Baby's Got Blue Eyes

•  A couple of years ago, we started writing and recording songs for our son Liam, who has undergone intensive speech therapy to work on his communication skills. Liam has autism. We have been working hard to provide Liam with therapies since he was 18 months old. Liam is 7 now, and has shown remarkable improvement in his ability to communicate. There’s still a lot of work ahead of us, and likely will be for life. 

We realized very quickly that music was a powerful tool for teaching Liam words when he was just a toddler. He discovered his favorite song, “Blue Eyes” by Elton John, when I mentioned me of him when we heard it one day. Liam had only a few words at the time, and never used more than one word at a time. He figured out how to go to the computer, pull up iTunes, and find the song though. And he did it over, and over, and over…….Before long, he started to say a couple of the words in the song. He would anticipate a word coming, and you could see the anticipation build in his face. He was proud as he sung/spoke along “eyes” as he pointed to his own eye. It was a breakthrough moment.

I believe connected with the song, partly because of what I said to him, but also because of Elton’s deep voice. Liam is drawn to sounds with low tones, like the vacuum cleaner, or Tom’s bass. It almost seems like to vibration is kind of soothing. Liam has hypotonia, so he also craves deep sensory input, like a big hug or a swaddling blanket.

Over time, Liam picked up more and more words from the song “Blue Eyes”. He started with the last word of each line, so he picked up “sea” and “day” as well. Easy enough words to start with. He especially liked the first 30 seconds, and he often went back to the beginning of the song after that point. 

Liam Blue Eyes from Rock Your Speech on Vimeo.



It became a running joke with our family. We would be doing some random thing, and all of sudden we’d hear “Blue eyes, baby’s got, blue eyes.” We would look at each other and quietly laugh. It was so cute! Liam did eventually find other music he liked too. LMFAO was a favorite. “I’m sexy and I know it.” Not exactly appropriate, but there’s no stopping Liam when he finds something he loves, so we’ll go along. Cheap Trick, of course. Dream Police is a favorite. The Beatles. of course, all of the songs from Sgt. Pepper. 

Liam loves to play music and dance. One time I told him his dancing reminded me of “Maniac” from Flashdance. He kind of runs in place. So we played that scene from the movie, and he wanted to see that over and over again too, and dance along. He could get away with the one word, “she’s a MANIC, MANIAC” over and over. It’s a beautiful thing, to see your child who has worked so hard to learn every little thing in life, doing something that is fun and puts a smile on his face.

We observed therapy sessions in our home with Liam several days a week. The therapist would get close to Liam’s face so he would watch her, and she would speak words very slowly, one sound at a time. Liam would usually just stare at her, and it took some work to get him to repeat with any kind of sound. He was pretty quiet most of the time, unless he was crying over wanting something and not knowing how to communicate what it was he wanted.

I would find myself playing charades with him, holding up objects in front of his to see what he wanted. Sometimes I hit on it, sometimes I didn’t. I worried so much about how frustrating it was. He didn’t know how to tell me if he was hungry or thirsty, or if he didn’t feel well, or he was just tired. 

But I did find that I had picked up techniques from observing therapy. Sometimes it helped to just slow down and keep the words very simple and direct. I realized he could understand a lot more of what I said than I gave him credit for. He was taking it all in, and eventually he would use it. And I was sort of laying the groundwork for what would eventually become a journal for the song themes for “Rock Your Speech”, and for learning how to teach Liam.

 

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Alison Peterson
Alison Peterson

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1 Response

Stephanie Stewart-Morgan
Stephanie Stewart-Morgan

May 26, 2015

One of the biggest myths about autism is that they are cold, emotionless, and they don’t like being hugged or cuddled. I kept getting put off the idea my oldest had autism because he was so cuddly. His little sister still is, and she is more profoundly affected by autism. (The older one has Aspergers.) Neither of them have hypotonia, but they benefit greatly from the pressure provided by a big hug.
I’m familiar with the charades too! We live in hope that a game of “Guess what I want right now” doesn’t start with a good smack before we even realise she needs something. She’ll get there eventually, it’s just a matter of teaching her more verbal communication to wipe away the physical communication.

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