The Sound of Success

Erin Britt Special Needs

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My eight-year-old son Zane sings, a lot. Even though it isn’t the holiday season, most of his songs are Christmas carols. That is because something remarkable happened over the holidays. Zane started to like music. Since he was small, Zane has had spectacular hearing. When he was a baby, a sneeze would startle him to tears. I recall him standing at our living room window as a toddler and saying, “Train”. I would hear nothing, but sure enough, a couple minutes later, I’d hear that train whistle.

Before Zane, we had a home filled with music. My husband is a musician and music was a part of our daily life, like breathing. But for Zane music was unbearable. He has, among other issues, Sensory Processing Disorder. People with Sensory Processing Disorder have a hard time sorting through stimuli such as touch, smell, movement and, for Zane, most profoundly sounds. Zane finds lots of clothing, particularly shirts, hard to tolerate. I have cut almost every tag from of his clothing. He only likes what he calls “soft pants”, meaning sweat pants or athletic pants with elastic waistbands.

Since Zane was very small our house has been unnaturally silent. For many years there was very little music in our world at all. We didn’t go to festivals, concerts, community events or anywhere there were lots of people, noise or… music. A couple of years ago, we got him a pair of headphones that are used at shooting ranges. On bad days, they help block out much of the noise that happens in daily life that can be difficult for Zane.

Every year, holiday performances at Zane’s school were painful. For weeks before the event, he would worry. He would talk about how he didn't want to sing, how he hated music. The day of the concert he was so terribly anxious. He would stand in the back row of the bleachers, this tall beautiful boy, and fidget and flap his hands, play with his mouth, turn around backwards to the audience. And NOT SING. It was painful to watch. I wanted to walk up to the stage, grab his hand and whisk him away to a quiet place.

Then something miraculous happened. This past November Zane started singing Christmas carols. At first I heard him humming. Wow! Music, from Zane?! Then I started hearing words and even songs. I was thrilled. He would ask, “Do you know Frosty the Snowman?” Yes, yes I do, Zane! Would you sing it to me?

At this past holiday program, Zane stood, facing forward with the rest of the kids. I know it wasn’t easy for him, but he sang. He even did some of the movements that went with the songs. I wanted to find his music teacher and give her a huge kiss.

Now, months after Christmas, Zane is still singing. We got him an iPod for Christmas and he has FAVORITE SONGS! Can you believe it? His Christmas carol obsession, post holidays, fits right in with Zane’s quirky and irresistible personality. I’m glad we have music in our home once again. But mostly, I am thrilled for Zane. He is able, for the first time, to not just tolerate the complex sounds around him, but to delight in them.

Not every day is a good music day for Zane. He still has times when most noise bothers him and when quiet works the best. But so far, Zane has been able to pull out of these days. I will hear him in the living room humming Deck The Halls as he plays happily. These moments make my heart swell with joy. My hope is that Zane will find joy in music for years to come. And for our family? Summer music festivals, here we come!

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Erin Britt

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