Man with autism’s music therapy ‘journey’ is ‘amazing to watch’

CHESTERFIELD COUNTY, Va. -- Josiah Barber is learning to play the guitar, and while he learns the instrument, he is teaching others a lesson.

"You hate to say it, but I was a pessimist," Josiah's mother, Sharon Baber, said. "I thought, is he really going to play this?"

Josiah's mom was doubtful because she said most new things leave her 21-year-old son, who was diagnosed with autism at the age of three, feeling frustrated.

Sharon and Josiah Baber.

Sharon and Josiah Baber.

"It's difficult to communicate," Sharon Baber explained. "Social skills are an area of great difficulty for him. It's been a journey."

That journey led Josiah to a music therapy program at Healing Sounds in Chesterfield.

The program helps people with complex learning conditions express themselves thru music.

"We use music to empower people of all ages and abilities to facilitate growth," Healing Sounds Director Anna McChesney said.

Josiah Barber and Danyelle Elder

Josiah Barber and Danyelle Elder

"A lot of people look and see limitations, and I see possibilities," Danyelle Elder, a teacher at Healing Sounds, said.

Josiah has been picking the guitar for five years, and he's making progress. His sessions are catered to meet his specific needs, and his mom says that keeps him motivated.

"It's been amazing to watch him grow and develop," Elder said.

Josiah, a man of few words, is now participating in recitals at Healing Sounds and in front of his church congregation.

His mom said his growth is a reminder to persevere through obstacles and challenges.

"Just seeing Josiah has challenged me to say: 'Don't say it's something that you can't do. Give it a try, you may surprise yourself,'" Sharon Baber said.

Josiah Barber and Danyelle Elder

Josiah Barber and Danyelle Elder

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