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Daniel's Voice

FAYETTEVILLE, AR-- Daniel LeBlanc is 21-years-old, and he wants to be a film animator. With the help of Music Therapy, he is chasing his dreams.
FAYETTEVILLE, AR-- Emily LeBlanc said, "Communication can be enhanced, mood can be improved... just things like that and I thought well you know let's give this a try."

Daniel LeBlanc is 21-years-old, and he wants to be a film animator.

Reporter Christina Carilla asked, "Do you think you are going to be famous? Daniel replied "yes!"

A young man with big dreams, he isn't your average artist.

Emily LeBlanc said, "I don't know if you got to see his pictures but he will definitely show you pictures you know for any length of time."

Daniel was diagnosed with high-functioning autism at the age of four. For him, basic communication doesn't come easy.

LeBlanc said, "sounds will suddenly for him become louder and softer."

His mom, Emily, refuses to let Autism get in the way of what she calls a 'richful life' for her son.

Emily LeBlanc said, "No matter how long it takes we're always looking for a way to get him more functional and more independent and more able to interact with people in the world."

She spent years trying different kinds of therapy, but when Emily heard about music therapist, Carrie Jenkins, she tracked her down.

"When I first made contact with Carrie, she was actually still getting her masters at school... so I think I waited.... was it a year or two years," Emily said.

It was worth the wait and after one session with Daniel, something clicked.

Carrie Jenkins said, "we actually wrote a song about himself and you know he wrote that he was a person with high functioning autism that he wants to be an animator when he grows up."

"I really really liked that he enjoyed it so much. I felt very hopeful that there would be good rapport between them and a real chance for some improvement," Emily said.

Singing, drawing, and playing a couple of classics like "Devil In Disguise by Elvis Presley... I also like Suspicious Minds by Elvis Presley," Daniel said.

Jenkins works with Daniel each Thursday on skills like eye contact, sentence phrasing, and expression.

Jenkins said, "I'll have him listen to a song and he has to draw a picture along with it to tell me what he is feeling during the song. We're using the music to really get him to engage with other people and be able to express himself."

Emily said mixing music with therapy is changing his quality of life.

Christina Carilla, asked "How does it make you feel?" Daniel replied, "happy".

Slowly, Daniel is learning to feel and express himself in ways that didn't seem possible before.

"It just gives him everyday options to better himself. Socially, emotionally, you know with his drawing, it gives him a chance to you know think out of the box," Jenkins said.

An artist at his core, Daniel is trading the term disability for dreams.

Daniel said, "I'd like to open up my animation business."

Emily said, "I think we all deserve a 'richful' life and it will look different for each person. For someone with a disability, sometimes it's not what the parents dream was but it can be good for them."

Music Therapy of Northwest Arkansas

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