Julia Hoffman Marshall is the mother of Sarah, an eleven year old with severe autism. Recently, Marshall and her daughter went to the Colorado Symphony Orchestra and had an interesting experience.
Although her daughter enjoyed it, Marshall was appalled by the rudeness of the usher. During intermission, the Marshalls were asked to move higher and further back in the audience due to her daughter’s dancing and moving.
Dance, theater, and music have a positive effect on many children with autism. Marshall says that she often hears Sarah humming melodies or playing them on the piano. However, Marshall’s main complaint is that there are few people who are “autism-friendly” which makes it harder for her child to learn about the performing arts.
Marshall states that there are many ways to be “autism-friendly”. She suggests that it would be nice if families with autistic children weren’t downgraded to the back of an audience or if others could learn to accept and celebrate their children for the individuals they are.
This past winter, the Colorado Conservatory of Dance provided an autism-friendly show of the Nutcracker. Like this, there are more programs becoming available for children with autism to incorporate music into their lives. One program, Simply Music, has come up with a gateway program in which autistic children are given free piano lessons.
Written by Sejal Sheth