Working with Children with Autism at Longwood University

Posted by: Paul Reisler,  October 26, 2017

Last weekend, we worked with autistic children at the Speech, Hearing and Learning Services Center at Longwood University as part of the Virginia Children’s Book Festival thanks to the generous sponsorship of the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts.  For the last five years, we’ve been working with children who often don’t have language, don’t have a way to express themselves.  So, our job is to listen on a deep level to authentically hear them and turn that into song.

We believe everyone has something to say–a story to tell.  But, sometimes they don’t have a way to tell it.    Many of them can’t speak.  Working with pictures, communication devices and deep listening, we try to capture their hopes and dreams in an authentic way in song.  Each child has a peer partner from a local school.  We work with those children to develop ways of listening and empathy.  It’s challenging and also some of the most rewarding work we’ve done.

The children at Longwood wanted to write about being a super hero. Working together we wrote Secret Agent and even managed to make the superhero a songwriter.  My new friend Nate really got into the guitar and helped me play it.   Here’s the chorus:

I’m not telling you my secret identity/ ‘cause it’s a secret we all need to keep/ but I’m a crime fighter/ in the night I shine the light/ ’cause I’m a songwriter.