Local Program Helps Boy with Autism Communicate Through Music

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SACRAMENTO-

Jewels Harrison was born in 2001.

"I didn't know he was autistic," his mother, Mary Harrison, said.

Jewels represents a sobering reality. One out of every six children in our country has a developmental disability.

"I wanted Jewels to speak. I wanted Jewels to connect," Mary said. "I so wanted Jewels to be typical."

"He really does represent a large global community of children that are struggling with challenges of special needs, where they don't have what we would ordinarily consider a voice," Simply Music Founder Neil Moore said.

But the voice he did have started to show early on. Jewels always had an affinity for music.

"He would approach the piano and bang the piano like this. He would use his entire hand," Mary said.

After years of traditional therapy, mom connected with special needs teacher Karen Neisenson, who introduced Jewels to the piano.

"He had no ability to use his fingers. Very Improvisational at the piano," she said.

She eventually reached out out to Simply Music, a program to help special needs children, and it opened up a whole new world to him. His ability to pay attention, to focus, improved.

"I'm telling you, it really works. Because not only are you building a musical skill, a gift, (you are) building the foundation of a relationship," his mother said, moved by emotion.

"It's really organic. And it completely transforms the experience of learning, the speed of learning," Moore said.

Neil's vision came to him early at the age of 3, hearing tunes and seeing shapes in his head which would transfer onto the keyboard.

"I'm seeing this shape, progress to that shape, and I bet I can show him this approach. Which I was able to and he was progressing really quickly," Neil said.

Today, Jewels' repertoire includes Chopin and Beethoven. Classics already delighting audiences. He took the stage at Times Square two weeks ago.

"It took a while, but we're there. He's able to blow through pieces and wow audiences." Mary said.

"We've given them a voice. We're talking millions and millions of children all over the world that we have an opportunity to transcend the barriers of learning," Neil added.

Simply Music is completely free and depends on donations. To donate and learn how to subscribe to the program, which is available online, go to Simplymusicgateway.com