Chris and the Band

Chris was located at center of the stage. He calmly placed his hands on the piano and then the music began. Chris was part of the school band. He could remember a tune better than most people. Just an hour earlier, the children were all gathered in the music room.

Their parents had dropped them off at school to get ready for the big event. It was open house. What better way to start the night then the local school band welcoming all the families to the annual “Spring Meet the Teacher” evening.

Chris was dressed to the tee. He had his haired jelled just right and was wearing a beautiful light blue outfit perfect for the beginning of spring. Just a few months before, the teacher was asked if Chris might be willing to play in the school band. The music teacher was good at spotting talent and Chris definitely had that.

Chris had been in Room 622 for five years. Previously to that he had been in the PPCD unit (Preschool Program for Children with Disabilities).

The boy was a quiet child, very gentle in nature but had ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder). He was a small child who would always try his best. The problem was his ASD would make him very anxious and the boy would easily cry.

The teacher encouraged the family to help find ways for the boy overcome his high anxiety to change.

While Chris had ASD, that didn’t mean he couldn’t excel with the many gifts that God had given him. His sweet nature endured people to the boy.

The children at school were kind but his anxious behavior made it difficult for some of the students to relate to the boy.

His parents were hands on. They listened to the teacher and decided to push the boy forward. It was hard because no one likes to see their son or daughter cry or become uncomfortable in social situations. However, backing away from the challenge, especially for children with ASD, can limit their growth. Chris was placed in the local community play house.

Whether he played a tree, or was an animal or even said a few words, it was a great challenge for the boy. Out he went, right on to the stage. It was hard. It was very hard. Yet, the parents knew that the boy needed to be encouraged to overcome his fears with gentle love and encouragement.

They decided to place the boy in music lessons too. He took to the piano and learned some basic tunes. Performances in front of audiences were initially hard, but he learned to overcome that obstacle with his family’s support. Then, the request came from the music teacher. Would Chris be interested in joining the school band? At first it seemed a simple idea.

He had played in front of groups before. However, being in the school band was not exactly the same as playing the piano alone on the stage. Plus, Chris had sensitivity to loud sounds. He also liked his daily schedule of going right home after school. That gave him time to calm down from all the day’s events.

The first school band practice was hard for the boy. The practice was at 3:30 in the afternoon when the children were all leaving. Chris had to go to the music room. On the first day of practice, the music teacher was late because the school buses were late. By the time the music teacher arrived, Chris was beginning to melt down.

The teacher in his special education classroom happened to still be on campus and walked the boy back and forth. His family friend also brought some food for the boy while waiting but that wasn’t of any interest to the boy. The children waiting with him in the room were very loud and excited.

Chris began to cry. Then, the children immediately quieted down and surrounded the child. They had known him for several years. The children took his hand and went off to the stage with him. Chris calmed and did what he did well, played music.

Pamela Gross Downing, a special education teacher can be reached at downpamg@aol.com.