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Six months into Music Therapy at Inclusive Directions, The Benevolent Society's partner in South Australia, Atticus is much more confident about who he is, writing rap lyrics to vivid rhythm, which depict snapshots of the world seen through his eyes.
“At Music Therapy, you can play instruments or you can let out your feelings by putting them into songs,” Atticus said. “They are not really instructors in music therapy, Tom is more my friend than a teacher.”
The rap-based hit film 8 Mile, the story of Eminem’s life, has been an inspiration for Atticus as he scans the horizon of his future, supported by his mother Simone, oma (grandmother) Lorraine, sister Hendrika, and his new-found family at Inclusive Directions. “We’ve watched 8 Mile to help Atticus gain a better understanding that people can overcome their difficulties and really do something with their lives,” his mother Simone said.
A passion for rap has also helped improve Atticus’ sleep. He listens to Eminem’s biographical song Mockingbird when he goes to bed at night.
“When we found out about music therapy, I thought that would be great, because Atty loves music and the fact that he could express how he felt in the music has been very good for him,” Simone said. “Tom McGrath has that rare ability to connect with children.”
Atticus was ten when his struggle with autism was clearly identified, said Simone, and their journey as a family to find practical support and guidance ultimately led them to Inclusive Directions. Atticus would get overwhelmed in busy, public places. “In the classroom, Atticus would be sitting at his desk, trying to concentrate on his work. If another student dropped a pen, a truck went past outside, or somebody slammed a door… he would feel overwhelmed,” Simone said.
“It’s hard for people to understand the difficulties faced by children on the autism spectrum. Atticus couldn’t filter out distractions. There was too much information to deal with. Atticus just absorbed everything, which led to overload.”
While music has given Atticus self expression, he has found camaraderie, support, guidance and encouragement through The LAB (tech club), the Inclusive Directions Program and significantly through the School Holiday Program.
The ID family has expanded considerably with the organisation’s merging with The Benevolent Society (TBS), said 27-year-old Positive Behaviour Team Leader, Chloe Roesler, a specialist in Early Intervention and Functional Behaviour Analysis. “Inclusive Directions has been operating in Adelaide for about 30 years. A lot of the children have been involved from quite a young age and now as teenagers, are becoming involved in Inclusive Support Programs,” she said. Inclusive Directions provide community support workers to support people in their homes and in the community. “Now that ID has merged with TBS we are looking at expanding our services to adults.”
The broadening of unique services with the merger of the organisations means greater support for clients navigating the complicated National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS). The aim is to help clients make choices on the best support available and to interpret and explain the benefits of new programs as they become available, Chloe said.
“We help people find their way through the NDIS framework, which can be complex and confusing,” she said.