Autism (ASD) and Music–Insights and Lessons for All of Us

“Emmanuela reported feeling more confident about being part of the school band. She showed pride when she received her report card with a “B” in music.  Emmanuela for the first time in her life felt part of a group. She complained about other situation when she was not accepted, even during lunch break when students still move when she comes to their table. Emmanuela feThe Kolman Familyels like she belongs to the band, and even brags about being much better than other band members.”

– Grace Y. Kolman, M.A. in Counseling; Early Intervention Graduate Assistant, University Health Center’s Substance Abuse Prevention, James Madison University

 Teaching children and adolescents with ASD to play an instrument is a matter of inclusion more than performance. The ability to recognize emotion in music is preserved in their brain, and it would not be an issue.”  – Grace Y. Kolman

School counselors need to work close with music teachers to support them and the children during the learning process. Music is an open avenue to communication due to its universal language.”  – Grace Y. Kolman

” Be aware of ethnic and cultural differences is very important. Repertoire should be sensitive to these differences.” – Grace Y. Kolman

Quotes from Emmanuela:

“It is difficult to learn how to play, but you don’t give up.” 

“Mamma and Daddy, I got a B in the band, are you proud of me?” 

“You never give up” 

 

Postscript to A Family Project–Music for Autism Therapy

On November 16, My wife, Grace, and I presented our findings regarding Autism and Music. This concluded a four month investigation of the effect if any clarinet lessons would have on my daughter Emmanuela, who has been diagnosed with highly functional autism, and me as her father, conductor and clarinet instructor. I kept a journal of each lesson and Emmanuel also kept a journal.

My wife presented a case for music and its regenerative powers of certain portions of the brain. “Mano” explained how difficult it was to play the clarinet but expressed her happiness of finally being accepted into a group, her school Band with a grade of a “B!” She is very proud of her accomplishments as we are.

It was difficult to hold back the tears when we talked further about Mano’s many challenges in middle school, socially (she is often a target of bullying) and scholastically with English intense subjects like history.

As a grand finale, Mano and I performed two duets from her Band book. Mano performed very well and there wasn’t a dry eye in the room. This was a special experience for me as a parent and my ties with my daughter have never been stronger.

It was a family affair of collaborating with Grace, a counselor, and myself, a musician. This was Grace’s idea that was first suggested during the summer. It was a great journey that still has not ended.

Autism Spectrum: Emotional Regulation through Clarinet Lessons at 2012 VASC VCA Convention

Grace Kolman, Doctoral Student at James Madison University and Maestro Barry Kolman, currently Professor of Music, Washington & Lee University presented “Autism Spectrum: Emotional Regulation through Clarinet Lessons” at the 2012 Virginia Counselors Association Annual Convention. The annual convention was held at the Fredericksburg Expo & Conference Center on November 15 -17, 2012. 

The presenters explored the significant emotional benefits of teaching music to adolescents with Autism. One particular case was assessed with a live clarinet performance. The instructors and students then reported  on how the experience changed their lives.