Jan 20, 2012 0 Share

The Sound of Music

Close-up of man playing electric bass.

In this life of hustle, bustle and organized chaos, it is easy for Cody to become anxious and frustrated. A trip to the city means the noise of many cars and big trucks, honking horns, loud speakers, and many people talking all at once. For an individual with hypersensitive hearing, this makes for an outing filled with angst. Cody almost seems to take on the appearance on someone who has an invisible pillow being held over his face. But there is one sure thing that can alleviate Cody’s disquieted moods and that is music.

Cody’s love for music stems from the time he was an infant. Like many mothers from the beginning of time who have sung to their babies, I sang to mine. Cody was less than pleased with the standard lullabies, though. I was attempting to quiet him one day during a dreadful teething phase and was at a loss as to how to do it. A theme song to a program on television began to play. It was the song, “My Little Runaway” by Del Shannon. Grasping at straws, I began to sing along with it. Low and behold, it worked. His crying stopped and soon he was sound asleep.

Music has also played a role as a teaching tool for many people. Singer/songwriter Mel Tillis used it to overcome stuttering. Singer/songwriter Roy Clark cannot read notes on a score but plays and sings perfectly by ear. For Cody we have used it to teach him about the sinking of the Bismark through the song, “Sink the Bismark” sang by Johnny Horton.

Cody also learned that a pirogue is a small, flat-bottom boat made from a single log that was used in the swamps, from Johnny Horton’s song, “I Got a Hole in My Pirogue.” This song caused a bit of confusion one day when Cody went to school and sang the song to his sixth grade teacher. She was a bright young woman, but was not accustomed to certain terms used by people of the deep south swamplands. She called us and said a conference was needed to discuss some inappropriate language that Cody was using. Upon sitting down to confer with her about the matter she told us that Cody had been singing a song that stated, "I’ve got a hole in my pirogue and I can’t get it in." She said she didn’t know if this was some risqué music he heard on TV or what but it concerned her a great deal. I nearly bit a hole through my lip to keep from laughing. We explained what a pirogue was to her and she immediately turned every shade of pink, red and purple on the spectrum and then began to apologize profusely.

Today there is a broad range in Cody’s taste in music. Country and Western, Classic Rock and Roll, Acoustic Easy Listening, Blues and Gospel are among his favorites. When he is in an uneasy state, simply putting on some music can make the invisible pillow disappear and Cody’s appearance visibly changes to someone who becomes calm and untroubled.

In recent years, music therapy for individuals with ASD has risen to the forefront of autism news. Not only is it effective for many individuals in the de-escalation process but it raises self-awareness, focus and the level of attention, overall. I can attest to the fact that all of the above is true for my son. He becomes quiet and composed. Performing tasks becomes more manageable. He often likes to write while he listens to music. His sentences are structured and his thought processes are clear in the things he writes. And when he talks, his enunciation of words becomes sharp and his tone of voice is void of the forced speech that is often present in situations where that level of tranquility is missing.

Certain performers have more of an effect on Cody’s state of mind than others. Ray LaMontagne, Colin James, Eric Clapton and Ben Harper are among those who can bring out a thoughtful state of mind in my son. While Josh Turner, Willie Nelson, Johnny Cash and Waylon Jennings all bring out his fun-loving side. Elvis Presley, B.B. King and Mel Carter are among those who can truly make Cody’s love for music evident to all.

Gospel and Blues seem to have the same effect on Cody as it does for many of us. That is to say that Cody is extraordinarily attuned to his spirituality, in spite of the fact that there are many who might believe this to be a thing he could not possibly know how to achieve. Gospel and Blues bring that part of him to the surface. This is where it is plain to see a kind of heart-filled soulfulness come forth, that resonates from the depths of his inner being. He becomes quietly reflective at this point. A stillness sets over him. It’s like he becomes absorbed by the song and all is well with his soul.