Recently, we spoke with Jill Martin, who is the mom of Luke Martin, a child that’s enrolled in our Creative Arts program. Luke is 10 years old and is on the autism spectrum. We wanted to talk with Jill and hear a parent’s take on our recital.
Question: Why did you choose to enroll your son in the Creative Arts program at Wesley Family Services?
Answer: I found out about the Creative Arts program through one of the aides who was working with Luke at his school. She said I had to meet the program’s supervisor, Katie Harrill, because she has a gift and a way with kids. And, she was right. I enrolled Luke back in 2014, nearly 5 years ago, and I’ve been blown away with the progress he was able to make almost right away and since then.
Question: Did Luke participate in the Music of the Heart Recital his first year in the program?
Answer: Yes, he did and honestly, I was unsure about him being able to do it. I didn’t know if he was capable of standing up there and performing in front of everyone. I also didn’t know what the recital entailed. It’s been so fulfilling as a parent to see him progress year after year. Katie rehearses with all of the kids, and they practice their song or whatever they are going to perform. That gives them confidence ahead of time to be able to stand up there, and the recital is so much fun!
Question: Where you apprehensive at all to let Luke perform?
Answer: I was actually. I was afraid it might be too overly stimulating for Luke. I didn’t know if he could handle it, if he would know what to do and when to do it.
Question: What’s the best thing about the recital as a parent?
Answer: To attend a music recital where my child is able to perform. Everyone in that room is so encouraging to all of the kids and teenagers that are in the program. It’s such a welcoming environment and very touching to see everyone in one room enjoying them. While the kids perform on stage, people and kids can be wandering around the room, talking, laughing—they can be themselves and feel relaxed. For some kids, they cannot sit there for more than a few seconds or minutes, and so to have an environment that’s completely casual, and no one thinks twice if there is a noise disruption, is wonderful. Also, the kids are so talented. It’s incredible to watch some of them sing, dance, or play an instrument. Wesley meets them where they are and then works with them on an individual basis to meet goals and milestones. It’s really quite amazing!
Question: Do you think the setup of the recital is helpful?
Answer: Absolutely! With everyone walking around and moving freely, it helps to remove expectations. People are comfortable, friendly, some are loud. There is no pressure on anyone.
Question: Is there anything you and your family do to help prep Luke for the recital?
Answer: Luke will perform his song at home for us, he enjoys singing and rehearsing. But, we don’t have to devote a lot of time for rehearsing. Katie and the other Creative Arts staff do that with Luke.
Question: Is there anything you do as a family to celebrate after Luke performs?
Answer: Yes, we do! Some of our family members have come to watch him sing. Often, we’ll go out afterwards to dinner or to get a treat. We want to celebrate what a great job he does!
Question: Do you have any advice for parents who are thinking about enrolling their kids in the Creative Arts program and having them participate in the recital?
Answer: Yes, I would tell them not to underestimate their child and the progress that he or she could make. Don’t let your fears about what you think they are capable or not capable of hold them back. Katie and everyone at Wesley will work with them to set them up for success at the recital. Music therapy has made such a wonderful difference in Luke’s life and our whole family’s life. I would tell any parent to try it.