Autism is a neurobehavioral difference characterized by difficulties with communication, motor control, sensory processing, and social interaction. Autism causes the brain to develop connections differently which affects the way it processes and organizes information. These neurological differences affect the way an individual with autism moves, communicates, and interacts, which limits independence, impairs relationship building, and often makes it difficult for them to demonstrate their competence. Optimal Rhythms is dedicated to assisting these people and allowing them to reach their highest potential.
Neurologic Music Therapy (NMT) is a research-based treatment approach that uses music and rhythm to change the way the brain functions. While each person with autism is unique and treatment is individualized, there are some common techniques. For example, movement paired with rhythm can help develop new sensory and motor brain connections, which improves body awareness and motor planning. Other verbal/vocal exercises are often used to develop speech, language, and communication skills. By addressing autism at the brain level, NMT can positively affect the skills and abilities a person with autism needs to be independent, to meaningfully relate to others, and to truly demonstrate their competence.
One local high school student spent his entire school career in special education and "life skills" classes. Assessments evaluated him to be functioning "below Pre-K level." However, he was demonstrating in outside therapy that he was a fully competent and highly motivated young man. His true ability was unable to be accurately evaluated due to his motor differences and lack of speech. In December 2013, he attended his own case conference to discuss his IEP. He communicated (through supported typing) that he, too, deserved a "free and appropriate education" and wanted to be in "regular classes". The following semester he earned A's in Biology, English, and History. Unfortunately, despite his success, his public school placement was unable to provide a highly trained communication and regulation partner and the level of supports necessary for him to transition into a schedule of general ed classes and a diploma track. This student and his family sought out an alternative placement at ACCESS Academy. He has gone on to be recognized with the Excellence in Self Advocacy Award from the Autism Society of Indiana and participated in the Indiana Youth Leadership Forum, as the first nonspeaking student delegate selected. He now writes a blog and is developing curriculum to help churches become more prepared to welcome autistic individuals into their congregations.