‘He Was So Excited': Boy With Autism Gets Musical Therapy From Mentor

Louie Cahan, a 9-year-old Holden boy, was thrilled to see a familiar face, his behavioral analyst, who rewrote the child's favorite song and sang it to him remotely

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Remote learning can be a challenge for many students, including 9-year-old Louie Cahan of Holden, Massachusetts.

Making his at home learning journey even more difficult is his autism, which can mean lack of interest in wanting to participate in virtual and socially distant lessons.

Cahan attends the Center for Applied Behavioral Instruction in Worcester. It's a school for students with autism and other related neurological disorders.

Melissa Belsito, who works at the school, said it helps students deal with behavioral challenges, including "typical non-compliance when they don't want to do work and engage in tantrum-like behavior, so we need to provide support to the parents and students."

Cahan's mom, Tracie, says he loves music and had wanted to see a familiar face from school. He likes behavioral analyst Derek Andrade, also known as "Mr. A," and his mom knows Mr. A enjoys music, so she asked if he'd play something for him and send a video. She never expected he would recreate the boy's favorite song just for him.

Mr. A quickly learned Tim McGraw's song, "Last Dollar," and transformed it into something very special, inserting Cahan's name and reminding him of how important it is to be keeping up with his good work at home.

"Look at you still smiling with a calm body and safe hands following the procedures of your behavior support plan," he sang.

"Any kind of way we can make these kiddos lives better, that's what we're trying to do," Andrade said.

Belsito says this type of musical reinforcement helps Cahan engage and acts as a reward of sorts for his good behavior. His mother said he lit up when he saw the video.

"It was possibly the first interaction with a teacher on a computer in this day and age that was a positive," she said. "He was so excited and so happy to see that."

She says she is very moved by the gesture, explaining that it just shows how wonderful Cahan's teachers are.

"They are wholeheartedly invested, emotionally and physically, with these students, and it's a blessing," she said.

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