Leo's Music Session With Stephen Shore

Life balance is a struggle for me. Too little to do, and I get depressed and sink into torpor. Too much going on, and I become an overtaxed human lightbulb -- bystanders can practically see my internal filaments pop. But sometimes, the too-busy is absolutely, 100% worth frying my brain -- especially if it means securing a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for Leo. For instance, the chance to have Stephen Shore come to our house for a music session.

Stephen and I met at IMFAR this past May, and chatted briefly about how I've never found a way to formally support Leo's innate musical abilities. (Stephen, a talented musician and music teacher, believes music is important for people with autism [free iTunes link #19] -- not just because it's fulfilling and entertaining, but because it's a real-world skill.) Stephen said we should bring Leo out to New York for lessons, and I laughed wistfully -- Leo hasn't been able to tolerate a plane flight more than 90 minutes long for over four years, though he's working on it.

Then I found out that Stephen and I would both be speaking at last Saturday's Morgan Autism Center conference, so I reached out and asked if he would come over for a session with Leo. Stephen said yes. I did a Snoopy dance.

Photo (c) Steve Silberman
If you've not met Stephen or heard him talk, he is one of the kindest men you'll ever encounter (though that doesn't mean he won't tease a person for overladling the 50 cent words, ahem). And patient. And he really, really understood how to work with Leo (though I will admit to hovering; I'm not used to people "getting" Leo so quickly). Using a method he developed, Stephen really, truly helped Leo start to identify keys on the piano. Were we to somehow have Stephen and Leo work together again -- or train another music instructor in Stephen's method -- I believe Leo would be have a real chance to play the piano and read music.

Stephen loves to travel, and said he'd be up for teaching workshops or college courses in the Bay  Area and then fitting in lessons for Leo, so if anyone knows a local college that would be interested in having Stephen guest lecture or teach a short summer intensive course or workshop, please speak up! (During his MAC conference lecture, Stephen noted that he travels so much by air because he's a sensory seeker -- takeoffs and turbulence are especially satisfying.)

Photo (c) Steve Silberman
I was not able to manage the busyness of Friday all on my own; there are children all over kingdom come to retrieve every day, and those retrieval time were during the only window that worked for Leo's and Stephen's music session -- so thank heavens Jen Myers volunteered to get my girls from school. Which meant, yay!, she got to meet Mr. Shore as well (and also Mr. Silberman, who tends to stay in the background and observe while somehow managing to be the opposite of shy and retiring -- potently great company). We all got to hear Stephen play Tumbalaika (though Mali interrupted him to play Old Mac Donald Had a Farm, which he graciously allowed), and then listen to Stephen's explanation of how he does sensory overload simulations during his workshops:

And then Stephen, Seymour and I needed to head back south for the MAC Conference dinner, where Stephen (once again, graciously) allowed me to hide out with him when my ineptitude at small talk threatened to send me into full-blown panic -- unless I was talking with Joanna Jaeger, who had lots of good advice about older boys with autism and autism siblings, and was happy to talk about vintage musicals.

A sincere thank you to Stephen for his expertise, generosity, and amiability. This world is a much better place with you in it.

Stephen's website, where you can buy his books and videos, is at www.autismasperger.net.


  1. I don't want to gloss over how cool this experience must have been . . . but. . . itunes-u has an autism section?? WHY WASN'T I INFORMED????

  2. silimom2:21 PM

    I would hit up University of the Pacific in Stockton - they're the only college up here in northern CA that has a music therapy degree program. It would be great if Stanford or SJSU would host it - That would save many of us a trip! If not through their music departments, perhaps through their occupational therapy programs? Or maybe Parents Helping Parents? Would they be able to fund such a workshop through a grant?

    Just throwing ideas out there.

  3. I especially have to agree on the last sentence... the world is definitely a better place with Stephen in it. So glad Leo has had an opportunity to be "touched" by Stephen's magic!


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