This year one of our Teaching Artists, Michael, was teaching a music residency in Omri’s classroom at PS 37R, a school that exclusively serves students with significant challenges. Specifically, the school serves students with autism spectrum disorders from Kindergarten through 12th grade. Omri had limited verbal skills, using flashcards and visual aids for communication. Although he was distracted at the beginning of the residency, Michael noticed that he became more engaged with his teachers and peers during certain activities. Eager to build on Omri’s enthusiasm, Michael began to create activities that took advantage of his specific interests and skills. Michael introduced a microphone with an autotune app, which was passed around to each student. They began signing names, numbers, and letters, but soon wanted to come up with independent phrases. When the microphone was passed to Omri he began to vocalize for the first time singing a song into the microphone, making his teacher gasp (this moment was caught on video below).
Omri ended his song with a loud, reverberating sound that couldn’t be immediately identified. All of the students applauded and the microphone was passed. Michael kept recording Omri’s song. Although the words sounded muffled to the class, Michael thought it was more. After listening to the recording at a higher volume he realized that Omri was actually singing a song he’d learned in a yoga class earlier, “take it slow, breathe.” Omri was then taking a deep breath before saying “Om” loudly and powerfully—which was the loud vocalization that can be heard on the video.
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