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Music and Art in the eye and age of the Autistic American

Christopher C. Gagliardi, Staff Writer

Music is a moral law. It gives soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination, and charm and gaiety to life and to everything.” – Plato.

For as long as I can remember, from my early childhood days, I was aware of music but didn’t understand the value of it until I got older. 


My mother always used to sing to me to instruct me to put my clothes on or do my chores. When she sang, it made me pay attention, and this was long before I could talk. If it was a record such as Pagliacci, Pavarotti or even a spinning cassette, the music always brought me to another world and even moved my heart to tears. 


As I’ve gotten older and more aware, those little details made me even more appreciative of the art and power of music, including hip-hop, opera, rock and roll, and R&B. 


The Autistic American recognizes that music and art are essential, especially when beauty is not just in the eye of the beholder or in the eyes of someone on the autism spectrum. Being drawn to art and music can be a benefit to their lives, and it can go hand-in-hand in their progress to become a part of society. 


First, in regards to music, many of you are asking yourselves, “How can music and the arts be beneficial to people on the autism spectrum?” According to a Nov. 2017 study led by art therapist Celine Schweizer, “art therapy could have an effect on reducing behavioral problems of children with autism in specific problem areas, including social-communicative behavior, flexibility, and self-image.” 


According to an article from Annabelle Short in “The Art of Autism” magazine from Aug. 17th, 2018, “One 2004 study looked at the effects that music has on children and teens with autism. It found that using music in the lives of autistic children and teens helped in the following ways: 1) Increased focus and attention, 2) Increased communication and communication attempts, 3) Reduction of anxiety, 4) Improved coordination and 5) Generally improved social behaviors.”


The article also stated, “what the original study didn’t consider, though, was the effect of music on autistic adults.” At the very least, official studies and therapists alike have found music to be an important therapeutic tool, since music is a good way to get an autistic person’s attention when they are struggling to focus. 


Peter Jarvis, an Academy Award-nominated performer, and teacher at Bergen Community College stated that as a teacher, anyone regardless of their circumstances is affected. He also says that the recent win by Kodi Lee, who is blind and autistic, on America’s Got Talent may possibly be a catalyst. 


“I think that some inspiration will reach others based on that and will have more entries and more people involved,” Jarvis said. 


Allie, a Bergen student, and a performer say that she gets joy and pleasure in performing especially for people on the spectrum. 


“I feel like music touches you in every different way,” she said. “It speaks to people differently its interpretation.” She also stated that she gets positive reactions when she performs for people with autism and they enjoy it.


So the next time you put on the radio, a CD, a record, tape or even sing a song to someone, or if you see them messing things up, like tearing the paper apart or squishing clay, help that person, especially if they’re on the autism spectrum. Tap into their creative flow and maybe the next Picasso or Monet may be discovered. 

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