“Extraordinary” is the word Reverend Jim Billington used to describe the progress his students have made through drum therapy at the Solvang-based school for autistic young adults, Hidden Wings.Don’t miss a thing. Get breaking Santa Clarita news alerts delivered right to your inbox.
As co-founder of Hidden Wings and the father of two autistic children, Billington has seen firsthand the remarkable effects rhythm can have on those with autism– specifically with the help of a new Remo drum technology called Comfort Sound Technology, which is designed to deliver a unique quality of sound that may not be overstimulating for individuals with disabilities.
Billington and the staff at Hidden Wings are using this new technology to achieve their goal of helping young adults on the autism spectrum build friendships and find the right kind of work for them.
“We founded Hidden Wings six years ago on the conviction that everyone on the autism spectrum has a unique talent, and our job is to, what we (call), unfurl the gifts of autism,” Billington said. “In order for these gifts to turn into work, and in order for a person to be happy, friendship is fundamental. If you talk to any parent of someone with autism, a friend is what they want most for their offspring.”
Hidden Wings students’ first experience of drums with Comfort Sound Technology was with its creator himself, Remo Belli of Remo, Inc. Belli joined Billington and six students in a scenic mountain area near the school, where he began to play a simple beat.
“At first our students were reluctant,” Billington recalled, “but over the next hour they slowly, one by one, started to imitate that beat. Over time they started moving and swaying and smiling, and their eyes lifted up to each other. They continued there for what seemed like an eternity.”
Since that day, Billington has incorporated a drum table with Comfort Sound Technology into his school, and with astounding results. One student who not only has autism, but other disorders as well, typically doesn’t make eye contact with others and lacks the ability to connect with other people. But after less than an hour of drumming, something remarkable happened.
“The drum tunes to the sound of the human heartbeat, so even though you can’t speak to one another or experience friendship, you realize we have a common heartbeat,” Billington explained. “He started drumming, and after about 30 minutes he approached his mother, with whom I was talking, and he told her directly: ‘Mom, I think I’ve made my first friend.’”
Another student experienced a similar feeling of human connection while playing a drum table with Comfort Sound Technology, which allows participants to lay under the table for a unique and soothing experience.
“One of our most challenged students kept drumming even after our session was done, ever so lightly was tapping the drum,” Billington recalled. “For whatever reason, I lay down under the drum and felt immediately at ease. Every bone in my body, every nerve, every muscle began to relax… One after the other, the other students and teachers lay down under the drum too, and experienced that same sense of inner peace.”
Comfort Sound Technology has not only given the students of Hidden Wings the rare opportunity to experience friendship and create bonds through drumming, it has also helped them move toward their goal of finding work by improving their ability to interact with others, according to Billington.
“This drum (technology) is an instrument of connecting people to one another in the most fundamental way– the rhythm of the heartbeat,” he said. “The success that we’ve had has been pretty extraordinary.”Do you have a news tip? Call us at (661) 298-1220, or drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Santa Clarita hometown manufacturer Remo Inc. has partnered with leading neurologists and drum education experts to develop evidence-based wellness programs that use rhythm as a tool to support better living. Music therapists often use these tools for their music therapy work. Sometimes people refer to this as drum therapy. One such program, called HealthRHYTHMS, utilizes drumming as a tool for communication and personal expression by guiding participants through a 10-step process. Other Remo wellness programs consider the needs of people with autism who drum, and people with Alzheimer’s and PTSD who also use the drum to improve the quality of their lives. Remo, Inc. is one of the leading drum manufacturers, making drums with recycled material.