Confidence can be an added challenge for kids with special needs. But when 10-year-old Owen Bower belts out a song, it’s a different story.
“Music connects with him,” says his mom, Lisa, of Bloomfield Hills. “When you have special needs, it’s easy to feel down about yourself. This gives him a chance to shine.”
Owen – who also has extreme anxiety, ADHD and dyslexia – is currently an Axis Music Foundation sponsored student. Each week he’s enjoying, and thriving in, free vocal lessons at Axis’ Birmingham location.
It’s part of the organization’s mission of making music education accessible. Founded in 2012, the West Bloomfield-based nonprofit originally helped cash-strapped families and schools in the wake of the recession. Today, it offers donation-based one-on-one lessons for kids of all ages and those with special needs.
“It’s evolved and taken its own path,” says Axis marketing director Donny Klemmer Jr. “It’s a community of donors and clients of our (for-profit) academy. It’s a nice way to give back to kids in their own backyard.”
Kids are nominated by loved ones and selected to enter Axis’ programs once every two to three months. They explore a variety of instruments, from piano to ukulele, and try out music technology, “rock band” and more, all during the course of four to six weeks. Once they join, they can stay as long as they’d like – or as long as the foundation can afford it.
And because lessons are so personal, kids with special needs take away exactly what they need. For Jocelyn Cook’s 7-year-old daughter Julia, who has Down syndrome, that’s improvement in her speech.
“When she can sing me two or three words at a time, she can put those sounds together and you can tell what she’s saying,” says Cook, of Birmingham. “I think it would be beneficial for kids with other needs, too.”
2 key benefits
Music helps kids with special needs in a pair of other important areas, Klemmer Jr. says.
Linguistic skills. “For linguistically impaired kids, it takes them a long time to answer,” he says. But, for example, “When you ask Julia” – a child with Down syndrome – “to sing, an answer it comes out of her.”
Fine motor skills. Learning finger placement on the piano or saxophone helps “to develop them where typical exercises can’t reach them.”