A Boy and His Guitar by Sharon Baber
Stop by our house on any given day and you will, almost certainly, hear Johnny Cash or John Denver songs being played on a bright red guitar by our 19-year-old son, Joey. But there was a time when such a thing seemed all but impossible to us.
Joey was diagnosed with autism when he was 3 years old. We knew something was different for quite a while before that; we just didn’t know what it was. As soon as we knew what we were up against, we began pursuing a variety of educational opportunities and therapies in an effort to try to help our son achieve the best outcome possible. Most of these Joey did not enjoy in the slightest!
He has always loved music and, on our weekly trips to the local library, we brought home Raffi tapes with great regularity. Joey was fascinated with Raffi’s guitar and was always asking if he could “have it.” He got his first guitar when he was 3 but, although he loved strumming it, we didn’t know if he would ever have the ability to focus or the cognitive understanding to really be able to play. Family members would often ask, “Why don’t you try to find someone to teach him to play the guitar? He loves it so much.” I had taken piano lessons as a child and knew the traditional ways of learning music just weren’t going to work for Joey. Enter Healing Sounds! From day one (and we have now been with them for a number of years) Joey’s session with his music therapist has been the highlight of his week. To our delight—and to his--it wasn’t long at all before Joey was strumming chords and learning to play the songs he had always loved.
In addition to playing at home for his own enjoyment, Joey has had the opportunity to share what he has learned by playing in recitals and at church. He always loves this! We have seen Joey’s confidence in himself grow as a direct result of his ability to demonstrate his success in this tangible and public way.
We all have those moments in life when the world feels out of control and each of us has developed our own ways to deal with that. Playing the guitar has become a great coping mechanism for Joey as it enables him to redirect his anxieties and self-calm when he would otherwise find it difficult to do so.
Verbal communication is not always easy for Joey. Through music he has found the ability to reach out to the world in a way he would otherwise find difficult, if not impossible, to do. The importance of this for him cannot be overestimated and we are so grateful to Healing Sounds for helping him realize his potential in this way. “Where words fail, music speaks.” (Hans Christian Anderson)