My name is Jaycie Voorhees and I am a board certified music therapist practicing in Salt Lake City, Utah, providing music therapy services through my private practice, Harmony Music Therapy, LLC. I’m super excited to be a Sensory Friendly Concert Facilitator and to be offering our very first concert on Friday May 31st in Salt Lake! I’ve been practicing in Utah for 5 years working primarily with children with disabilities and have always been impressed with our strong and close-knit Autism community. According to national statistics, Utah has the highest rate of Autism in the country, so there is a great deal of need here for increased accommodations and community access. I’m a firm believer in the benefit Sensory Friendly Concerts can have in helping our Autism community feel more integrated and accepted into our society.
The Musical Autist Celebrates 1000 Ausome Things: and 2 in particular, Absolute Pitch and Synesthesia #AutismPositivity2013
We are thrilled and honored to be a part of Autism Positivity Day Flash Blog 2013.
It’s so great to join together, on this last day of April, to advocate for Neurodiversity, to celebrate the many beautiful things that only autism can bring to society. Like Absolute Pitch! Synesthesia! Need we say more? People that know autism already get our point. But we’ll take this opportunity for some brief explanation, or at least point you in some directions you’ll enjoy going.
First we’d like to say, The Musical Autist organization feels entitled and compelled to promote these two phenomenons as autistic traits for two reasons.
1. We put autistic people FIRST in our organization, in leading and guiding the organization itself. These are folks on the spectrum who have Absolute Pitch and Synesthesia for themselves, and they can attest to the wonderful musical gifts (though sometimes challenging, like with any gift) that Absolute Pitch and Synesthesia can be. Feel free to go here to read Paula Durbin-Westby’s experiences with Synesthesia, and you can also go to Sunny’s page to learn more about her. We’ll be posting another vlog soon, and Sunny will share with you her experiences with Absolute Pitch throughout her lifetime.
2. The other reason we feel entitled and compelled to promote Absolute Pitch and Synesthesia as traits of autism is because of our connections with the field of music therapy. This is the kind of stuff Music Therapists love to study! Check out our Community Music Therapy Team. There you will find some wonderful, competence-presuming, evidence-based-practice-minded Board Certified Music Therapists who interact regularly with people on the spectrum that have Absolute Pitch or Synesthesia. We strive to understand the neurological underpinnings of autism, and we also realize the efficacy of highlighting the positive traits of people on the spectrum in order to cultivate self-empowerment and self-advocacy.
I mean really, wouldn’t YOU want to know what note or chord was being played just by hearing it? Wouldn’t you enjoy seeing specific colors when you heard certain tones?
To learn more about Absolute Pitch, we highly recommend reading this fascinating research study that came out last year. Or, if reading research is not your forte, you can find some great discussion about the article from Norman Lebrecht, which will highlight the topic of Absolute Pitch for you without getting into the nitty gritty of the research. To learn more about Synesthesia you can go to the wiki page here. You can also go here and here for perspectives on how much research still needs to be done. But our favorite article on the topic of Synesthesia is from our friend Ariane, at Emma’s Hope Book. After you read that, we highly recommend bookmarking Ariane’s site and visiting regularly.
Are you someone who has been paying attention to all the autism “awareness” this month? Have you heard the latest autism prevalence rate projections which are utilized for the fundraising pleas of organizations that paint autism to be a disease or something that families need to mourn, in order to raise funds for research intended to “extinguish” autism? Are you exhausted by it all like we are? Then you’ve come to the right place! Now go to Autism Acceptance Month (you’ll see that our Sensory Friendly Concert was on their list of events), then spend some time reading the many amazing bloggers linked to Autism Positivity Flashblog.
Have fun! Be inspired! Be hopeful!
Your mindset is more than half the battle.
Your mindset has the greatest impact on those around you.
We are pleased to announce our first Sensory Friendly Concert outside the state of Maryland! Tonight, April 13th, the Kansas City Metro Music Therapists group will be facilitating an SFC as their group service project, thanks to the efforts of Rachelle Norman, one of our Community Music Therapy Team members. Rachelle has partnered with the Kansas City Alumnae Chapter of Sigma Alpha Iota, and we are thrilled about the talented musicians who will be performing tonight!
For those of our readers who are in the Kansas City Metro area, please let us know if you are interested in attending, performing or volunteering in future Sensory Friendly Concerts in Kansas City! You can contact Rachelle Norman at firstname.lastname@example.org for more info.
About two years and three months ago, CJ started developing this blog, but she decided to wait until April 1st to launch it. She’d been chatting online with her friend Paula Durbin-Westby about an Autism Acceptance Day project, and many of us in the autism-rights movement were encouraging her to launch a blog site for it. You can go to Autism Acceptance Day to see it and learn more. The project’s name has evolved into “Autism Acceptance Year” since then.
With a little thought, our motto “Nothing About Us, Without Us” should adequately explain why we would choose April 1st, but we’ll take a moment to explain. We chose 4-1 specifically for the reason that it preceded “Autism Awareness Day” on 4-2. This was a risk worth taking, despite the fact that 4-1 is also April Fool’s Day. (Hence the running joke… “Surprise! we CAN speak for ourselves! : )
And so, CJ decided to launch this blog on 4-1-11, in honor of the first-ever Autism Acceptance Day project.
Two years ago today, CJ was attending her first music therapy conference in Albany NY, as an MT-BC equivalence student. She was just getting started in a new music therapy career, after a decade in music and special education, a few years in the music business, and many, many years of a steady self-learning curve of autism. And so when it was time for CJ to do the music therapy coursework and field placement in Developmental Disabilities, it felt like a review. And of no fault to the professor, who only had a few classes to discuss autism at all, what with all the other populations that music therapists serve, teaching us to speak the clinical language, utilizing a wide variety of therapeutic modalities and interventions… Becoming a Board Certified Music Therapist is no joke – it takes a LOT of training, and is equal to any of the other “helping professions” like Speech and Occupational Therapy.
Now, exactly two years later, CJ and Sunny are preparing for their presentation this week, in the very same regional music therapy conference as when The Musical Autist was born. Their presentation is entitled, “Sensory Friendly Concerts, an opportunity to celebrate Neurodiversity through Community Music Therapy”.
We are really excited and also a bit nervous, to be public speaking to such an esteemed group of professionals. But we believe so strongly in autism acceptance and accommodation in our society, we know every minute of preparation is going to be well worth it.
We look forward to meeting some of our readers in Scranton! Please send us a message if you’ll be there!
And Happy Birthday to The Musical Autist!
It’s not even April yet and the media has already been saturated with autism “awareness” - have you noticed? Are you aware of autism yet? Yes? Good! As our friend Kassaine says, “awareness is the No Child Left Behind of advocacy. It’s a start, but no means a finishing point we should be satisfied with. It is not until people understand and accept that we can say progress has been made.”
Please take a look at our digital flyer below, for details on our next SFC – we hope to see you there! Feel free to download and share it (or share it from our social media pages). And as always, if you are interested in having a Sensory Friendly Concert in your own community, let us help you connect with a music therapist in your area and we’ll work together to make it happen!
Hello everyone, CJ here. Before we launch into our April Autism Acceptance month posts, I’m going to venture away from our regular blogcast-programming. I’d like to share something a little different, a little more personal – so that you can learn a bit more about me, Director of The Musical Autist, nonprofit – and my beliefs behind running this organization.
Perhaps this is a small thing to some, but it’s a big thing to me. I’d like to share with you my #1 favorite artist currently. You might be surprised that I’m not going to name a jazz or a classical artist, since that’s what our mission is all about… “equal rights to the fine arts!” (Though just for the record, Brad Mehldau and Stanley Jordan are my favorite [living] jazz artists, Evgeny Kissin and Vladimir Ashkenazy are my favorite [living] classical artists.)
But like I said, this doesn’t have as much to do with autism and music therapy as it does me, and the type of stuff I’m made of. That being said, I’d like to introduce you to Josh Garrels. (if you like Beck and Ray LaMontagne, you will like this). In the past few years, both my husband and I have considered Josh’s music our most favorite, and not just because it’s fantastic music that we never get tired of listening to. It resonates with us because it aligns with how we live our lives as followers of Christ.
Unfortunately, I can only count one handful of Christian artists that I’ve ever loved listening to as much as I’ve loved the alternative and indie rock bands I grew up on in the 80′s and 90′s, for which there are dozens and dozens of artists whose lyrics I can sing word-for-word. And what I’ve learned in the past few years of my studies in the field of music therapy is just. how. powerful. song lyrics can be. I’ve learned the therapeutic power and a little neurology of how song lyrics get “entrained in the neural substraights,” aka “getting a song stuck in your head.” In the music therapy clinic, the client’s preferred music is most often the most powerful tool.
So why is all of this worthy of a blog post? Because here is what is so amazing to me. Josh Garrels decided that for two weeks he’d give away five of his albums on NoiseTrade for FREE, so that 100% of the donations would be given to WorldRelief to the crisis in Congo. Have you heard about the war in Congo? If you have, chances are you didn’t hear about it on the evening news. You can read this CNN article on why the world is ignoring Congo war, to educate yourself.
Someone pointed out to me, that the reason I am so moved by Josh’s act of generosity is because I can relate. They went into an explanation of how time and energy is as valuable as money, and that “for as much as you pour your time and energy into The Musical Autist, advocating for people on the spectrum that are overlooked in society (or even worse, pitied, or viewed as ‘diseased’) no wonder you can relate.” They also had no question that when we do get our nonprofit status and finally get some funding, my intention has always been to put 100% of people’s donations toward the cause.
I encourage you to check out Josh Garrel’s music in this link to NoiseTrade, listen to it all for free and if you like it, download it and make a donation to the efforts in the Congo.
In this video, Josh talks about what it means to him, to BELIEVE. Not just in anything, but in the One who created us, through Christ who was sent. In the past week, it’s also become apparent that through his belief, God’s work in him is to believe in the people of the Congo. So much so, he’s willing to give away his music – his livelihood – so that people would be enabled to donate to World Relief and help the innocent people who are suffering in this neglected part of the world.
In a like manner, it has been my spiritual faith and belief as a follower of Christ which spurs on my belief in people on the autism spectrum. My belief that there is so much more value to autistic people than just what we can see or hear based on outward appearance and behavior. That their minds and emotions are equal to those who are capable of expressing themselves through language and movement.
John 6:29 Jesus answered, “The work of God is this: to believe in the one He has sent.”
Signing off til next time,
A guest blog post from our friend, Sparrow Rose Jones, at unstrangemind.wordpress.com
On Saturday, March 2nd, the online Autistic/autism community participated in a Flash Blog.
Participants were asked to complete the sentence, “Autistic people are . . . ”
Autistic people are many things, but one very important thing is that Autistic people are musical! We sing, we play with sound, we lilt, we chirp. We are born with drum rhythms in our heart beats, sending music rushing through our veins and flowing through our lungs with each moment of our life.
This is because Autistic people are part of the great and diverse human family and music is a universal language we all understand. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow said, “music is the universal language of mankind,” and so many others have echoed that thought.
Victor Hugo said that “music expresses that which cannot be said and on which it is impossible to be silent.” And even hard-hearted Nietzsche said that “without music life would be a mistake.” Music is so potent and so important to human beings that there are even Deaf musicians. You didn’t expect that? Well, it’s true. There are some really, really *good* Deaf musicians!
So it should be no surprise when I say that Autistic people are musical. We may march to the beat of a different drummer, but we sure do hear the rhythm. We rock with it, we flap with it, we sing with it.
Listen to this young Autistic, our friend Christopher Duffley, singing Lean on Me. (and remember his name!)
Or this beautiful Autistic singing: “Fireflies” by, Owl City, in this wonderfully stimmy video.
Yes, Adam Young of Owl City is Autistic! Many wonderful musicians are Autistic, including: our friend Chou Chou Scantlin, Ladyhawke, Caiseal Mór, James Durbin, Craig Nicholls (The Vines), Hikari Oe, Marty Balin (Jefferson Airplane), Tony DeBlois, Leslie Lemke, Derek Paravicini, Matt Savage, 50 Tyson . . .
And those are just some of the musicians you may have heard of before. Landon Bryce introduces us to many Autitic musicians who aren’t famous . . . yet:
50 Inspiring Autistic People of 2011: Musicians
Music soothes and heals. Music energizes and emotes. Music has everything the human spirit needs for survival and so it is only to be expected that Autistic people are musical.
We rejoice through music, we mourn through music, we play through music and some of us pray through music. It is a deep-seated human need that we Autistic people both partake in and serve.
Autistic people are musical. Listen!
A poem, by musical autist, Chou Chou Scantlin.
Autistic People are blue zebras, in a world of black and white.
They frolic and play, in their own way, and shine with their own light.
How wonderful, those stripes of blue! So lovely to behold!
And rare is the wonderful thing that they are, when they do their blue things, I am told.
Yet, some are so silly, and hate that they’re blue,
And try to paint stripes that are black.
Then, those sweet little zebras get sick from the fumes, as the paint slowly drips off their backs.
“Let’s prod them, and punch them, blue stripes are so bad! I think it must be a disease!”
“We must figure a way to make them like us! Only black and white stripes are really okay!”
The obvious choice, and the one that is clear, that good people all surely can see,
Is that zebras of all different colors are great, and all have a right to just be.
Be glad who you are! Be the best you can be! You’re lovely stripes are so funny!
I send you my love, and all that is me, and hope that your days are all sunny.
The reason I share this story so little, of the zebras of black and of blue,
Is that I may tell you a secret of mine…that I’m a blue zebra, too.
To learn more about Chou Chou, her autistic childhood, and her exciting life as an autistic musician, read her Huffington Post interview with Ariane Zurcher.
This is our contribution to the “Autistic People Should” flashblog. Thank you Alyssa for all the work you’ve done in putting this together!
In our grassroots way, with our civil rights movement mindset, we will continue to change the way autistic people are viewed in society. It’s simply appalling, what google autocompletes when one types “autistic people should.” Just trust us, it leans toward heinous, actually. (For a record of what the original autocomplete was on google, you can see a screen capture on this post from our friend, Ariane.)
Because of our collaborate efforts, it is our hope that google and other search engine autocompletes will start looking more like:
Autistic people should be loved.
Autistic people should be respected.
Autistic people should be accommodated within society.
Autistic people should have a right to gainful employment.
Autistic people should be presumed competent.
Autistic people should be accepted in society.
We will keep working to change the fallacy that autism is sub-human, and the misconception that autism is a disease which needs curing.
There are so many fantastic posts on this topic, we highly suggest going to the postroll at autisticpeopleshould.blogspot.com and doing some reading. About half of our own blog readers are credentialed music therapists, and we have the extraordinaire honor of being a voice to our forward-thinking colleagues, in matters of autism acceptance and the Neurodiversity Movement.
We are working diligently to bring Sensory Friendly Concerts around the country. These are events that provide equal access to the fine arts. These are not an “oh-what-a-nice-thing-to-do-for-people-with-autism-don’t-forget-to-play-you-are-my-sunshine-for-them.”
These concerts bring legit jazz, classical and fine arts musicians to perform in a venue that is accommodating. We bring in artists that are accustomed to performing in venues that require extreme social skills, like sitting *perfectly* still and silent, or knowing when or when-not to clap (like after a jazz solo, or between movements in a symphony). And we train our performing artists to respect autism.
Not only do Sensory Friendly Concerts promote equal rights to the fine arts, acceptance and accommodation of autistic behaviors in a public music venue, but we also create opportunities for self-advocacy. Musical autists are invited to perform in these events. Some perform with the purpose of seeking gainful employment with their musical skills, others perform while being accompanied by their music therapists.
The point is, we are doing something that helps autistic people to be accepted in society. Because autistic people SHOULD be accepted in society. The motto in our Sensory Friendly Concerts describes this well… “hand flapping allowed!”
We provide equal access to the fine arts and opportunities for self advocacy through facilitating SensoryFriendly Concerts.
We are advocates for PRESUMING COMPETENCE of anyone on the autism spectrum.
- We are passionate about acknowledging and celebrating the musical giftedness that is so often seen in autism – not by exploiting that talent like the media does, but simply by providing avenues for self advocacy through music performance in SensoryFriendly Concerts.
Through these public events we are developing research in Community Music Therapy, which is an exciting new innovation of the Music Therapy field.
We are leading society by example in how to provide respectful public accommodations for people on the spectrum, as well as others with neurological and sensory processing issues.
Every one of these accomplished and progressive-thinking music therapists has contacted CJ in the past year, inquiring about SensoryFriendly Concerts and Neurodiversity. We have formed a “tribe” of sorts, working together in grassroots fashion to advocate for Neurodiversity and Community Music Therapy, through facilitating SensoryFriendly Concerts on a national level.
If you are a credentialed music therapist and would like to join us in this project, you can contact us here.
If you’re interested in having a SensoryFriendly Concert in YOUR local community, and would like to volunteer to help make that happen, we’d love to hear from you! Please email us at email@example.com. We will work with you to find your nearest MT-BC and help to make it happen! Another way you can learn more is by subscribing to our newsletter at the bottom of this page.
In honor of Music Therapy Advocacy Month, we’d like to leave you with the following statement:
Since 2005, the American Music Therapy Association and the Certification Board for Music Therapists have collaborated on a State Recognition Operational Plan. The primary purpose of this plan is to get music therapy and our MT-BC credential recognized by individual states so that citizens can more easily access our services. The AMTA Government Relations staff and CBMT Regulatory Affairs staff provide guidance and technical support to state task forces throughout the country as they work towards state recognition. To date, their work has resulted in over 35 active state task forces, 2 licensure bills passed in 2011, 1 licensure bill passed in 2012, and an estimated 7 bills being filed in 2013 that seek to create either title protection or a licensure for music therapy. This month, our focus is on YOU and on getting you excited about advocacy.
This time next year, I wonder how many SensoryFriendly Concerts we can do in the month of January, to advocate for music therapy services on the state level? How awesome would it be, to invite our state legislators to a SensoryFriendly Concert to meet their local MT-BCs? (: