Gemma's Story

Gemma was diagnosed when she was in Grade 3 as being on the autism spectrum. When she was a young child, her parents wondered if her behaviour was just a bid for attention because they were often busy with her older brother, who is also on the spectrum.

From a young age, Gemma was very creative. She took dance and formal music classes. But Gemma grew frustrated with the detail of instruction and taking direction. A friend of Gemma’s parents mentioned perhaps Gemma would enjoy a different kind of music class.

It was then that Gemma was introduced to Music Therapy, where she would use her interest in music to build confidence, social skills, cooperation, and coping skills to deal with frustration. The Music Therapy sessions, which are supported through Variety’s Special Needs Program, are led by accredited music therapist Erin Koop, MTA. Gemma has been participating in these sessions for the past few years.

Gemma loves to express herself through music! While she does not read notes, she has a unique talent for improvising on the piano. “Often mid-homework, Gemma will lose interest or become frustrated. She will get up from the table, go over to the piano and play,” says Gemma’s mom Angeline. Gemma’s parents used to think she was just playing as something fun to do, but they realized, “It absolutely helps her get through the work. She can sit down at the piano for a while, express herself, and go back to her homework refocused.”

Being involved with Variety, the Children’s Charity has helped the family immensely by providing support. They feel confident that their children can go out and accomplish things in the world:  “Whatever they put their mind to, they can do.”

With Variety, and other families around them who work through similar challenges, they have a network and resources to lean on. “It is so helpful to have people around our children who see their uniqueness as a gift,” says Angeline.

-Written in partnership with Chris Mahussier and Angeline Schellenberg

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