Strength Lies in Harmony
By Gretchen Leary
I think the world would agree that music is something that ties cultures, hearts, memories, and our lives together. The Autism Community is no exception.
In my life, as an individual with Autism Spectrum Disorder, music speaks to me more than almost anything else when I cannot process fear or a social situation that I cannot understand.
Music gives me strength.
When I am struggling I know where to turn if I need space alone. My headphones become my best friend in those moments.
Lights outs. Headphones in. Hello Heaven.
As a child, I loved singing or just listening to music. I often sang the same song over and over or listened to the same song over and over for hours at a time. The music may range from Beethoven's 9th Symphony to Broadway ballads, but I have only a few songs that I seek out when I feel that overwhelmed.
I find myself rocking a little and closing my eyes and feeling this sort of euphoria and I honestly think I can say it's the only form of overstimulation that I find even remotely pleasant. There is nothing quite like having an orchestra in surround sound into your ears.
I often find some of the biggest life lessons that I have learned how to fully grasp came from listening to music. When I am looking for courage, I turn on "Defying Gravity" sung by Idina Menzel from Broadway's show Wicked. When I am perseverating about my past I often turn on "Look Through My Eyes" by Phil Collins or "Let It Go" from Disney's "Frozen". When I am looking for inspirations for my writing and can find no words, I often listen to the song "Circle of Life" from Disney's "The Lion King" on Broadway soundtrack". In fact, I have that song on repeat right now.
Whatever it is I am facing, music has never failed me. No matter how you flip the coin, music wins and if music wins, so do I.
I see ASD as a set of daily hurdles and that each day I have an opportunity for greatness through perseverance and music ties right in.
It now has given me the courage to speak in public about my story in the hopes of spreading acceptance of others with ASD. It has taught me how to release emotions locked deep inside that are not worthy of words and can only be spoken with music and at times tears. It has taught me to forgive when I was not sure how to and how to let go.
It has also given me a different kind of voice and I have recently begun singing again on a regular basis at home. It has brought joy back into my life, my marriage, and to my outlook on life. Music gives me hope.
Each person with Autism Spectrum Disorder has a voice, verbal or non-verbal, we all have our own story, we all struggle, but we will be heard. I think the world is beginning to listen.
Gretchen Leary 2014
Gretchen Leary is twenty eight years old, lives in the Boston area, and is the author of” Really Really Like Me” and is working on her second children's book “The Quiet Bear” at this time.