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Wired for music

I had literally bundled my two kids in through the door after a long car journey back from visiting my mum fifty miles away when my mobile rang. Caller ID said “Mum”.

“Hello mum,” I answered

“I’ve just seen that you forgot Arun’s red ukulele here. It’s in my bedroom. Do you want me to dash to the post office and mail it to you?” she said.

“No mum, don’t’ be silly. I’ll pick it up from you next time I see you.”

“Are you sure he’ll be OK without it?” she asked.

“Listen, he’s got a guitar and he can borrow his sister’s ukulele if he misses it.” I was pretty sure we’d survive.

I could understand mum’s worry though. Arun loves music and all things musical. He has a particular love of guitars and all things that are guitar-like. As far as he is concerned his little red ukulele is actually a perfect little red Arun sized guitar.

Such is his love of music that we are starting to develop a special, music based curriculum for him. Because of his disabilities there are very few things that really connect with Arun and since his birth music is the one thing that has consistently motivated him to do things. At his special needs school, after some persuasion, they agreed to let him have access to a music therapist. So, every Monday afternoon, Arun now spends an hour with a music therapist who helps him explore the world and express himself through music. The difference is incredible, he talks about what he did at school for the first time and quite obviously enjoys going to school more than ever before. Much more than this, we are now seeking to find ways of baking music into his broader curriculum to help him learn some broader skills and knowledge.

He can’t count to twenty but he can sing you every note of the guitar lines in “Sweet Child O Mine”. He won’t engage in conversation with you but will happily sing the chorus to Snow Patrol’s “Run” with real emotion. As his music therapist said recently, Arun’s brain is wired for music.

The next morning, as he came down the stairs Arun asked, “Want my ukulele. Where’s my red ukulele?”

“Sorry darling,” I answered him, “You’ll have to play with your guitar. We left the red ukulele at Granny’s house.”

Arun’s bottom lip started to quiver and pretty soon huge tears of loss were rolling down his cheeks as he sobbed uncontrollably. He was inconsolable. He felt the loss of his ukulele with a heartfelt passion.

His three year old sister, Meri looked on aghast. She understood Arun’s love of music rather better than her flippant father did. She ran into the lounge and came back clutching her pink ukulele. She thrust it into his hands on the stair where he stood with a wet face, gasping for air.

“Here you go, Arun,” she said, “don’t worry. You can borrow mine.”

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