Over the weekend I listened to a band called Flame perform at a fundraiser for my youngest son’s school. The school offers a socialization program for special needs kids which my son, who is seven years old and autistic, goes to on weekends. What was unique about the ten members of the band is they all have some form of developmental and/or physical disability.
At the fundraising event, my son was supposed to sing “Three Little Birds” by Bob Marley with the other kids in the program, but he is sensitive to loud noises so he refused to go on stage. While he was sitting on my wife’s lap, I noticed him singing softly to himself during the song, which was good to see since he is usually non-verbal. He even applauded when the song was over.
The band was a feat. Flame’s lead singer is autistic, the drummer is blind, some of the band members are confined to wheelchairs, and one has Down syndrome. Despite their disabilities, the music sounded good. If you closed your eyes, you would have no clue that this was a band made up of people with special needs. Yet they have had to overcome so much in order to play their instruments and sing songs. Their bodies do not all work the way they should, and their minds work differently than most of ours.
When I watch as my son tries to form simple sentences, I witness him going through monumental struggles that he often loses. To see these musicians perform at the high level at which they were performing is a victory of epic proportions. Being a big music fan myself, I can attest to the fact that their version of George Gershwin’s “Summertime” was memorable.
My immersion into the special needs world is only just beginning since my son is so young. When I see people with severe handicaps, I often feel sorry for them because of the challenges they face. But this concert was about triumph and celebration. The members of Flame had overcome great obstacles, and it was important for the kids with special needs to see it, and just as important for their parents to witness this feat.
As the band played their set, the teenage volunteers encouraged the kids, and even the adults in attendance who had special needs, to come to the front of the stage and dance. And they did—with gusto! I often wonder what my son’s life will be like when he gets older. Hearing the band play and seeing these kids dance gave me hope for his future.
Celebrate Autism Pride Day on June 18
Our new book for children with special needs, Jay and Ben, is now in stock.