Autism Unveiled Week 3
My Love of Music
Music and singing have been part of my life ever since I can remember—and even before the time that I can recall! My mom has written a book about my journey with autism (I keep rereading it, and learning more about myself…), and so I know she used music to motivate me and to get me connecting with her when autism kept trying to shut me down. Eye contact was hard for me, but when Mom started singing, I couldn’t help looking. For years, singing helped me get over various speech difficulties, and even now, Mom reminds me to use my “musical voice” when my talking gets a bit robotic and flat. Music has always touched my heart and core, it seems.
Playing the violin has been a therapeutic activity for me ever since I was three years old, and I play in our local Youth Symphony as well as connecting with other people through playing chamber music—like duets, trios, and quartets. Lately, I have played several lead roles in musical theater shows—there’s a newly formed group called “Tapestry” where kids like me are the primary actors, while neurotypical kids are mentors and understudies, supporting all of us on stage while also becoming wonderful friends. For me, music is the perfect bridge for relationships.
At school, every student in my Language Arts class has a writer’s notebook. Sometimes we do journaling, and I recently wrote about my love of music. I’d like to share this entry with you:
One of my favorite things in life is singing in choir—I’m in the big Festival Choir at school. All my friends are in choir with me, and it always brightens my day to see them. This year, we are 100+ singers; gorgeous sound! We sing amazing classical works, and also spirituals and other things. In music which has chords with intensely beautiful dissonances (like Eric Whitacre or Morten Lauridsen’s songs), it makes me feel overwhelmed with awe, and I get intense sensations in my body.
At times, my heart feels like it is being squeezed, and I think of colorful, iridescent fireworks bursting or showering. Other times, I’m soaring like an eagle beyond earth’s atmosphere, beyond gravity. Sometimes, there’s the bubbly tickle-prickle of soda pop in my chest from excitement as I become part of the dissonances. The different feelings shift like the waves of an ocean, and can be followed by an amazing feeling of resolution, like I’m floating in a warm sunset tide-pool with schools of tiny, tropical fish; I’m so relaxed. In general, I feel so much joy that I want to become a bird and fly away to heaven, riding on the music like a glider riding on thermals!
On days when I’m feeling down, singing in choir makes my day so much better; music can be incredibly therapeutic. In fact, I sometimes think about compiling my favorite classical choir pieces to make a music therapy album. My idea is to help someone who’s in terrible grief for instance, or to help calm anxiety–that’s part of what music does for me.
In a recent concert, we performed movements from “Carmina Burana” with the Fairview High orchestra. It is such exciting, intense music, and I just know that the walls of the church shook with sound when we performed! I am sure I’ll be singing all my life and plan to be part of various community choirs after high school.
Benjamin Tarasewicz, Colorado
Benjamin Tarasewicz, a teenager with autism, wrote this after being interviewed by the Denver Post – he is a precocious public speaker who inspires audiences with a presentation titled, Living With Autism: Breaking Barriers. www.denverpost.com/Lifestyle/ci_25624273/Boulder-teen-raises-autism-awareness-by Benjamin recently won the Temple Grandin Award and is the subject of the book Benjamin Breaking Barriers. For more information: www.BenjaminBreakingBarriers.com
The Denver Post interviewer queried Benjamin about his reactions to music because it has figured so largely in his autism therapy throughout the years.
Benjamin is part of the Autism Unveiled Project – Six weeks of blogs from Autistic people commencing on April 2, 2015, World Autism Awareness Day.
I wish my son could meet you – you’re a fantastic role model and a really gifted writer as well.
Hi Benjamin! You are truly an inspiration. The way you describe how music has impacted your life is so beautiful, and I can totally relate to you on that. I am also very passionate about music (and a fan of Eric Whitacre!), and I completely agree that music can be so therapeutic. Just hearing one of my favorite songs immediately brightens up my day! I participated in choir and in musical theater in my school as well, and they were also one of the highlights of my experience. I love your description of fireworks and soaring – I am so happy that music has such a positive effect on you. Keep singing!
Keep singing! I was inspired by your story and how excited you are to tell it. Music is so inspirational and I always enjoy hearing new stories of people being affected by it so positively. My encouragement is to continue singing in structured groups and choirs after school. It becomes harder to get involved but the reward is just that much more. Best of luck!
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