“Music’s impact on the brain” Autism:The Musical
Elaine Hall, interviewed by John Shaefer
SOUNDCHECK, New York Public Radio, Oct. 30, 2008
By: Michelle Minke
Elaine Hall is an acting coach, mother of an autistic son, and is the founder of
“The miracle project”, that celebrates dance, music, film and theatre for autistic children. The students of this program inspired, co- wrote and performed a documentary musical theatre piece called “Autism, the Musical” which received two Emmys this past year. Elaine Hall has seen great response, involvement, enthusiasm and change in the children in her program. Because of the community that music can offer, she believes that is why there is such a strong link between autism and music.
In school, autistic children are taught to minimize their physical movements, to reduce disruptions. However a natural communication tool of autism is flapping of arms and extreme body movement. The miracle project designs programs for the music teacher to follow their flapping movements with music, and to play music inspired by their movement.
Some of the children that first participated in the program would hide under tables, be unable to enter a room, or work in a group. As they began to work with musicians and actors who were singing, they connected and responded more efficiently and more calmly than they had with speech. Within eleven weeks the children were participating, singing and interacting with fellow students, music directors and actors. It quickly became a community of normalization for them without isolation.
This program is probably the first of many to come. The treatment of the neurological disorder, Autism, is proving to be greatly influenced by music.
Projects such as “The Miracle Project” are creating a way to communicate with a disorder not fully understood. I find it exciting research for the world of autism and for musicians who are now being trained to teach individuals with autism.
The most memorable thing that Elaine Hall said, was in regards to the community that music creates. That music offers a non threatening environment so that autistic children are able to be themselves, be free to express, and free to emote without fear or judgement.
This interview was inspiring, as a mother came out of her personal struggle with her son’s autism, by creating this beneficial program. I also enjoyed the following interview with Oliver Sacks, discussing music as a treatment for autism.