This post is from Chris Molyneaux, a 20-year-old adult with autism who is getting a degree in music from Humber College in Toronto, Canada. This post is part of an initiative on our site called “In Our Own Words: Living on the Spectrum,” which highlights the experiences of individuals with autism from their perspectives. Have a story you want to share for the series? Email us at InOurOwnWords@Autismspeaks.org. You can learn more about Chris on Facebook here.
While living with autism had its challenges at first, and while I have learned to deal with my autism over the years of my life, it still plays a part in my life and it always will. It makes me who I am and I wouldn’t trade that for anything.
When I was very young, I had difficulties with my vocabulary and making eye contact with people and I barely interacted with anyone. In school, I’ve done well academically, but I often had social conflicts with my teachers and educational assistants which sometimes resulted in me throwing temper tantrums. I've also had trouble dealing with group work and making new friends because most days I preferred to work and play alone.
I first got into music when I learned to play the piano at the age of nine and that’s when things started to change for the better. Eventually I learned to play songs by ear, picked up other instruments such as the saxophone and the clarinet and went on to play at lots of concerts in my hometown of Sarnia, Ontario. Music really helped me improve my speech skills, socialize with my parents, teachers and friends better and overall find more and more people who accept me just as I am. This is why I truly believe that music is a language; the sounds of notes, chords and melodies have the power to bring people together regardless of what language they speak or how skilled they are socially.
I have been doing very well in college. I’ve met lots of new friends who share the same passion for music as me and have learned more about music (as both a culture and a business) than I could have possibly imagined. I’ve also started to speak to other schools about my personal experience with autism and how I see the spectrum being portrayed in our society today.
My goal with these presentations is to talk about autism to parents, teachers and speech therapists in a more positive light. I believe that more people need to know that autism is not the ‘lost cause’ story that we have read time and time again and it does not make affected individuals any less of a human being than anyone else. To paraphrase the great Temple Grandin, “Focus on what the child CAN do, not what they CAN’T do.”
Check out Chris's other video covers on his Youtube page here featuring popular songs such as...
"Treasure" by Bruno Mars
"Titanium" by David Guetta featuring Sia