Charlie’s incredible progress is music to his mum’s ears

Charlie sitting at the "Travelling Piano" on the Mandurah foreshore, playing enthusiastically

Andrea’s voice quavers with emotion as she describes how her son Charlie surprised her with a very special birthday gift last year.

Ten-year-old Charlie played the classical piece Flight of the Bumblebee during a piano recital in their Secret Harbour home, south of Perth, Western Australia.

It was music he was inspired by while watching YouTube. She had no idea that Charlie had been teaching himself the piece so that he could perform it to her.

“It’s great to get that stage where the brilliance that you see is apparent. In the way that we knew it was always there. We knew though there was something that needed a bit of help,” Andrea said.

Andrea said she noticed that Charlie was not reaching certain developmental milestones when he started kindergarten. A period of early intervention therapies followed, as well as specialist treatment for some medical conditions.

Charlie was diagnosed with autism two years ago and his family connected with APM Communities last year to get help with access to the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS).

APM Communities helps NDIS participants and people with disability to identify and access the support they need. APM Local Area Coordinators (LACs) work directly with people with disability, carers and supporting family members.

Andrea is full of praise for her LAC Cara and the help she gave in accessing the scheme. Prior to joining the NDIS Andrea said accessing therapy was an added expense for the family.

Cara made the process as smooth as possible and effectively communicated with them from the initial application to approval, she said.

“It was the easiest thing that happened to us in the years of helping Charlie. She just made everything simple, easy and all about helping him. It was incredible,” Andrea said.

“Meeting with me, phoning me and talking me through what Charlie could access. Everything has been easy with Cara.”

The family have always had a piano in the home and Charlie had enjoyed tinkering with and they realised that a few months after receiving help he had become “incredible at it”.

“He went from the normal tinkering to ridiculous playing. It happened so quickly,” she said.

Charlie had played on her electric piano which had an in-built tutorial function. He connected with the lessons and the process went from there.

Charlie sitting at his electric piano in the family home

The first song he played was The Entertainer. He heard it and loved it. Then he became addicted to Ragtime. He now creates his own Ragtime,” Andrea said.

The NDIS funds Charlie to have music therapy with a specialist piano teacher in addition to his other funded therapies.

The sessions assist the development of his fine motor skills, and social interaction, while further developing his musical talent.

charlie and his music teacher sitting at the electric piano during a lesson in their home

“Music is the key now. We understand that it makes him happy and helps him to learn. It is a great way of expressing himself,” she said.

Andrea said that one of Charlie’s favourite past times is going down to Mandurah and playing on the travelling piano for passers-by.

“We used to couple it up with the specialist appointments because he hated going. So, we would bribe him with the piano.”

She said the NDIS had helped Charlie find his musical passion and assisted him with pursuing it further.

“He was always able to play but he wasn’t happy. He is now so happy due to getting the support he needed,” she said.

Music is such a significant part of his life that his future schooling will involve a program which caters to his passion.

“He is so much more positive about the future. He is happy now which is such a big thing for us,” Andrea said.

As part of the NDIS Partners in the Community program, APM Communities help people with disability in several regions in Western Australia, Queensland and the Northern Territory to access support.