Tuesday, 12 September 2023 Australian Chamber Orchestra
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ACO Foundations Case Study: How participation can be made possible for children with autism and sensory processing
Jason is a student in Year Three who has been participating in ACO Foundations for 3 years. Jason is autistic and has several sensory processing challenges, meaning his participation in learning is highly influenced by the amount of sensory stimulus on any given day. As a result, his general learning is delayed, and he is significantly behind his peers in his reading levels.
Music learning has the potential to both challenge Jason's participation and significantly improve his learning capacity. The challenges come from the highly-sensory nature of music learning; there is a great deal of sound, multiple physical and behavioural rules to adhere to, and motor control to master. These simultaneous sensory requirements can be overwhelming at first but, after consistent exposure and the use of adaptive approaches, these requirements can lead to improvements in a student's sensory processing.
Jason struggled to participate in ACO Foundations to begin with, often refusing to attend string lessons or enter the music classroom. ACO instrumental teachers and his classroom teacher worked hard to help him participate, using a set of headphones to help manage his sensory overload. After more than a year of participating the program, he is now an active and happy participant in group learning situations and can follow multiple instructions. Jason struggled with both skills prior to ACO Foundations, and they were the main barriers to his learning progression.
Now Jason walks in, he gets his violin, he stands in his position. He's not too sure what he's playing but he stands there, and he has a go. He's really proud of himself, Jason's classroom teacher says.
Jason still has his challenging days, but his learning is improving in multiple areas and most importantly his willingness to try, to attempt new tasks, and to self-regulate his emotions and responses is improving steadily. He also exhibits a sense of pride in his achievements, and he and his younger sister, who is also in the
ACO Foundations program have both been able to perform for their mother at concerts. His classroom teacher reflected on the positive behavioural changes in Jason as he has found a skill he can work and excel at: He stands there really proud to show [his learning aid and his mother] what he can do.
Lisa Parrello, St Marys North Public School Principal, says: We have no words for how the music program has changed Jason, it is just astonishing to see the positive change in him.