After Aiden’s usual afternoon bike time outside, Hubby came in and excitedly called me. He said that he wasn’t sure at first but Aiden did it a second time. He sang a song that went something like, “Walking down the street, down the street…” Hubby was ecstatic!
Of course, I wouldn’t dare let myself miss out on the experience. Armed with an IPhone camera, the sweetest smile, and the most loving tone – I practically stalked my son around the house and begged him to sing for Mommy too… He laughed, and laughed, and chuckled some more. He lead me around the house. I just kept asking… lovingly prompting… to hear what Daddy heard.
And… IT HAPPENED!!! He sang for Mama!
Let me tell you how utterly precious this moment was.
Aiden stopped talking somewhere between 2-3 years old. When he wanted something, he dragged us and then pointed to whatever he wanted or needed. When he entered pre-school, he was classified as non-verbal. All these years, we’ve been working really hard with him on his speech. Since homeschooling, his reading has gotten better and he has been really good at saying the words that serve him purpose like, “pizza, go, outside, cake, get, make, bathroom, fries, soda, cookies, etc.”. He has recently gifted us with words/phrases like, “birthday, I want to go outside, I want to make cake, let’s go, etc.“. Simple words/phrases delivered with prompting and a lot of practice. We can ask him simple choice/preference questions now too. “Which one do you want?” He’ll answer, “This one.”
He can read and associate pictures to names of things with very little issues. He’s also really good at simple words (toys and shapes). The pronunciations are still developing but if you haven’t figured out us yet by reading our blog – we TAKE every WIN! No matter how little they may seem.
Now, back to how precious the moment was… First of all – it’s his OWN song. He made it up! And then – it is in the right context, with the right words, sang with clarity and he displayed the appropriate emotions.
In an article by Autism Speaks, some behavioral symptoms and challenges described in Autism that are applicable to Aiden are:
- Communication difficulties (spoken language, tone of voice, expressions not meant to be taken literally, etc.)
- Social Challenges (recognizing ones emotions, expressing emotions)
An article from the Sage Journal talks about numerous researches that support Music’s therapeutic role in communication, social interaction, and emotional skills for individuals with Autism.
How did this happen? Simple – Aiden was ready. With Aiden, he always does things when he’s ready.
But, it’s also important to note that while it has been almost 5 years since he saw an actual speech and behavioral therapist and while he’s been homeschooled for 3 years now – we, as his parents have been doing our best. Our ways are simple. They are what any parents can do.
- We talk to him… a lot!
- We encourage and prompt for response.
- We reward and reinforce a lot (claps, high five’s, hugs, kisses, phrases like “good job, wow, nice, etc.”)
- We joke with him, we tickle, we laugh, we play.
- We sing around him, with him, for him. I invite him when I am doing karaoke (at home). We teach him songs. We encourage him to play with the piano. We play lyrics quiz with him on nursery rhymes and songs like, “You Are My Sunshine”. We sing in the car.
- We recognize when he’s overwhelmed and tone it down or stop it so that music remains a good experience for him.
- We are quick to spot when a pitch or a sound of a song bothers his little ears and we stop it.
A bird does not sing because it has an answer. It sings because it has a song.” Chinese proverb
For anyone loving someone with Autism, just continue to love and sing with them. One day, they’ll gift you with a song…in their own way, at their own time.
In the time being, keep walking… walking down the street… Uh-oh-woh-oh!