Reflections on First Installment : Calm
Thanks for the great comments and observations. Feel free to make them directly on the blog. I will try to summarize what I said in different emails. The drum is not magic. Involuntary motor tics, hand flapping, etc. are ways in which people on the spectrum “regulate the internal milieu” – lower anxiety. The calm produced by the drum reduces the need for these movements. Can other sounds do the same? Certainly. The fountain outside of the Hidden Wings house is a good example. Give me some examples of yours.
Next Subject : Community
The Drum (as I will call the low-toned table drum) does not just create calm, it also stimulates community.
As you know, the worst suffering of autism is lonesomeness. The word itself means “alone”.
As mentioned above, Mickey designed and Remo created a drum that helps to overcome this lonesomeness by creating new drums that simulate the human heartbeat and configured one set of these drums to simulate the dinner table.
What we have experienced at Hidden Wings is that, as a drumming session proceeds, eyes that never look straight into another's eyes begin to do so. Faces that rarely smile come alive. And those who are most "locked away" drum the longest.
The single greatest breakthrough moment in our five years at Hidden Wings was right after a small drum session in the mountains of the Los Padres National Park.
One of the students, who has not only autism but also schizoaffective disorder, always has a flat affect, a detachment caused by the medication that keeps the latter illness in check.
The drumming lasted about 30 minutes. As we all packed up and got ready to leave, this young man came up to his mother whom I was with at the time. The boy blurted out, still in flat affect but eyes straight into hers.
"Mom, I think I have made my first friend."
Jim Billington and his wife, Julie, have been reluctant pioneers in helping young adults with autism lead a fulfilling and productive life. Two of their four sons are on the “spectrum”, and they have been living and breathing the issues related to autism for the last twenty years. One of the miracles they have encountered is the healing power of rhythm. In 2009, they founded Hidden Wings, a nonprofit organization dedicated to bringing out the gifts of young adults with autism.
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