The Power of Music – National Autism Day

As today is National Autism Day I thought I’d tell you about my son and music starting with a little story. 

A couple of years ago we went to see Cirque Du Soleil’s Michael Jackson: The Immortal World Tour concert. We both love Cirque and had been looking forward to it. Unlike like many other of their shows this one was more concert based with dancers rather than an acrobatic performance and we weren’t sure if we’d like it to start with. But as the show went on, listening to the fantastic live performances of the musicians and dancers we began to enjoy it. It’s a rollercoaster of a show, non stop songs from early days of Jackson 5 to more modern songs. And just when you get used to the spectacle they turn everything completely on it’s head. Gone are the dancers, the musicians, most of the lights and you are left with a picture of the classic MJ picture as a small child while a track plays ‘Ben’. That’s it -simplicity and it’s best. I turned to look at Dan – my stoic, typical northern autistic son who never shows much emotion, certainly not at that point (he’s become more open as I open up about my depression) and he was sat there crying his eyes out and smiling. It was a beautiful sight until he noticed me staring and wiped his eyes. 

But he was still smiling…

there’s a brief pause and the party starts again with ‘Don’t stop til you get enough’ and everything is back for the final 15 minutes and the crowd goes into full dancing mood. The first time I’ve ever witnessed a dancing ovation lol. And Dan, who doesn’t do dancing, just shrugged, stood up and had a little boogie shuffle. That evening left me with some treasured memories that can never be taken away and proof that good music can cut across so many barriers.

Daniel has what is called a Receptive Language Disorder and is on the Autistic Spectrum. What started off as something severe has evolved through sheer stubbornness and a desire not to be beaten by any kind of illness. I would say he’s low on the spectrum these days but it wasn’t always like that. The’s always loved music. Even as a small child I could sooth him with songs. Our house was a rock and metal house and the louder the music the more settled he would become. Over time he developed a love for all music and digital technology. As I say he’s a determined kid and just about to graduate with a Photography & Digital Media degree. 

When it came to deciding what to do after school he decided he wanted to do a BTEC in Radio Media production. I didn’t even know such things existed but it turned out he’s done the research, found the course and despite the fact he knew no one who was going to the college he wanted to take that leap of faith and go for it. That led him to learning skills both in front and behind the microphone and set him off on the path he’s on now. For a kid with a  communication issue he can really talk when sat in that radio booth. It’s a little bit like acting, he can become a different person (or find the the courage to show the real person he is) and it’s lovely to hear him, listen to his humour and enjoy the tunes. He volunteers on 2 different stations and much of his photography is music based as well, taking photo’s of local and small upcoming bands around Leeds. I’ve heard stories of him flying round the stage alongside the rock star wannabe lead singers, doing somersaults while taking photo’s! This is the lad who can’t look you in the eye when he talks and is incredibly shy with a self esteem issue! 

His next step is how to make money from it all and he’s looking at a number of ways of self employment and I will continue as always to find ways to support him. And I think that’s all we can do as parents. All children and especially those on the spectrum have a talent, it’s just working out what that is, nurturing it, encouraging it and then letting them fly. The rewards far outweigh any struggle we go through. 

I’ve added some links so you can see & hear the work he can do:

The Invasion radio show – (Saturday mornings)

The Invasion radio show – (photograph page just copy and paste link into your browser)

some of those photo’s can also be found on Facebook – Dan White Photography



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