TJ is 15 years old, and just attended his third year at Melodic Connections Social Skills camp. He loves anything related to music, especially country music. TJ’s mom is hoping he can use his love of music to develop social skills. As he becomes a teenager, he is more interested in interacting with peers and developing friendships. “He wants to make friends,” his mom said, “but doesn’t yet know how.” TJ attended a teen camp week, where the social skills targeted were positive interaction with peers, relaying information, and conversational skills.
True to his love of country music, TJ’s instrument of choice everyday was the guitar. Melodic Connections teaches a color system that allows for quick mastery of an instrument. Board certified music therapist Christina McCracken said that he picked up the color system so quickly that he was playing right along with the instructors by his fifth day at camp. “We are hoping to continue lessons with the guitar because of how much he enjoyed it and picked it up,” his mom said.
It surprised everyone how much TJ blossomed in drama. The drama component was created by theater instructors from Ensemble Theatre Cincinnati, using evidence-based programs that help improve social skills for students with autism. Each day, campers engaged in carefully designed and structured group programs designed to help participants recognize and respond to facial expressions, respond to physical and verbal cues and make eye contact. “TJ gave great face!” the instructors said. “He had lots of laughs and always had a smile on his face.”
His love of the guitar and drama may never have been discovered if TJ hadn’t attended camp. He now has a new framework for interacting with friends, and a newly discovered talent which will open up even more opportunities for this happy and active teenager.