It was the summer of 2016. I had just returned home from a James Taylor concert held in Portland Maine. A friend had invited me to go on a one night excursion over the bridge to break away from the daily to-do list. It was a fabulous show. James’ voice was powerful and sounded better than ever. He tapped into memories of days gone by back in the 70’s and made new ones with a mixed bag ranging from “Sweet Baby James” to his new CD release “Before This World”. James had touched my heart with his music and when I arrived home I felt energized. This short jaunt was just what I needed to recharge my batteries. I hadn’t been away on an adult overnight for almost a dozen years and it was
My 22-year-old son, Ian, was scheduled to arrive the following day for a home visit. Our visits are only a few days now, but satisfy the “mommy fix” we both need. One of his favorite things to do when he is here is to take car rides and listen to music. Since Ian was little, he always loved music. For the past several years James Taylor has been his favorite and has ongoing air time when riding around town. He does get stuck on certain CDs at times and insistent on listening to the same songs over and over and over again (repetitive behaviors like this are common among those with autism). I tried to trick him a couple of times by offering two different CDs to see if he would choose something at random; without exception he chose the troubadour with the initials JT. He clearly knows his choice.
Living with autism changes everything. Your view of the world and how you and your child interact with it, your priorities change, and you define things differently. The universal language of music is a gentle but powerful force that seems to penetrate this isolating fortress called autism. Through the past twenty-plus years, I have watched the effect of this unseen sound, as my son’s body simultaneously swayed and rocked to the beat wrapped in the rhythm that surrounds him, as a magical smile appears on his face.
It is said music soothes the soul and may even have the ability to change the way our brain functions. It’s something that fills our ears, our heart, and our soul. It brings us together to share something beyond the sounds of the notes vibrating through the air. As I watch my son rock to the beat of the song, to the beat of his heart, I witness the magic of music reaching beyond the darkness of autism into the light of the joy he wears in a simple smile.