Category: music

Musical Michael-How My Exceptional Tween Regulates and Soothes with Music

As with any tween or teen, Michael loves to unwind and regulate by listening to music, all types of music, though his favorites are pop rock and hip hop. Seeing him listening to music on his portable radio with or without headphones and sometimes watching music videos, I am reminded of myself at that age. Even his rocking while listening to music reminds me a little of me. Ok, I didn’t rock the way he does as I don’t have autism and it was not in a stimming sort of way, but I see his love of the music, beat, and how it soothes and excites him at the same time. He does not look much different than any teen or tween when he is doing it.

The thing is getting him off the electronics is tough. As for any kid today, the allure of its immediacy is only too great. I am glad that though his tastes are changing vis a vis parks and going to stores, he at least will still do long walks with me and I am looking forward to doing bike rides together this summer when we have more time. Still, even with it being difficult to get him out of the house, I like the fact that he connects so easily to music. He reminds me of me when I was his age. “Michael, who sings that song?” “Michael, what is the title of that song?” And 99% of the time he knows the answer to both questions. He also likes to talk about what my favorite songs are. The other day in the car when a song came on we both liked he said, “Hey, that’s cool. We both like the same song.”

I truly believe, especially with the all the tumultuous emotions Michael is experiencing in puberty so far, that music and song lyrics are one of the things that are keeping him grounded. He also has something additional to discuss with me. As his tastes change and he moves away from the sporty young boy who wanted to kick the ball in the park with me, I can now have discussions about musical genres, directions, and other topics he likes to bring up when we are in the car together or on long walks. This is where I am still able to bond with him, to share and ask him what he is feeling, and to remind him he is loved, respected, and that I am there for him.

Exceptional Parents, has music helped build a bridge from your child to you when they were little or older? For many children, they sing before they talk, so music plays a very important role in communication. For others, parents and their child/dren can learn songs together, talk about different genres, and share how music helps them heal from trauma and stress. Whatever the way it is used, music can really help a child learn, regulate and find their way in the world with other people.  Try and see if this is something you and your child can bond over. Until next time.


Art, Creative Expression and The Maturity Journey – My Exceptional Son’s New Found Love in Making Bracelets


Michael has always been artistic. He learned to sing whole songs before he could talk. He loved music and dancing to all kinds of children’s music. After that, he graduated to playing musical instruments like his toy electric piano, his toy accordion and a tamborine. He put on concerts for us where he sang popular pop song lyrics and improvised with the music on his instruments. But drawing and arts and crafts, that kind of art, was always something he struggled with both in school and at home. He’d look at me as if I had two heads if I mentioned making crafts at home or doing anything arts and crafty. Yes, he was artistic, but not in the crafty way, if you know what I mean. That is why this year at school, an now at camp, I am extra impressed and proud that he growing to regard art and any kind of fine motor art work as fun and interesting.

His favorite subjects at school are now music, science and art! The work he brought home this year blew me away! It was especially beautiful for me to see how he is growing in maturity, despite the tough year with challenging behaviors that we had. It made it even nicer to experience as a result. And now he has been at a new camp this year. It is going very well, and he started making bracelets. Yes, you heard me. He started beading bracelets on his own! He made one for himself, and one for me and his Dad (the two pictured above), and now he is working on bracelets for the rest of the family, grandparents and cousins! It has blown me away how into this he is, and I am so proud of his growing confidence and maturity. It is also helping him transition from that strange age, 10, when a child is not a baby, but not a teenager. And though he is developmentally delayed so he is not quite 10 in all areas, in many he is and is struggling with how to entertain himself when he is home.

“I don’t want to play with toys Mommy. But I hate board games. What can I do alone?”
This morning in the car on the way to camp, we talked about different games I would show him in August when he is home from camp, and different things he can now do in the evening before bed. I spoke about puzzles, drawing and painting that he likes to do, playing on his instruments and then Michael added beading bracelets. Yes, his ability to entertain himself at home, which is still hard, is on the way to being realized.  I am so proud of his maturity, and I am trying to go with his flow. A few weeks ago we bought face paint at an arts and crafts store as Michael has also become fascinated with face painting at summer outdoor festivals. In his typical ambitious style, he wanted to be able to paint Minions and Yoda tattoos as the artists there did. I had to burst his bubble and inform that it takes years of training to do that. He was a little disappointed, but I’m happy to say that he experimented and made his close approximation of Yoda and Minions that he could. He had a lot of green and yellow paint on different days to remove. 🙂 Still, he enjoyed doing it himself, and even used his chore money to buy the paint. I’m so glad that I can encourage him to explore different interests. It has truly helped him to mature and me to see that mature little boy growing.

Exceptional Parents, do you remember to let your child explore their interests and creativity, no matter how fleeting they are? Within reason of course, all parents can find ways to let their children explore their creativity so that they could hone in on things they love. You never know where it will take them in terms of development, and maybe even future job possibilities. 🙂 Remember, let your child explore, enjoy, and fall in love with different forms of art. It is truly a way for them and you to grow closer together. Until next time.

DJ Michael Identifying Songs and Finding His Own Dooki Style


I have always been impressed with Michael’s musical talent. His singing voice as well as his memory for song lyrics have been in evidence since he was a baby. Lately though, he has been amazing me with more abilities. He has been listening intently to all kinds of music on the radio, and learning the names of all different artists and their musical style. His favorite music is pretty much hip hop, though he also likes dance music and anything R&B.  My Mom used to be amazed as a child when I knew all the names of different artists and genres, as well as song lyrics. Now it looks like Michael has inherited that particular skill from Mom. 🙂 I like how he is using music to regulate, calm and relate to the world. I also like how he is expanding in the way he is beginning to see the world, and people in it.

Yesterday was parent/teacher meetings at Michael’s school. As usual, it was a great success. What I was particularly proud of him for, was how he has matured since the beginning of his school year. I think in a big way listening to music and letting it communicate to him was a big part of this reason for his growing up. Dad and I told him as much about our pride. He is learning how to communicate, move and question different things happening in his life. Music shapes a lot of emotions and I know it is helping him shape his emotions better. And even when we have challenging nights both due to him holding in emotions all day and testing how far he can go with us, I know music and other ways to regulate will bring him back to us and himself.

Exceptional Parents, what helps bring your Exceptional Child to their next level of understanding and learning about themselves and the world around them? What gives them confidence in themselves so that they do their best? For some it is sports. For others it is art. For still others, it is science or another passion. Find your child’s passion and encourage them to go for what they love. They will have everything to gain for striving to do their best and knowing that you are in their corner.

My name is Joanne Giacomini. I am writer, speaker and parent coach  looking to help parents find their strength, love and balance in their own life so they can parent their child with autism with that same amazing energy. I offer one one coaching for individual sessions, six month coaching packages, as well as workshops and speaking engagements. In order to see what best suits each parent and family, I offer a free consultation/exploration session of 30 minutes where parents can see what would best suit their needs. For more information see my website: 

How Music Helps Exceptional Kids Open Up About Emotion

So Michael has started opening up again to me. He has started talking about his day, his friends, his excitement about life, and I think music is a huge part of this. He listens to music after school most nights, and sometimes watches some videos after dinner. Well, song lyrics unless we’ve screened the videos. I’ve learned the hard way that some can be pretty racy and entice other questions I don’t want to be answering yet. 🙂  I have gone back to calling  him my DJ, as he will hear a song from the radio and know the artist and title. This is something I used to do at his age. Music is what kept me sane. It still is what keeps me sane, and I think it does the same thing for Michael. Gradually he has started telling me more about his day, as he did over a month or more ago. As a matter of fact, tonight he was so interactive, had so much to say about what he liked/didn’t like, that it almost knocked me over in a good way, though I was a little on the tired side. By the end of the evening I was exhausted, but happy my little guy was coming back to himself and me.

To watch your child struggle with his emotions and his frustration level even with words, finally be able to articulate for better or worse his feelings, is something wonderful to see. I was happy to have to navigate this arena again, and not wonder is my child depressed? Is my child unhappy at school? Yes, he is still figuring things out. And thankfully he is getting great help from his school psychologist and support at home.  But music, movement, and understanding what his body needs in order to be able to process emotions, is helping. I have always encouraged him to share his feelings at home and at school. I am glad he is finding an outlet through listening to music, dancing at school in a wonderful dance class, and getting  in touch with his body and mind and where he goes from there.

Exceptional Parents, what role does music play with your Exceptional Children? Do they love to listen to top 40 or other types of music? Do they love dancing? Does it help them communicate in an easier way? Encourage whatever makes it easier for your child to communicate frustration and pent up emotions.You will not regret the strides they will make with you or in their own personal lives. Until next time.

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Keeping Busy and Learning To Be Calm The Exceptional Way


What is busy? For every Mom of every child with special needs it means a different thing. Every kid with autism is different and has various interests. For Michael, keeping busy means constant motion pretty much all day. It means going places, to parks, pools, friend’s houses, and stores. This is AFTER a full day of camp. This is a challenge for his Dad and I, especially as we get older, but we are learning to structure his activity with time when he is home, and has to keep himself occupied. This is tough for him to do, but he is learning. We also have to find the fine balance between busy and overstimulated. The last two days I crossed the line with Michael, and we had two bad meltdowns and some aggression. The heat doesn’t help, and the fact that Michael is learning that he can’t control everything and everyone around him. It is exhausting and frustrating for all of us.

Still, as with all moments with Michael, there are funny and wonderful moments too. One of these was playing games with Michael in our local pool yesterday afternoon. We were sitting side by side with him in a lawn chair drying off in the sun. Michael said;

“This is nice and relaxing Mommy. I like sitting in the sun. As long as I have sunscreen on it is ok, right?”


He made me smile. I also thought good, he is learning to relax sometimes. He was finally tired after his busy day of camp, playing in the park, then the pool. He watched some videos after he came home and chilled out. That was nice too. I find that as an Exceptional Parent, each summer, each day really, I am going back to the drawing boardhaving to readjust things so that he is in balance. I find new strategies to help him remain calm, remind him of  his old strategies, and  teach him that it is ok to not always be in control. That is a hard one. I have only recently learned that, and at times, like most adults, still have issues with that one. What I do now, is make sure I am surrounded by family and friends who can understand me and Michael and what we live on a daily basis. I make sure Michael and I have respite from each other on occasion, and that we never go to bed angry with one another. I tell Michael that we all learn from our mistakes, me included. Michael and I both talk about how we need to use strategies to stay calm, and if we don’t, we need to remember to use them the next time we get upset.

Exceptional Parents, how do you juggle the busy and quiet side of your Exceptional child? How do you handle the rough moments during and after they occur? Do you remember to cut yourself some slack and learn from them? Retrace your steps, see what you could do differently next time, and teach your child to do the same. Yes, there will be new battles to face, but you and your child will be able to handle it together as long as you show your child you will never give up on him/her. Until next time.



How Stimming Can Help Kids With Autism

Ok, I started off with a very controversial title, I know.  I’m sure I will have lots of detractors out there. I used to be one of them. I HATED when Michael did any of his stims, and I tell you, there have been many over the years from spinning, rocking, watching the same tv show or reading the same book over and over again. He now loves to do verbal stims to unwind. These stims range from screeches to other high-pitched noises that grate on my nerves. There. I’ve said it. I don’t feel like a bad Mom anymore though. I’m just being honest that these noises bother me, like Michael has said it bothers him when I talk too much about my blog or writing or meditation and yoga. 🙂 He still loves and accepts me even if he does not agree with everything I say and do, and I feel the same about him. I have learned, as have most parents of kids on the autism spectrum, that stims or self-stimulatory behavior is not done to annoy or upset neuro typicals in the environment. It is a way for the individual with autism to acclimate to the environment mentally, physically and spiritually if they are stressed, nervous or having a hard time.

Of course, if this behavior is all your child is doing it is not healthy, and you have to find ways to engage them in the world around them. When we first leaned Michael had autism, we were so scared and sad that he was not communicating with us in any meaningful way. Our son felt lost to us in his own world. We saw he was happy there, and though at first I wanted him in our world at all costs, I gradually began to see that his world was fun too. I could meet him there, and he could meet me in my world, and we would bond somewhere in the middle. Occasionally though, when social pressures have been hard and he is tired, I know stimming helps him renew himself and helps him be whole. I don’t try and stop it anymore as it is a natural part of who he is.


That would be like someone telling me don’t get up in the wee hours of the am or stay up late at night to write that poem or finish that novel chapter that is aching to come out. It can wait until morning they would say. No, actually it cannot. I have experienced what feels like real discomfort and tension in my stomach and throat if I am not writing creatively for an extended period of time. People who are not writers have told me that I am crazy. Well, I must be. Because when those words pour out of me the release I feel is like no other. I am at peace with myself, my environment and the world around me. I imagine Michael and Exceptional Kids like him feel that when when stimming. Interestingly, he told me a few weeks ago that he stimmed too long and now was stressed.

“Next time Mommy, I won’t stim so long on the couch. I didn’t need to this time.”

Exceptional Parents, how do you feel about your Exceptional Child’s stims? Do you try and stop them or encourage your kids to have this time? Every kid stims differently with autism, but I can assure you it is normal and healthy for them at certain times. We are always scared in the backs of our minds to “lose” our kids again in their autism world. Butt rest assured, once they see that you accept them for all they are and know you, your children will always come and find you. They are versatile, adaptable and very smart children. As they learn what their body needs, let them do what it takes to adjust to the world. And remember,  be receptive to them when they seek you out. Until next time.

My Little Ninja Has Found His Path


What can I say about Saturday morning’s dance concert. It was truly one of my proudest moments as Michael mother. There stood my little guy on the stage with his friends from dance class, doing his ninja dance performance. The confidence, the precision, the lack of fear and enjoyment I saw on his face proved to me once again, that he can truly do anything he sets his mind to. It also gave me the confidence as a Mom to trust my gut. I’ve been gently encouraging him towards performing on stage since he asked us to record him singing and dancing at home to songs he memorized or dancing he made up. He also loves to play instruments and improvise. Yet, due to his fear of performing on stage, that is what kept me back from pushing him too much a few years ago. Then two years ago they noticed at his school concerts how much he loved to sing. As a result, the last two concerts had him singing at the microphone with a buddy. My baby is growing into a beautiful flower and I will never doubt encouraging his love of something again, even if he is afraid. We’ll do just baby steps as we’ve done with encouraging singing and dancing.

I have to confess something right now. I LOVED performing as a child AND was terrified by it. I sang in choirs, tried out for plays, and would have taken dancing but instead amused myself by being near the front at aerobics classes. I am shy and nervous in front of large crowds, but put music on and I am a different person. It is like with writing. I am absorbed into those art forms and become one with them. I don’t know how else to explain it.  I was afraid that I was starting to live through Michael, and didn’t want him feeling pressured to sing, dance and perform because Mom loved and would love to share that with him. I encouraged him at church choir for the same reason, but when he told me he wasn’t ready I held back. I’m glad now. If it’s meant to be, it will be. I see that I was right as a Mom and saw in Michael what was really there in him: love and talent for music and performance. I know now that he will only continue to find his path with art and mapping and it is exciting to see the future he could make for himself following his passion. I’m thrilled as is Dad to be along for the ride. I pray for the means to continue to encourage all his loves and help be a part of shaping the incredible human being he is becoming.

Exceptional Parents, what is your gut telling you about your Exceptional Child’s talents and passions? Trust whatever it is saying and if there is an interest to try an activity, let your child explore whatever it is. That is how they will find their path. If if happens to be along the same interest line as yours, don’t question it. They are your children and may share some of the same passions. Encourage, support and step back. You won’t regret when you see them shining in the spotlight of their accomplishments. Until next time.



Dance Concerts And Music: The Connections That Bind Us


Tomorrow is Michael’s big dance concert. He will be performing with his dance school on stage and is nervous, but excited. Apparently, his class will be ninjas and he is the one who will announce them when they come on. 🙂 Dad and I are very excited to see him perform, and me, well, I’m emotional as usual. I always bring plenty of Kleenex to his school concerts and enjoy seeing him sing and dance. The last two concerts he was the one at the microphone singing with a friend. I was so happy. He loves music and movement as I have mentioned before, and I think music and all art really, are wonderful ways of reaching children and accessing their learning power, all children.

There is something with exceptional children and music and dance though, a connection, a bridge between their world and ours. Music and dance does help create conversation, understanding and sharing among people of different backgrounds, beliefs and languages, and dancing just transcends all boundaries as you don’t need to speak. You just need to feel. Michael drove by the school where the concert will be held with Dad the other day. I found out when his class is going on, near the beginning of the two hour show. These are the things we will remind him of to prepare him as much as we can for an exciting yet scary event, going up on stage.

I remind him that it is normal to be scared.  I still feel that way when I talk in public for work,  but there is more of an excitement now than fear. It’s also about conquering that fear of trying something new and bridging the gap between you and your audience, helping them understand where you are coming from. When things are going well for everyone, you and the audience are in the zone of relating and it is a beautiful thing. Connection through music, dance, speaking is powerful.

Exceptional Parents, what connections have music or art formed for your Exceptional Children? How have they began to relate to people around them after being exposed to music? I truly believe that is the connection between all of us, sounds, waves, bring us all into harmony with one another. We need to encourage each other to reach out in this way, and we will grab the attention of our children, our family and friends, our world. Good luck on making connections through music and movement between you and your children. Until next time.


The Healing Art of Mapping and Music


Over the course of the last few weeks, I have seen a progressive change in Michael. He has become calmer, more focused, and more sensitive. He has his routine after school: snack, homework, then swinging in his basement swing while listening to music. After that, he goes on his Google Maps and navigate the city and then, under mine or his Dad’s watchful eye, he can look at some pop videos, usually just “lyrics only” as some of the content is questionable material for someone his age.

I think this routine works for him and gives me a chance to finish off some late day chores in the house. But mostly, I see that he is becoming more talkative. We talk about the music videos, what the songs mean, and he asks a lot of questions about where things are located, what streets, cross streets etc. This is Michael’s way of making sense of the world, and I am so glad he is finding his way. I and his Dad repeatedly tell him that his strengths lie in music and navigation. I also hear him singing the songs from the radio to himself or sometimes asking me if he forgets a tittle what the song is called. Usually though, is it Michael who tells me the name of the song. I have been wowed more than once when he has informed me which pop star sings which song.

 I used to worry so much when I saw how he wasn’t moving on from Barney. Now he is the one educating me on modern music! It’s very exciting to say the least. But most of all, what Michael has shown me, and continues to show me, is that anything is possible with time, with an open mind, and with a routine and order, a mind that was always anxious or stressed or stuck, can become unstuck. Yes, he will always struggle with anxiety and other issues, but he is learning to handle himself through these emotions. Other things will come with time.

Exceptional Parents, what have your Exceptional Children learned to do that have wowed you? What things did you not see coming and are so impressed that they mastered? Remember, our children’s ways of processing the world are different than ours. Their views are filtered through their own unique lens. Give them time to discover their talents, their strengths, and be there in the background to encourage them, as always. When they know they have you as a cheerleader, they will feel they can do anything. We all need that cheerleader in our lives. Until next time.

Michael’s Love of Music Videos-Conflicting Exceptional Emotions


My little boy is growing up. And just like his Mom at his age, has developed a love for music, and music videos in particular. It was shocking to me at first though I am proud that he knows the songs and singers educating me for the first time, and that music helps him move, unwind and is part of his swing/stim routine in the basement. What worries me is the content on the videos, as it does most parents I’m sure. But the thing is Michael is so much more innocent than other kids. Mind you, I was very innocent too about matters of sex and other things at his age. It’s the more risque content out there that scares me and the availability of all music, tame and the not so tame on the internet. Thank God for “audio only”.  We have told Michael that he is not to watch any pop, rock or hip hop videos until his father and I have screened them first. The woman who hasn’t watched many music videos is now screening then whenever she can squeeze them in, but I digress. 🙂 Most of them are fine, but we have caught some “swear words,” so Michael now has learned to type two more words on the computer keyboard, “clean and audio.” I am proud that he is happy to just listen to the music and understands that the content is “not for little kids,” as we told him. Though the other day he did watch a video and forget, (I don’t know if on purpose), and saw the racy version of it. So far no questions, but we’ll see. Dad and I were each negligent in supervising him that day thinking the other one was nearby.


This is an amazing step, but I can’t help feeling a little worried. How can I explain some of the images to him that he may come across, some of the lyrics? So far I’ve managed well enough, and I knew this day was coming, still I worry about his innocence. How will he interpret this? My parents never worried about my brother and I. We are neuro typical (or neuro typical enough as a friend and I often joke), and the videos were not today’s level of racy. It’s an added dimension for parents of all kinds of kids. Still, what’s interesting is that I have this problem. Michael likes the teen scene. Maybe next we’ll be having arguments over designer clothes. That would be kinda cool. Of course he is still literal in how he interprets things and we have to be careful how we explain things, but this new problem I have is one I did not see coming. He likes when I sit down next to him to watch, and when I let him watch alone. We are bonding in a new way which is great.

What surprises have your Exceptional Children thrown your way? What issues did you not think you’d be dealing with yet or never? How are you dealing with them? It’s important you identify how you’ll tackle these issues with your kids Exceptional parents, so they can grow up confident in themselves, and you in trusting their abilities. Until next time.