While music therapy is not featured in the film, Carly and Stef explored this approach with Oskar over several months and saw its many benefits. (Also see video below)
“For Oskar the gains were not overnight, but in the extra footage for the documentary, you can see how in time he was participating more and more each class. I truly believe that Oskar loves music, he seems to hum and move to the music as if it overtakes him. Music and the arts generally work the right side of the brain. Having balance in learning is important and all our children are encouraged to just belt out a song, hum a tune while doing a chore, or just have a regular old family dance party in the kitchen! When we let go, move to the beats and get ourselves laughing there are obvious benefits to our health – physical, emotional and mental.”
Used intentionally, music can benefit the mental and physical well-being of many populations, including people with autism. It seems like it should be a natural fit: whereas autism poses challenges for speaking and relating to others, music’s more universal qualities offer opportunities for non-verbal communication and expression of feelings, and it can be joyful and pleasurable at any skill level. A music therapist is trained to harness this power of music and design appropriate music-making, sharing, or listening activities. These might include a game, such as passing a ball to music, playing a favourite song to mean it’s time for a certain social behavior, or using singing to promote speech development, for example. Studies into this work are promising. They’ve shown that kids receiving music therapy improve their initiating behavior and social adaption, and that the quality of parent-child relationships improves, too. That is, the goals and benefits of music therapy can go beyond behaviour improvement or modification. Disability advocates point out that music therapy, thoughtfully practised, can in fact show respect for the unique, often remarkable, musical interests and talents of people with autism, creating space for truly shared and pleasurable endeavours.
Hear more from Carly on her blog, The Muddy Path, or watch this bonus video from Beyond the Spectrum of Oskar’s journey with music therapy.
A note from Carly & Stef
We invited director Steve Suderman to share our story with the hope that our experience would offer comfort to other families facing similar experiences, and provide insight into life with a special needs child for those who aren’t familiar with the highs and lows of parenting on the spectrum.
This film portrays the beginning of our journey and our story is far from over. We hope that the film demonstrates that there is no single “correct” way to approach the task of supporting your child on their developmental path. We wanted to empower parents to do their own research, and make choices with the intention that they can help their child to thrive, regardless of their diagnosis. We think the film Steve made does this and this website has some additional videos and information for those who want to find out more about topics and therapies featured in the film.
For parents of children with autism the first year after diagnosis can be confusing and tiring. At times you might feel that you can never do enough research, the options are endless, and the developmental milestones can seem unattainable. The important thing to remember is that as parents it is our job to advocate, observe and use our gut instincts! It's not "one size fits all” and different therapies work for different children. Try therapies that your gut tells you might be a good fit for what you are seeing in your child, and maybe stop anything that doesn’t seem to work since you can always try again later. You know your child better than anyone else and you can trust that instinct.
Lastly, you don’t need to spend a lot of money. There are lots of free things in books or the internet that you can do or try at home. Don’t break the bank – listen to your gut!
Statement of Values
For a year director Steve Suderman followed Carly, Stef and their five children, as the family faced each challenge and joy that arose since their son Oskar’s autism diagnosis. Throughout the film Carly and Stef try a range of therapies and treatments; all out of love for their son and the desire to connect with him. The intent of the documentary is not to endorse or dissuade from any particular treatment. Rather, our hope is that the film will communicate the experience of a family touched by autism, something parents can share with family, caregivers, and friends to offer an insight into their world.
We believe that autism is a unique way of being in the world. We advocate for inclusion, respect, and increased services that make tangible differences in the lives of those on the spectrum - and their families. We hope that this collection of articles and videos from our team and other third-party sources will help provide a fuller picture of the treatments, therapies, and ideas explored in the film.
Carly and Stef, the family featured in this film, maintain a blog called The Muddy Path. Please check it out to learn more about their experiences raising a family with children on the autism spectrum.
The Muddy Path: Music Therapy
“Learning songs can help with speech and language. The rhythm instruments and drums used during a class can facilitate with motor planning. Trying to keep beat with the music takes some processing, even for the rest of us!”
In the process of making this film, we collected a lot of additional material we wanted to share. We hope you find it helpful.
Music Therapy: Progression over 3 months
Two-year-old Oskar, diagnosed with autism, participates in music therapy sessions alongside his neurotypical siblings. Over the course of three months, he begins to show more engagement in the group’s activities, to the delight of parents Carly and Stef.
Learn more about the people and ideas featured in the film.