I’m happy to note that connecting with M on the piano in this recent week felt a lot easier and smoother. I feel like I’m beginning to understand his musical personality, recognizing certain quirks and patterns which emerge in the way he plays. For example, he likes heavy chords, and seems to like it when the therapist validates his heavy treble playing with equally heavy bass chords, gradually transiting to an anchoring bass pattern which he can continue to play above and build on. Also, if he feels that he has run out of things to play, he might start pressing all the keys one by one, until he has covered the whole range of the piano, until he has touched every single key. “It’s one of his autistic traits”, R told us, referring to M’s need to make sure that every single note on the piano is accounted for.
This need to make sure everything is in order is also reflected in his actions. When he walks into the room, the first thing M usually does is to switch off all the electrical switches he can see, and makes sure all the windows are closed. After the session, he also automatically makes sure that all instruments and chairs are put back in place. No one’s complaining about that, of course 🙂
At the end of our most recent session, M did something which made us really tickled, yet at the same time highlighting just how observant he is of his surroundings and how much he understands of it, even if he doesn’t know how to articulate it.
“Well done today, M”, R congratulated him as we all stood up after the Goodbye Song. Apart from piano improvisation, we had also spent the session getting M to emulate the action words of a song, and play bells and drums alternately, all of which he did beautifully. “Well done”, R repeated.
M understood from R’s words that the session was officially over. He jumped up from his chair like he had just been given permission to move, ran across to an obscure corner of the room, where a stack of chairs stood, slightly slanted away from the wall. In 2 seconds, M was beside the chairs and had made sure that they were shifted that 2 centimeters so that they stood parallel to the wall. We, still standing beside the piano, realized that he must have noticed that stack of displaced chairs earlier and was just waiting for the session to end so that he could run to them and put them right. If this teenager could speak, we surely would have heard him yell: “FINALLY! That stack of chairs had been bothering me since I noticed them! I can’t believe no one else noticed they were not parallel to the wall!!!”
With the chairs in place, everything was right in M’s world again, and he happily bounced out of the room.
And because M had the last slot for the day, this is what I remember most from this week’s sessions: The gratification of musical communication. Our tickled laughter. The feeling of pure joy and affection for this special kid.