To use the power of music to raise awareness, funds and spirits in the struggle against autism spectrum disorders.
We seek to raise awareness, because true help will not arrive until society at large understands more about this baffling disease, and the life-altering power of early detection and intensive treatment.
We seek to raise funds for the struggle, because the resources on hand are not yet a match for the work to be done.
We seek to raise spirits because the parents involved face an isolating and dispiriting fight. Building a sense of hope, community and more widespread understanding is vital to sustaining and advancing their efforts.
We Sing SOS — Songs of the Spectrum — not only to sound an alarm, but to rally an effective national response.
Why Sing SOS?
The number of children diagnosed with autism spectrum disorders has soared over the last decade. Before 1990, children with autism were so rare that schools did not even count them. A year ago, over 190,000 students were officially categorized as suffering from autism; experts suspect that many thousands more are counted under other headings.
While advocacy groups have won increases in federal spending for research and are raising increasing amounts of money themselves, autism remains a poorly funded disorder compared with rarer childhood conditions. And while schools and pediatricians are doing a better job of finding and treating cases, the CDC estimates that half of affected children are diagnosed after the window of opportunity for most effective treatment has closed, and experts in the field estimate that as many as 80 percent of affected children get treatment that falls short of recommended minimums.
What We Bring To The Cause:
There have been many CDs made for charity. Most of them are collections of songs with no relation to the cause, though there have been a few that include songs that performers have written specifically for those projects. But we know of no other CD that takes a unified set of songs on a specific subject by writers steeped in the experience, and puts them in the hands of some of the best vocalists and song interpreters of their generation.
The songs attempt the impossible: to describe the experience of autism from the point of view of the parent and the child, and to go where that experience goes: into despair, hope, exhaustion, exhilaration, awe, anger, bitterness, determination and gratitude. If there is a single message in the body of work, it's that early intervention and dedicated, relentless treatment can have a genuinely transforming effect. If there's a single purpose, it's to bring listeners inside an experience that is so hard to see and so hard to understand. Autism has been called the "invisible epidemic," and for good reason. For those who are already living it, we hope to offer a mirror. For everyone else, a window. Or better, a doorway.
The CD will include songs recorded by Jackson Browne (with Valerie Carter), Dar Williams, Marshall Crenshaw, Teddy Geiger, Jonatha Brooke, Richard Julian, Dan Bern (with Mike Viola), Don Dixon (with Marti Jones), Olabelle, Christina Courtin, Ari Hest, Kelly Flint and The Cucumbers.
The Story Behind The Music
The project began as a handful of poems John O'Neil scribbled on the train. He emailed some to Jon Fried, the father of his oldest boy's best friend, after overhearing a conversation about unlikely songwriting collaborations. The first batch of songs poured out of Fried's guitar in a rush, and over the next two years a cycle of songs took shape, representing many aspects of the disorder and the challenges families face, expressed in as many musical moods. Others contributing to the song collection, are Deena Shoshkes, Fried's partner in leading The Cucumbers, and John's son Chris, who wrote on the fears and feelings of a sibling of a child with autism.
With nearly two dozen songs in hand, John and Jon decided they could put the songs to work in the fight against autism. They launched SingSOS and sought well known vocal artists who would not only bring the music to life but also inspire interest in the project.
Funds for the project were raised in large part through house concerts where the Jon and Deena performed the songs and John told the story of the songs and the project. In events from New Haven to Los Angeles, the music has never failed to strike a chord. Dr. Ami,Klin, Director of Research at the Yale Child Study Center, joined the SingSOS board after the New Haven concert, saying that in all his time in the field he had never gotten such a strong sense of a family's experience. In Los Angeles, the hostess at one concert interrupted to tell her friends and neighbors, "You have to understand — they're singing my life!" After that event, Dr. Daniel Siegel, an author and psychiatrist at UCLA, offered to arrange for the group to present the material at the 2007 conference of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry in Boston.
Other reactions have been equally meaningful. Jackson Browne recorded "Day After Day," not only because of his sympathy for the cause, but because he found it "deeply spiritual." And one of the many postings on our myspace site capture the impact we hope to have. "Thank you," wrote one single mother of a boy with autism, who was in the midst of a battle with her school district. "I feel less alone."
We believe that autism is a global problem with local solutions. The funds we raise will go to national organizations and local schools and autism service groups, all nonprofits.