Parents who have children with disabilities know better than many the importance of small victories. The smallest of victories add up, to greater independence and a richer life. I have permission from those I have posted, as we would like to share with you some of these victories – some not so small.
The video below shows one such powerful, inspiring moment. What happened? Kherrigan learned how to sign, the visual language of the deaf. How? By using the voice of the violin as a cause and effect tool.
But for Kherrigan, she cannot learn signing as most autistic children might; she cannot see the cues. She is blind.
On this day, her mother told me she had never previously signed the word “more”. The violin voice was the magical trigger.
I apologize for the sudden cut-off of this video, but her mom, who was taking the video, was so deeply moved, she wasn’t able to continue filming.
S was born with autism, blindness and Tourrette’s and is easily overstimulated by noisy and frenetic environments. Over-stimulation generally triggers loud shrieks and over-active movements. On this day, I saw these typical behavior patterns, but the few minutes I played for him as he rode, he completely quieted down. He stopped moving. Profoundly stopped moving.
I decided to try this with him off the horse. As I quietly played the surging melodies and emotion of a slow movement from one of Wieniawski’s violin concertos, I played carefully, as I didn’t know him, and wasn’t sure what might upset him. It was very important to be sensitive to possible negative responses to the different colors and pitches that the violin strings can produce.
The results were very touching, and even with the chaos and noise in the arena around him, he didn’t move. He was completely stilled, almost like he was meditating. Video unavailable.
“When S. came into the building, and (because he’d heard the violin in the distance) he just sat down and crossed his legs, as normally he’s very auditory – and in another spot, back in the corner. I have never seen him do that. It’s great. He was feeling more secure, to be more out in the open. He had never done that before.”
This is what S.’s caregiver said:
One day I worked with a boy who was developing his vocal projection. His instructor had been working with him for the last few weeks. When he saw I had a violin and he could actually request some songs, he really fixated on me. He quietly asked for a few and near the end of his 1/2 hr., he was led up to the rail near me and we had a conversation. Listen carefully. Kids will say the darndest things.
I call this little exchange: “It’s Not in the Human Language. It’s in……….”.
It’s in French!!!! LOL!! His father and I truly enjoyed that moment!
Grace’s best friend plays the violin so she was very excited to see I had one with me. The word “no” is her favorite, but the violin vacuumed all that up! She had many, many questions and of course wanted to play the violin. I didn’t say “no” (but I didn’t say “yes”).
C. has Down syndrome. As she was resistant to change of direction and requests, our goal with her was to engage her, to develop a trust relationship so she would respond to her therapist when asked to do a particular physical action or vocalization. Magically, the violin was the bridge between the therapist and herself.
And this is why: Because C loooooves the violin, she was always happy when the violin was part of her session. Eventually, she opened up and started chattering. One day, after a session, I sat down on a step and she joined me, happily explaining her favorite characters, usually about princesses. This was a behavior break-through and very meaningful to all.