Daniel has decided he is playing the baritone in band. Now what? I thought it may be best to see if I could get him started on lessons during the summer, before school started. Then his "adjustment period" just might be done by the time school starts. So I start asking everyone if they know of anyone who happens to a.) be able to teach the baritone, of all instruments, and b.) has any experience with an autistic boy who is very large for his age and has a tendency to get upset, especially while learning something new!? It sounds like a stretch, I know. Believe it or not I found someone.
Jennifer, God love her, is trained in music therapy and not only had she taught at least 2 boys on the spectrum (who both happened to have chosen the baritone also, how weird is THAT) but has a child with special needs of her own. My gift from God. Maybe this karma thing isn't so bad after all??
The next step is going to a local music store and looking into renting a baritone. $55/month. They will repair, cover damage etc. The thing costs a couple thousand dollars, and eventually you can end up owning it. (after several years of paying $55/month. . . I'm still paying) I signed in all the places and brought home a shiny brand new baritone. Big and bright and HEAVY and full of possibilities and dreams. Although, I know better than to get my hopes up. I believe I have trained myself to not think ahead about the possibilities. Especially at the very beginning of something. But really, how thrilling would it be if he could actually DO this? It could be a group he would be a part of. Something that is his, that he LOVES. I wasn't sure if that would ever happen. That is one of the sad things about raising a child with special needs. You want them to have something, and love it. It's hard to do. I immediately got over the fact that it was band. Never mind the fact that I have never played an instrument. And that usually teaching him something means you have to know how to help him?? hmmmmm
We signed up for lessons with Jennifer. I'll say it again. God bless this woman. I am going to guess that we went through 6 lessons at her house, where the majority of the time Daniel cried and yelled. It was NOT pretty. Not surprising either. It was beginning to remind me of when he was 5 and we tried music therapy. Same thing. Yelling screaming. We quit that. We may be the only people who ever flunked out of music therapy.
I quickly learned that, as usual, he had a vision of his lessons, that I didn't know about. And this was not it. At the first lesson he said, "where are all the other kids?" I reply, "These are private lessons Daniel, once school starts your classmates will be with you." Cry cry, yell yell. Spit. Apparently, I hadn't prepped him enough in what this would look like? Duh. But honestly, I didn't know either. The next week he says, "where is the Veggie Tales song?" Um, what? "Veggie Tales, we need to play the Veggie Tales theme song". Um, ok?! (I seriously need some sort of mind reading devise. . . can I google that?) So Jennifer the good ran around and found, for the next time a Veggie Tales CD and borrowed it from her neighbor. In the mean time, cry cry, yell, yell. Spit. From then on Veggie Tales our warm up at the beginning of every class. He would play along to the Veggie Tales CD and sing at the top of his lungs when he wasn't playing. Which by the way, one of the vegetables in this religious cartoon plays the, you guessed it, THE TUBA. Ahhh. It's all beginning to make sense. If only he could explain this ahead of time. But his language isn't that great and he can't always put into words what he's seeing in his head. So I guess and I bob and I weave like a boxer until I finally land a punch! By the 3rd lesson I realized we needed a visual schedule for the lesson. Why I hadn't thought of this before we started I don't know. We had already got to the point where we could get through about 15 min of a 30 min lesson with him actually doing something, the last 15 min of yelling and crying. (and of course I'm paying for private lessons each of these times) It is very very tough to watch. I didn't know what else to do. I try to get him through it each lesson. I would leave her house exhausted and beaten down (emotionally) I'm thinking, are we doing the wrong thing? Should we stop or press on? Maybe he's not ready?
I sit through the next 3 lessons. During this 6th lesson he was crying and yelling and I clearly remember sitting on Jennifer's couch and thinking. "I'm never coming back here again. I can't do this anymore. I'm about to have a break down. Each time he gets so worked up and upset and then we go home and he's still upset. I can't do this anymore. If Todd wants him to continue, he'll have to take him." But I know Todd won't be able to watch this. It's a nightmare. But once I thought all of that. I relaxed and was at peace and I was happy because I was sure that I would never ever do this again. I was elated thinking this was it. I'm done!!! I could bring back the damn baritone and write it off as, been there done that. So we left the lesson that day. Daniel and I got in the car and I said, "Daniel, I will not bring you to the lessons to listen to you cry and yell. We aren't coming back again. We are done with this. No more." He said, "no no no no, please please please, I want to come back". I finally gave in and said, "ok one more time, if it's like this again, we are done." He knows me. If I say one more time. I mean it. And as Daniel's usual process goes, he waits until I am one step from losing it and he pulls it together. He went to the next lesson, did his visual chart, no crying, no yelling. Just playing the baritone. Amazing.
So it's August, we have a few weeks before school starts and we are actually making progress. We color code all of his music. I go through the music and write what note it is above the note, C, B flat, D etc. Then we have a color. D's are red, C's are green, B flats are orange. I have this memorized. As of this day, I have color coded a LOT of music. He knows the notes, but I think it helps him process it faster while he's playing.
School is about to start. Jennifer says he is progressing faster than anyone she's ever taught on the autistic spectrum. This actually might work out after all. It takes me being on the verge of a break down and telling him I'm done for him to pull it together. But he wants it. He wants it bad. He will dig deep and find a way to make it happen. He's an amazing kid. Who is making his own dreams come true while dragging me along kicking and screaming with him!
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