Music transformed my autistic son’s life

Amy's son Sam was diagnosed with autism at three-years-old

When musician Amy Newhouse-Smith’s son Sam was diagnosed with autism she turned to her love of music as a way to build a "lovely connection" with him.

“Sam was diagnosed with autism at three years and ten months old...it became increasingly clear to me that his development wasn’t typical” Amy said.

“Initially it was because of his language.

“It wasn’t that it was delayed, it was the way in which he was choosing to express himself."

The National Autistic Society say there are 700,000 children and adults with autism in the UK.

“There was no conversational language going on" Amy recalled.

“He would pick things to say from the television a lot to try and convey how he was feeling."

Positive reaction

Amy discovered that playing music to her seven-year-old son and encouraging him to participate helped with his development and confidence, although initially she was surprised by Sam's reaction, “When I first played piano for him, he cried, which was nice,” she laughs, “My toughest audience ever.”

“I think it was all too much for him, I think the sound was like nothing he’d ever heard.

“So I was very aware that I needed to be gentle about it.”

Slowly Amy encouraged Sam to join in and play games involving music, “I think when he can hear that he’s playing it that makes him happy,” she said.

“I think he enjoys recreating music, especially when he gets a positive reaction from me or somebody else."

Playing music at home gives Sam a release away from the daily school life and work.

“Sometimes I think when it comes to things like school and although he is doing quite well at school, very well in lots of ways, for him to feel good at something else as well is nice for him,” Amy said.

“He gets excited about it, there’s a small sense of achievement when he’s able to reproduce something on piano or something like that, or to play with me.”

Singing together

Playing music at home with Sam and introducing different games has built a new bond with her son, Amy said.

“As a musician and a mother you never know how or where it’s going to go.

“Sam has gone through various phases, so when he was little he didn’t want me to play and sing. We’ve gone from that to playing and singing together

“It has provided a lovely connection for him and me, because in years gone by when he was very little, because of his autism it’s not always easy to know how to play with your child.

“Something like this is a way of playing with him.

"It’s a nice way of playing together.”

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