Music and Autism

Music – the language of Autism

One child has a far-away look in his eyes, his ears are cocked, as if he is listening to a melody no one else hears. He shuts out the world and suddenly, hums a tune….in perfect pitch and rhythm.

Another child cannot sit still, running around restless, seeking something. Give him a ghatam or a kanjira or anything he can drum on, and he focuses immediately, his hands work like magic and he creates the most soulful rhythms.

She sits in a corner of the room, apparently not bothered about anything happening around her. Week after week. She is part of a listening session for children with autism being run by Hitham Trust. One day, out of the blue, her mother sends the musician singing for these sessions a recording of her singing one of the songs. Perfect pitch, rhythm and lyric.

All three children come under the autism spectrum.

Many children with autism show an exceptional inclination towards and talent in the arts. They are attracted to that which is beautiful, that which is aesthetic – whether in music, visual art, dance or food. Their love for detail, their quest for perfection, their love of patterns and systems, all predispose them to be both great creators as well as appreciators of art.

To nurture and hone this innate talent, Hitham reaches out to children with autism through two initiatives:

  • Manas: Music stimulation

For children who show an inclination towards music, weekly sessions of an hour each are held at the Hitham centre. These are primarily listening sessions where children listen to a set of songs sung by the facilitators.

Children are provided an opportunity to explore music, sharpening their listening and absorbing skills. Some begin to repeat lines of a song, some may keep the rhythm and some enjoying being in that space of sublime music.

For many children, the exposure provided through Manas has been the first step to letting music more deeply into their lives, and indeed into their families. This exposure has helped identify a deep passion in some children for music with very strong melodic, rhythmic and lyrical content, of the highest order.

  • Swayam – Nurturing musical talent

Swayam comprises a more intensive programme for children who may show greater readiness to engage with music. Two individual classes per week of an hour each are offered to each child. The content is tailored to the interest, need and ability of each child, with the requisite challenge being slowly introduced. At this level, the child is required to actively engage and participate in the class.  

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