einsteins, click here.  In the DVD, this song is played by violins, and that is exactly what Stevie has made his voice to sound like!

The music he listens to and enjoys is usually really good too.

But don’t you dare even think about singing near him, no matter how good you are. He hates it when other people sing.

And don’t pretend to play the drums, or cluck a beat in your mouth. Or snap your fingers, or "bee-bop" for that matter.

And you know what? Don’t even dance. Because maybe you might get carried away and accidentally sing.

And absolutely DO NOT make him go to music class. He hates it.

For some reason the teachers and therapists at school thought Stevie didn’t like music. But that is not the case at all. He LOVES it. He is gifted in music. He has perfect pitch and an amazing range, and if he could learn to play an instrument without first destroying it, he’d be an instant celebrity on YouTube.

But he hates going to music class.

Why?

Some of the kids sing off key. Some play instruments wrong or their off-beat.  The sounds they make are not only jarring, but also unpredictable.  Loud screeches, and unexpected banging on percussion instruments overtake his ability to enjoy learning about music.

But that is because his sensory processing disorder interferes with his natural love for music; not because he doesn’t like music.

In music class he has no control over the noises exploding discordantly in the air around him. He must breathe in and breathe out the offending sounds as they vibrate through his body uninvited. There is no escape and there is no control. Sounds that are soft may make his skin crawl and sounds are loud attack his ears and body. So many sounds and frequencies just plain hurt.

He doesn’t like the way noise canceling headphones feel so he doesn’t wear them. Instead, he prefers to plug his ears with his fingers and hum (or script) to himself to try to cover up the cacophonous sounds that attack from all sides.

I’m am sure it just. hurts. too. much.

Stevie tried all he could conjure up to avoid having to go to music class.

He would bolt away,  he would drop to the floor and flail about in the middle of the school hallway. He’d push and pull and yank and grab and scratch and well, you get the picture.

But unfortunately, the powers that be did not understand him.

They did not want him to think he would be rewarded for his challenging behaviors.  Instead of listening to his behavior as a cry for help, they chose to not let him control the situation and provided an “escort” into that aversive classroom.  When he became unsafe with his behavior in the class, they would perform a 2-person stability hold in his chair to keep him there until he was safe enough to go back to the classroom.

I bet you can guess how much he enjoys music class now.

They gave up and he won (not really) being able skip going to that class.

Nobody should be required to sit through something that is painful to them, no matter how little we understand about why it is uncomfortable.

So please, please do not ever make him go to music class.

(Disclaimer: What happened in music class is pieced together based on what we learned happened from IEP meetings. Since the school would not let us observe what was happening for ourselves (due to misinterpreted “privacy” laws), I can only use my imagination as to what music class was like for my son.)

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Snippets of My Life with Autism: A Sensory Mix-Up

Sensory Mix-Up

I slapped the food right out of my moms hands. She was about to eat it and I just couldn't stand the thought. Green leaves like what I see outside on the trees were in her sandwich. Well, it wasn't really a sandwich because those have two pieces of bread and stuff in the middle. What she had was all rolled up like the cardboard tube that toilet paper is rolled on. And to make it worse, it was wet. There was wet stuff with a smell to it, on the leaves. She put other things in there too. I think it's turkey and cheese, but I am not sure what it is. All I know, is that it is  repulsive to look at and I am sure it is not safe to eat. So that is why I tried to stop her from eating it.  She was not happy when I did that. She said, "That is my sandwich and I am going to eat it. It's my dinner!" but I know that is not a sandwich. I don't know why she keeps calling it that. 

I can't believe she eats leaves.  I would get in trouble if I ate leaves.

I do like to watch her cook though, even though I know you shouldn't eat it.  When she sprays olive oil, there are all these tiny, tiny soft beads of oil in the air all around where she sprayed. I love to put my hand in the middle of the misty cloud and try to feel it. But it's like there is nothing there to feel. I just makes my fingers slippery. I can smell it though. I always try to feel it and smell it now.

When I was little, I didn't want to feel or smell anything. Everything hurt me, except my mom and dads tight, big-squeeze hugs. I loved those because they made me feel all put back together again. But other things, like putting on shoes--oh how I hated that!  They would try to put my foot in the shoe but I knew it would tickle and tickles hurt sometimes, especially the really light ones--they just put a chill through my body like nails screeching down a chalkboard.  So when they tried to put on my shoes, I would just curl my toes up real tight in anticipation of that feeling.  But then my shoes would not fit and my mom and dad would get really upset with me and say I wasn't cooperating. Finally, they figured out if they gave my feet a deep massage first, and then put my shoe on, it didn't bother me so much!  

I also didn't like it when bubbles that you blow out the magic wand, popped on me. I would not reach out to pop them like everyone wanted me to, because that cool light splash on my warm body was like a sharp electric zap. I loved to watch the bubble float down though. I used to make my mom blow more and more and more.

She would even bring bubbles to the store when we all went shopping. I usually didn't make it very long sitting in the hard, shiny cart with the bright lights shining down, reflecting all sorts of colors and shapes and brightness that hurt my eyes--not to mention the flickering they make and the buzzing sound they give off. I don't know how anyone can stand them.  But, if she brought bubbles, I wouldn't cry, because then I could just watch them slowly float down, down, down and it would make me calm and give me something to distract me from all that was happening around me.

Like the noises: the crying babies, the sudden drop that clanked right through my little body, the ear shattering beeping noise that carts at Home Depot make when they back up, the sound of the cart wheels as they roll bumpity-bump across the black top in the parking lot.  Stores can be so loud and I can only handle having that hatchet made of noise split my head open so many times and then I meltdown. My big brother used to wear headphones to make the noise less loud but I just never like the feel of them pressing around my ears. That hurt too.  

Making my own noise is different though. I like to make my own noise and listen to it echo all around me. My family will tell me it's too loud and scrunch their face up at me when I do that, and it makes me laugh and then I do it more to see if they will mess up their faces again.

When I make my own noise, it sounds different inside my head and it isn't as loud as other peoples noises. I think it doesn't bother me as much because I know my noise. I don't have to figure out what that noise is, or where it is coming from, and if it is a warning sound of danger. I know when my noise is going to happen because I am making it. So I am not surprised, or unguarded when my noise comes.

Sometimes, though, I will plug my ears while I make noise, just in case. 

(This is written by my mom, to the best of her ability to understand 9 year-old-me and the way I perceive the world considering I have autism, adhd, and anxiety disorder).

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