Voices From The Spectrum – Meet Sammy Marcus

          Today let’s meet Sammy Marcus, a musical genius on the autism spectrum. I hope you are as inspired as I am by getting to know Sammy and his amazing parents, Marcus and Annamma and his sister, Tobey. Let’s start by talking to  his parents first.
  Q) Tell us about how your journey in the autism world began and the initial years.   
             Our Journey with Sammy had been a long one it started on that morning while as a family we were on a vacation with some friends in Mussoorie , Utharakhand .As we were having our breakfast and extended  time of fellowship out in the lawn our 6 year old  daughter  Tobey Ann was playing near us  but Sammy our son just 4 year old went to the nearby woods and alone wandering around looking at the trees listening to the birds singing etc..Since he was a little bit far off from our sight ,we began to be panic and called for him and searched for him but no answer from him and could not be found then finally we found him and observed that there was -no expressions or reactions on his face. He was just care free and pre-occupied with all the sceneries and sounds around him. So our friends asked if he was having any hearing problem or he would like to be alone and so on and they advised us to have an audio test done for him which further taken us to have IQ test done in Lucknow even though there was nothing major with audio and IQ we decided to take advises from some of our friends and contacted a Pediatric Professor and specialist at Ashirvad Centre for Developmental Pediatrics in Madras. This is where for the first time we have heard about Autism Spectrum and through the initial assessment we were told by Dr.M.C.Mathew that Sammy was a child with special needs in Social behaviour, Communication, cognitive learning and he can be helped with some playful therapy. So our journey started in 1991 when Sammy was about four years old.
                       The initial years were stressful as we found him to be alone playing with his toys, listening to music and at times engage with self-talk and hyper activities, unable to make friends with our friend’s children who would come home and struggling to cope in the school with large number of children in the class at the same school where his sister was also studying. So we had to change the school and send him to a small school with lesser number of children and one-on-one learning system.
Q)  How did you discover Sammy’s amazing talent?
                  We have always found him so glued to melodies, rhythms and other soothing sounds. He also had a fascination about musical instruments and try to play or strum it. Once during one of our visits to Ashirvad we told Dr.Mathew about this special interest and then he told us to encourage him to join a choir or play any instrument in a band. As we did this it has come to him naturally to sing, play the guitar and with some basic training to play the Piano or the keyboard.
Q) That’s great, how did you nurture Sammy’s talent ?
             As we discovered this interest in him we started sending him to a Piano teacher to learn the basic Chords and music notations. Thereafter with a little bit of instruction from one of his mentors in western music he self-taught the Guitar. In 2010 as a family we were transferred to Bangalore and there Sammy was able to do a three year Bachelor degree in Music studies at Bangalore Conservatory and complete Piano Major 8th Grade in distance learning from Trinity, London.
Q) You have a wealth of experience as an autism parents, tell us about some important aspects, we should focus on.
          Our advice to all parents with children or adults in  Autism spectrum is please try to get professional assessment and counselling help according to the special need of the individual as early in life as possible, both parents and may be extended family as well be involved in sharing the care giving. Discover the special interest area of the person and find ways to help to enhance the potential in them. Please do not force upon them academic excellence if that is not the area of their interest so art, music, swimming etc..would be a thoughtful option for nonverbal or hyper active individual. We parents have failed in training Sammy in the growing up years to be independent especially in travel, doing shopping, bank transactions etc… May be this is something that you have to focus on as soon as possible.
Thank you so much Marcus & Annamma.
Now let’s meet Sammy Marcus
Q) Tell us about your hobbies and interests Sammy.
                   My hobby is singing and listening to music. I like basketball. I like watching Facebook and listening on YouTube.
Q) You started Ashirvad school of music, tell us about it?
 I started Ashirvad School of Music on 14thMarch this year.  There are 11 students, 7 are regular.
Q) You recently started working part time, Would you like to tell us about it?
          I go to Shraddha Centre for Exceptional Children and teach music two days a week.
Q) That’s great Sammy, you run a music school and also work part time! Tells us about your friends.

 My friends’ name is Narsing Rao, then other is Guru Prasad and Solomon John.
Q) Would you like to share your future plans with us?
                       First, I will be setting up a recording studio, then will be a computer engineer, there after train children and young adults in singing and playing music.
Q) May all your dreams come true Sammy. One last question, what do you think autism parents can do to help their children? 
      If a child has a problem with speech, tell the parents that the child has some special needs and special interest and get training in that particular area. Three important aspects to focus on:
(1)    Communication and language
(2)    Food control
(3)    Making friends with people
                Thank you so much Sammy, God Bless You!
                Sammy has an older sister, Tobey Ann. She shares her experiences of growing up with a sibling on the spectrum as follows:
“ I am a good singer and helped Sammy by coaching him with his vocals. As brother and sister, we could not bully each other as Sammy is very gentle and rarely asserts himself. I was always protective of him and included him with my peers. I, however, missed all the attention I was seeking from my parents.”
    I know after this interview, you are looking forward to watch Sammy playing his music :
Sammy’s interview for newspaper :
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