This is the second of two blog installments to highlight BHMA students on the autism spectrum. Featured in this blog are first-year students Ethan and Stephen.
Ten years ago, Ethan first came to BHMA as part of our Music Therapy Program. Though the program eventually ended, Ethan, 20, now comes to BHMA in a different capacity. He enrolled in our Two-Year Certificate Program in fall 2016 as a part-time day student, and splits his time with ServiceNet’s Prospect Meadow Farm. At BHMA, his progress has been steady, and marked by many highlights along the way—from Friday-afternoon performances, to the Patriots' SuperBowl win. “I like it here,” he says, a simple reminder of how important a place like BHMA is.
Ethan has been working on music and independence during his time at BHMA. He has a passion for music, and a love for Broadway songs. Ethan enjoys taking voice lessons, and dreams of learning to play the drums as well. Though he likes all different types of music, he claims that Bruce Springsteen is his favorite. Outside of music, Ethan prides himself on the independent skills he has developed, such as getting ready for bed, walking into town on his own, and learning to better advocate for himself. Rounding out his first-year experience are classes like Cooking, World Music Ensemble, and Social Skills. Jackie Deiana, Director of Admissions, got to know Ethan through the admissions process, and has been a proud witness to his growth. As she says, "Ethan has an enormous personality and an infectious spirit. His love of music, desire to learn, and his ability to connect with just about anyone he meets have made him a welcome addition to the BHMA community. We're so happy he's here."
Ethan comes from a family that has pushed for representation and understanding for those with disabilities. Ethan’s autism motivated his mom, Cammie McGovern, to take action. McGovern founded Whole Children in Hadley, a program created as an after-school option for people with a wide variety of disabilities. She was the recipient of BHMA’s Visionary Award presented at last year’s graduation, and has also written several books that aim to increase representation for people with disabilities in popular culture. The underlying theme of her writing is the commonality between those with disabilities, and those without. Ethan and his individuality have inspired so much. He has been empowered throughout his upbringing to recognize the strengths and unique abilities that he possesses. Thus, Ethan has a clear sense of who he is, and has translated that to his successes at BHMA.
At his recent Solo Showcase, Stephen stunned the crowd by his folk rendition of “Anyone Else But You.” Alternating between singing and playing the melodica, he captivated the audience. Stephen, 21, is an expert at the melodica, or wind piano, and he cites it as one of the abilities of which he is most proud. Stephen first came to BHMA as a Summer Program attendee three years ago, and he then started in our Two-Year Certificate Program this past fall. Before BHMA he went to the Cooke Center for Learning & Development. Stephen hails from New York City, a place where his inquisitive mind has flourished. He is an independent traveler, and knows the entire city’s train system. When in New York, he enjoys exploring the city on foot, and on public transportation. Stephen now calls BHMA home, and he is thriving in similar ways.
Stephen’s musical ability is undeniable. He has been playing the piano since 2013, and continues practicing it at BHMA, in addition to taking voice and drum lessons. He enjoys making up songs as well, and thus puts his creative mind on full display. A favorite song of Stephen’s is “Mango Walk,” and though he knows how to sing it, one of his music goals is to learn how to play it. In every capacity, Stephen is an original and inventive individual. Speaking to this point, Clinician Mary Marchesani says of Stephen, he “challenges us all to find humor in something, to be more creative in our thinking, or to take a different perspective on something.”
Stephen is interested in learning new things, and his time at BHMA has allowed him to experiment and grow in many different areas. His first-year experience has included classes in Zumba, Money Management, and Folk Ensemble. He has taken advantage of other BHMA offerings as well, including swimming in the pool at Mount Holyoke, participating in therapeutic horseback riding, and being a member of the SOMA bowling team. A lover of animals, he has been able to tap his passion and volunteer at the Dakin Animal Shelter, among other volunteer sites with his first-year cohort. He is thus working on vocational skills, and through his statement that he now knows how to clean his room, he is building life skills as well. After thriving in his first year, Stephen has created a strong foundation for future growth, and a brighter BHMA.