My autistic son loves music. One afternoon, when he was nine years old, I downloaded GarageBand onto his iPhone to counter the boredom of a long wait in a doctor's office. Instead of going up and down or collapsing, he spent the full hour and a half practicing, learning and composing. When we finally left that day, the rest of us, exhausted and irritated, shared his first composition with a big smile.
I did not think much about it then. Like most parents, we have focused on keeping our children as far away from technology as possible. However, this meant missing out on some key ways in which technology could help our children learn and grow. The importance of digital tools became more and more clear as my son got older and wanted to learn more about music.
My fourth grade teacher took him back to GarageBand the following year because she was fed up with distracting colleagues when he quit jobs prematurely. She handed him an iPad and a pair of headphones and asked him to "try it out". No instruction. Two hours later he brought her four ready songs and asked her to share them with the class.
"Your son seems musically gifted," she wrote in an e-mail that afternoon.
His musical gift was not news for me. At fourteen, my son waddled to a drums, pulled himself on the stool and began to jam. No random whipping of sticks on drumheads ̵
My husband and I bought him a drum set that he played for several years, until one day he said, "The noise is hurting my ears Play the violin."
So we went to the violin and then to the trumpet. Each time the music teacher's eyes lit up with joy when they heard his first attempts. Unfortunately, each instrument brought with it the same challenges.
The Autism Spectrum Disorder is defined by the CDC as a "developmental disorder that can cause significant social, communication and behavioral disorders". It involves difficulty with speech (and sometimes speech itself), repetitive physical movements, sensory challenges, difficulty with executive function and mood disorders. It can also lead to what my family likes to call "boosts." For example, my son is hyperactive and sees details that the rest of us can not see. He'll spend hours writing, building an advanced Lego kit or finding a complicated math problem – and he enjoys those experiences.
However, its low frustration tolerance means that even a small mistake can lead to a collapse leading to a significant obstacle to the teaching of traditional music. And the loud noise of the group rehearsals was a sensual nightmare for him. He rejected any attempt by a band or orchestra, which limited his ability to connect with others and become part of something greater.
As a musician, it broke my heart to watch him abandon something so important. And I resisted digital technology for years. I wanted my son to read real books, play real instruments and experience real life – and not spend his days on a screen.
But this email from his teacher was a wake up call.
This afternoon, I've tried GarageBand and tried to complete even an amateur track. I found the small details of the instrumentation and the looping overwhelming. I immediately realized I needed to redefine my understanding of music education and the technology offered to children like my son.
"Apps and digital technology can be extremely motivating and engaging when carefully considered", Kerry Devlin, a state-certified music therapist, said Gadget Hacks. In her therapeutic work with autistic clients, she found that technologies like GarageBand are more accessible to some students than live music. During the sessions, she often has clients compose and record original compositions, as well as produce musical sound effects in client-written stories.
Devlin also knows that many people in the spectrum experience movements and sensory differences that can foster learning the game instrument difficult. She believes that digital music technology does not replace learning an instrument, but offers a different, high-quality music learning process.
GarageBand can be tricky for someone like me who barely notices small details and repeats boring. Conversely, it can be intuitive and extremely engaging for someone who is intrigued by detailed work, enjoys control over creating a whole piece, and finds social interaction more creative than inspirational. My son learned the basics quickly by trying them out and Devlin has found that this is the case for most of their clients. You do not have to be musically gifted to compose, and GarageBand opens this door for students who might otherwise have less access to music lessons.
In addition, many autistic children may find it difficult to identify aptitudes. even more so in the visual arts, when sensory and emotional regulatory problems interfere with the ability to show understanding or talent. In times like these, GarageBand can be transformative. The big graphics help children with fine motor challenges. The linear movement along the musical timeline and the ease with which students can undo mistakes allow people with limited frustration tolerance to engage in ways they never thought possible. The same kid who threw his violin on the floor in anger after missing a single note – types "undo" when a bow does not work, shrugs, and continues composing.
There are countless similar stories from teachers, music therapists and parents of autistic children. But what science is behind it?
One theory is that social interactions are very stressful for autistic people, and music (when done individually) allows children and adults to focus on one area of interest without the need for social interaction. According to a 2014 review published in the journal Cochrane Systemic Reviews. Apps like GarageBand, called digital audio workstations, offer the opportunity to learn without fear.
Another study, published in Frontiers in Psychology in 2017, suggests that autistic people tend to value dissonance rather than worry. traditional sounding music. The digital composition offers a wide range of sound effects and instruments as well as unlimited combination and loop possibilities, giving digital composers more possibilities.
In addition, several studies on autistic musicians and the perfect pitch have revealed that "people with autism have one" Increased ability to perceive details, but have difficulty summarizing information into a larger whole, "according to the Interactive Autism Network. The ability to digitally chirp, create loops, and carefully assign small details seems to support this neurological need.
"My son prefers to make his own music and replicate songs by ear rather than learning traditional ones. When he describes the music he hears in his head, it's clear he's listening to a complete composition with all the instruments together, "said Amanda Morin, the author of The Everything Parents Guide for Special Education, about her musical nature "Autistic 9-year-old." Apps make it easier to integrate his thoughts into a recording than trying to pick the notes on one traditional instrument after another. "
She also notes that challenges related to It's far easier for her son to compose music digitally because of the way this motoric frustration is bypassed – his digital creations are not just GarageBand-he also uses other apps: "He uses Launchpad, a free-of-charge iOS app to create music for video games that he envisioned, "said Morin." He will make one piece for the main menu, another piece f for regular gameplay, etc. "
My son borrowed my iPhone prematurely for composing. As he gained experience and expertise, he also switched to a number of other more advanced apps and programs. It uses both Cubasis (an app for $ 49.99 USD) and FL Studio (a mobile version is available for iOS and Android as well as a full workstation for both Windows and MacOS), depending on whether it is a phone Owns tablet or a laptop. Today, he mainly uses an Android device, but sometimes uses an iPad to simplify and simplify GarageBand.
Lots of life feels out of control for my son – this world is harsh and loud, with its endless loop of adults telling them what to do. Having the phone in your pocket is reassuring, and the ability to plug in headphones and work on a composition allows him to tolerate overwhelming experiences. A two-hour wait at the doctor's would have led to a meltdown and a possible escape. A crowded restaurant would make dinner impossible. When he's stressed out, he pauses and writes a song. Smiling and eager, he brings it to me to hear it.
With this tool in your pocket, the world is more accessible.
It also helped him verbalise feelings he could not verbalize before. When my son is stressed or in a panic, he loses his ability to speak. The loss of his language sometimes becomes frustrating and even dangerous for him. He tries to identify some of his emotions. He feels things deeply but can not always name or understand them.
Music changes that for him: not only listening, but composing. When he's overwhelmed, he sometimes creates a song or a section of a song to share with me. He will play his composition and overlay certain sounds to communicate.
"Do you hear how angry this is?" he asks, adding crashing cymbals and an intense, punishing bassline. "Like a thunder, like screaming giants."
Through the back and forth of the music, his feelings about everything that disturbed him become verbally accessible. This type of communication can take place anywhere, anytime, thanks to a phone and a free app. Devlin uses GarageBand with their customers for similar reasons.
"A customer was having trouble dealing with emotions and implementing self-regulatory strategies when needed, and we've written and recorded a story about calming techniques with GarageBand." She told gadget hacks. "We had a great time capturing images to associate each story element, create a visual and digital book, and select musical sounds that corresponded to different emotions and actions in the story, a resource that my client now has at home during our sessions and at school as a reminder of accommodations that are always available when needed. "
The times when I saw technology as an opposing force affecting my child's learning and growth, were long gone. Instead, his phone and his laptop offer him tools to express his musical talents, as well as a bridge to his own emotions and his verbal expression. I still long to see him playing the violin one day on a stage, but I am proud to say that he is eleven and is currently working on a full-length album. I'm grateful I did not let my prejudices get in the way and I can not wait to see what he's composing next and create music and podcasts on your smartphone. Take a look at the entire music and audio series.