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Quarterly Global Newsletter H2 2018

Music for Autism International

H2 2018

Music, Dance, Art, Sport, Education


H2 2018
Editors Note

This research note addresses autistic performance over numerous art forms and sport and across Europe, Asia, North and Latin America during H2 2018. We highlight music performance ranging from schools level in Asia and the UK to the New York Philharmonic and the Budapest Festival Orchestra, the Latin American Grammys and a 3rd music video from a 12 year old.  In art, we mention two UK based artists highlighted by the BBC UK and a US artist raised by Art of Autism. In dance, we profile how music and hip hop dance – combined with a great support network- changed a UK based ASD 14 year old’s life. In sport, the focus is on tennis – an award winning ASD coach (UK) and running (Asia and the USA). In media we note how Netflix decided to hire ASD actors to build out the cast of an ASD series in its 2nd season, how Julia from Sesame Street made her first appearance in Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade (wearing noise cancelling headphones) and a special autism Christmas story aired by ABC Channel 7 in San Francisco. In education, we note the launch of a film which combines an ASD education programme at Mercyhurst University and Spectrum Dynamics, a New York based ASD employer, with a guest appearance by Temple Grandin.


We love diversity and trust you can celebrate with us all of the great accomplishments this past half year.




CBS News 60 Minutes; 28 October (USA/The Netherlands)

​Lesley Stahl interviewed Jaap van Zweden (new maestro of the New York Philharmonic), his wife Aaltje and their autistic son Benjamin. The interview centred around the development of their activism in autism.  This started with using music to help their autistic son to communicate, expanded with the 1997 launch of The Papageno Foundation, offering arts and music therapy projects for children and young adults with autism and elevated further with the 2016 launch of The Papageno House. It has 12 boarders at a time and provides safe haven for children and young ASD adults who can participate in art and music classes, a culinary school where students learn the basics of cooking and baking where they earn a certificate and can join the workforce or at the functioning restaurant in the Papageno House. (and they are great people)!

Kaylee Rogers – Killard House School  (Northern Ireland)

Never Enough Official Video youtube November – Her 3rd video – (her voice remains on course while in her vocal range).

Autistic Adult Choir (UK)

NYU Steinhardt J-Term Course in London on a Strength Based Paradigm for Autism – NYU Global Dimensions Posted on 6th December . This article was a conversation with Dr. Stephen Shore and Kristie Patten Koenig about the Steinhardt course they co-taught at NYU London last J-Term and will be teaching again in January 2020. The course, Shifting to a Strength Based Paradigm: A Focus on Autism and Well-being Comparative Analysis Between the UK and the US, their experiences in London. Both Stephen and Kristie mentioned how much they enjoyed the Autistic Adult Choir.


Pathlight School (Singapore)

In August 2018, Pathlight Youth Choristers performed in front of the public at the 2018 Voices in Harmony competition.  The joint performance also served as a platform for choristers across schools. Altogether, the Pathlight choir performed 8 songs with other mainstream schools and 2 songs on their own.


Beautiful Mind Charity (Singapore)  

On 10th November, Beautiful Mind Music Academy (BMMA)staged its 4th progress concert 2018 BMMA Progress Concert at the Japanese Association Auditorium in Singapore. An audience of approximately 100 family members, relatives and friends viewed the performance. BMMA also celebrated the graduation of Lim Hong Xiang Samuel, BMMA’s first graduate in 2018.


Prior’s Court School (UK)

The Autistic Adult Choir’s conductor collaborated with Dani Cano, to perform and to engage the audience in singing “All you need is love”. This song closed the 11th December memorial service of the loss of three teachers at Prior’s Court School, one of the UK’s leading autistic schools. A congregation of about 400 attended the service at St Nicolas Church in Newbury, England as was reported on by ITV and the BBC. In April 2017, students from Prior's Court previously recorded a single, 'Let Me Shine’, which had over 2.7 million hits on the first month after its release. The song calls for acceptance and understanding across the spectrum with lyrics such as: 'Accept me for who I am and let me shine.'


The 19th Annual Latin GRAMMY Awards Las Vegas Nevada (USA)

Person Of The Year Gala Honoring Mana, hosted by Latin performers Carlos Rivera and Anabell Gardoqui "Ana" de la Reguera.

Dani Cano and his father Jose Maria Cano performed onstage in front of a live audience on 15th November at the MGM Grand Garden Arena. This event was televised live by Univision – the 2017 awards were viewed by over 8 million viewers.

Budapest Festival Orchestra – Cocao Concerts (Budapest, Hungary)

Cocoa concert on September 23

Cocao concerts and autism-friendly cocoa concerts (for 5-12 year-olds). Many of the Budapest Festival Orchestra’s 200 annual performances include special performances for children with ASD including this one. The Cocao concerts have continued for the past two decades involving musicians from the BFO and personally led by Maestro Ivan Fischer, one of the world’s leading conductors.



Jessi C'Artoon: 'Girl in a mask' draws out school fears by Lisa Hay BBC UK News

September  2018

Jessi  Crowther, who is autistic and has for years drawn cartoons to express her hidden feelings. Eleven-year-old Jessi wears a mask to school. Her friends and teachers may not know it – but the smiling face is the mask she wears to hide her inner feelings of stress and anxiety. For Jessi, who lives in Plymouth, England and goes by the pen-name Jessi C'Artoon, the nerves started to build in the weeks leading up to the big day of matriculating into secondary school."The Mask was about how scared I felt about moving from primary to secondary school," she said. "I decided not to hide my feelings anymore. My dad actually cried when he saw it because he said it really spoke to him.


On 24th December an interview with Anthony LaRocca, 29, appeared on the Art of Autism website (USA)

Anthony started drawing dinosaurs when he was only 4 years old. He paints every day often working on six paintings at a time. Anthony’s favorite holiday is Christmas. His mom calls him “Mr. Christmas.” “Anthony loves everything about Christmas from the music to the decorating of trees. Every year he paints a holiday painting and creates a holiday card. “Every time I painted a picture for someone they would become happy,” Anthony says. My autism inspires me to see Beauty and gives me the will to Dream.”


In My Mind's Eye – 19th December (BBC-Wales)

Following two artists as they work with parents and children in Pembrokeshire, Wales to bring autism and the arts together.  Daniel Settatree and Catherine Dyson gave disposable cameras to a group of young people affected by autism and asked them to take pictures of things that interest them. For these children, talking about their emotions, about their feelings and about the things which fascinate them is very difficult. The camera is a way in which these artists can unlock the humanity and creative potential of this very particular group.



Hip hop dancing is changing Ollie’s life – Tavistock Times 19th October (UK)

This is a story about 14 year old Ollie Venning, from Horrabridge,  and how hip hop/dance has changed his life – going from being unable to make eye contact to performing in front of thousands of people. Ollie has autism and ADHD and after spending two years at Tavistock College — suffering with very low self esteem and shutting himself away — his mum pulled him out. Pursuing his love of dancing (which he started at age 4), she researched local dance schools and enrolled him in the Plymouth-based Street Factory, a not for profit dance company run by Toby Gorniak (who was awarded an MBE for an outstanding achievement or service to the community) and his wife Jo.  Toby worked with Ollie for 18 months both on his dance skills and his confidence. For their efforts, both were invited to the 2018 UK based Autism Hero Awards where Toby won the Business Award and Ollie was given an Outstanding Achievement Award in the Creative Arts and Media category.



Unsung hero: Autistic tennis coach wins East Midlands award in November 2018 (BBC-UK)

An autistic tennis coach, who won the 2018 BBC East Midlands Get Inspired Sports Unsung Hero, wants to encourage people with disabilities to get involved in sport. Matthew Chilvers teaches at Desford Tennis Club and special schools in Leicestershire. Head coach at Desford, Alec Matty, who nominated the 22-year-old, said: "He's a proper unsung hero because he's had to overcome a lot of things to get him in this position." Mr Chilvers, from Broughton Astley, joined winners from other BBC regions at the BBC Sports Personality of the Year Awards in December.


Cross Country, Reno, Nevada (USA) – Reno Gazette Journal, 8th September

Not expected to live, Theresa Miranda, a Sparks Middle School student, is very much part of the (cross country) team. The doctors were right when they told JoAnn Miranda her daughter would never walk or talk at birth. "She runs and screams," said Miranda about daughter Teresa, now 14 and an eighth-grader at Sparks Middle School. "She is such high energy.


A different track: running practice, and much more, for autistic Hongkongers

(South China Morning Post 20th October 2018)

Ahead of race at Disneyland, amateur athletes at Kowloon Bay Park find weekly training offers a way past challenges of living with their condition. Sonia Ng takes her son, Hiroki Ng Ho-kei to Kowloon Bay Sports Ground shortly after dinner making sure he isn’t late for his weekly running training. The boy was diagnosed at a young age with low-functioning autism, resulting in poor social interaction. By Hiroki’s side are some of his running friends, who also have autism.  They are all taking part in a running training programme provided by Tung Wah Group of Hospitals, one of the city’s oldest and largest charities. The group is preparing for a 5km run organised by Hong Kong Disneyland, to be held in November. A total of 20 autistic teenagers signed up for the run via the charity.


Actors With Autism Join Netflix Series ‘Atypical’ (USA) September 2018

A Netflix series centering on the experiences of a teen with autism added nearly a half-dozen ASD actors to its cast. With the debut of its 10-episode 2nd season, the show “Atypical” is introduced five characters with autism who are members of a peer group that is depicted on the show. All of the characters are played by individuals with the developmental disorder. “Atypical” premiered on the streaming service in 2017. It focuses on Sam, an 18-year-old with autism who’s looking for love and independence, and his family. Keir Gilchrist, who plays Sam, does not have autism. For this season, Netflix indicated that it worked with David Finch who is himself on the spectrum and authored the memoir “The Journal of Best Practices,” to help ensure an accurate representation of autism on the show.


Sesame Street's Julia Attended the Macy's Parade Prepared for Sensory Overload

(New York, USA)

Sesame Street’s” float for the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade caught the attention of people on the autism spectrum and their families. In November 2018, Julia, Sesame’s Street first autistic character, participated in the float, and she wore noise-cancelling headphones.


Santa captures magic of Christmas for blind boy with autism in Texas (Autism – Channel 7ABC News San Francisco, California USA) In a story filed 14th December – Watauga, Texas)

A young boy from Texas will never forget his magical experience with Santa Claus. Matthew Foster, 6, is blind and autistic. When his mom informed Santa, he simply put his hands up and told her to say no more. That is when Santa got down on one knee to let Matthew "see" him in his own way. "Having him feel all over his coat, and the fuzz and the felt, and the hat and he even said 'Pull my beard, is there anything else you want to feel?' And Matthew said, 'Your eyes that twinkle' so he let him feel his eyes," mom Misty Wolf said. Santa also let Matthew feel a reindeer. Wolf said her eyes were also opened that day and this is what Christmas is all about.


Mercyhurst University premiered 'This Business of Autism' film (USA)

Mercyhurst University held the official college premiere of This Business of Autism, a documentary film about the economic and societal benefits of employing young adults with autism, on 18th October. The film includes guest appearances by Mercyhurst President Michael Victor; Brad McGarry, director of the Autism Initiative at Mercyhurst (AIM); and AIM student Norm Mingolelli. View film trailer featuring President Michael Victor here.


Prior to the screening, Mercyhurst hosted an invitation-only reception in honor of its AIM students and welcome the film’s producer, Stephen Mackey of Mesh Omnimedia. Mackey joined President Victor in introducing the film, which made its debut at a number of recent film festivals and two world premieres, one in Long Island and the other in northern Virginia.  Much of the film explores the positive influences of Spectrum Designs, a custom screen-printing and embroidery business in New York where 75% of the employees are on the autism spectrum. It is also one of the largest ASD employers in New York State.


Dr. Temple Grandin, a legend in the autism community who was a headliner at Mercyhurst’s 2016 Conference on Autism in Higher Education, makes a special guest appearance in the documentary as do a number of New York based current and former politicians.

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