Music and Autism: Making the Connection

by Rita Whitaker-Haun and Sheldon Haun As a music specialist in the public schools for 16 years, I have had orchestral and general music experience with children from kindergarten through twelfth grade.  In 1992, my new teaching assignment included an autistic preschool class; I had not worked with music and autism before, and it became possibly the most rewarding experience I have had in those 16 years. I learned from the classroom teacher that the previous “formal music class” had not engaged the children: the songs were too sophisticated, the children didn’t play any instruments, they didn’t do any movement…they were not involved. I realized that I would need an approach that appealed to the whole child, with each class including both fine and large motor movement as well as listening, chanting, singing, and playing instruments. I would also need to make sure that there were ample opportunities for communication and interaction between the children and adults.  We scheduled the…