Cave Creek, Arizona – Autism Daily Newscast had the great pleasure of interviewing Monica Beal, American songwriter of Little Lullabies. This is part 2 of our interview. Part 1 can be read here.
We asked Monica to tell us a little about her Americana album of the year nomination. She told us that she received a phone call from the producer of the awards show just a few short weeks ago and that it was a surreal kind of experience as it had been many years since she had set foot in a recording studio.
The awards ceremony will take place later this Fall in Los Angeles
We asked Monica to share with us about her life with Jackson who was born prematurely and had a 2 week stay in NICU. Monica told:
“As a first time mommy with very little experience taking care of babies, taking care of my newborn son seemed like a never ending job. I stopped writing music not because I didn’t have the urge to be at my piano, but because I thought being a mommy meant I had to permanently close the door on my music career dream.”
When Jackson was about 6 months old Monica started taking him to group music and movement class, however he did not enjoy this so Monica decided to enrol in a baby signs class and it was then that she realized Jackson acted and responded differently than other infants.
“The instructor politely suggested that we seek out the opinion of another paediatrician and we were told that occupational therapy could help Jackson with his “sensory issues”. I took Jackson to therapy once a week for about a year.”
However the strain of the commute, he would have crying fits over noises like the sound of a motorcycle or ambulance siren or even the direction of the sun, together with the weekly out of pocket costs for the therapy took its toll and as there didn’t appear to be any significant change in Jackson’s disposition Monica stopped taking him to therapy and started doing research at home about children with sensory issues.
“I found that using music helped Jackson’s ability to soothe and clam himself when he got upset. It didn’t work all the time, but it was something that I could do for him and it was very therapeutic for me as well.”
Once she received the official diagnosis of Asperger Syndrome Monica realised that she had been providing her son with another type of therapy in the form of music.
“There is clinical evidence which proves that music therapy can help children on the autism spectrum. Jackson is now 9 years old and a very intelligent and curious child. Over the years the diagnostic tests consistently show that while Jackson is considered intellectually gifted he also has significant social cognitive deficits. “
Jackson attends a Spanish immersion charter school and although considered a child with special needs, he spends most of the school day in the same classroom with his peers with the last hour of the day spent in a small group setting with other special needs children.
Over the years Monica and her husband have learned to predict situations that can cause Jackson to erupt but they also try to let some of those situations play out without intervening so that Jackson can learn to take responsibility for his actions.
“While it might be difficult for Jackson to control his outbursts due to an unexpected change in routine or because he can’t locate a favourite object he does have the ability to reflect on the different ways he can respond to an unpleasant situation. Having a child on the autism spectrum affects the entire family, and although it’s been a tough road in many ways Jackson’s disorder has brought my husband and I closer together.”
Monica ends by telling of how the whole family went on a bike ride .Jackson has had difficulty learning to ride his bike and Monica wasn’t sure a family bike ride was such a good idea. However the day turned out to be a huge success.
“It was wonderful to see the joy on my son’s face as he finished the ride back home. He didn’t complain once about the sun in his eyes or the wind touching him and although I could tell he was getting tired he kept peddling to keep up with the rest of his family. I gave Jackson a big hug and his daddy gave him a high five and we told him how proud we were of him for sticking it out and the joy on his sweaty little face was worth all the work it’s taken to get him to where he is today.”
Monica’s album, Little Lullabies, is available for purchase from the CD Baby website and her song, Little Boy Blue is available for free download
You can visit Monica Beal’s website at www.monicabeal.com