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Living With Disability,
Colton Expresses Himself Through Music

 

Eleven-year-old Colton McCurdy didn’t have an easy start in the world. Born four months early at about 1 pound 3 ounces, he had plenty of challenges ahead of him. In addition, both his retinas were detached and by age three, he was fully blind.

But if Colton’s eyes fall short, his ears give him wings. When he was a toddler, Colton’s parents got him a child’s five-key keyboard. They quickly realized he had great rhythm and could even copy back songs they would play for him at only two years old.

We could tell he had a knack for it, Colton’s father, Andy McCurdy, said. I think a lot of us are distracted by vision, but he doesn’t have that distraction.

As he continued to discover music, it became clear that knack was an understatement. Eager to help Colton learn the fundamentals of music, the McCurdy’s let him try his hand at various instruments. At his first violin lesson, the teacher plucked a string and informed him it was a G.

No, Colton said. That’s a G-Flat.

And sure enough, the tuner proved him right.

Colton has also been diagnosed on the autism spectrum, which has led to difficulty socializing and making friends as he’s gotten older. But music has been with him the entire time. He records his own music and burns it to CDs he can listen to. He recorded an album of relaxing music to listen to while he sleeps. He recorded a set of exciting tunes to pump himself up while he jumps on his trampoline. And his favorite hobby is to play the different keyboards at Ted Brown Music in Puyallup on Saturdays.

They let him make all the noise he wants and have his time to experiment, Andy said. That’s his version of playing. He’s able to express his emotions through music, and if he’s having a bad day or he’s upset, he can come here to deal with it. It’s something he looks forward to all week, and the staff being so welcoming and kind to him when he comes here has been huge.

In the life of a child living with disability, especially visual impairment, music can make all the difference in the world. The McCurdy’s enrolled Colton in Cub Scouts for a while, but it eventually became too vision-based, and it was difficult for him to keep up.

When playing music, there are no limits for him, Andy said. I always think about how many kids with disabilities, especially kids who are blind or visually impaired, might have this gift but have never been exposed to it.

The freedom Colton finds in music speaks to why we do what we do. No matter one’s background or level of ability, the joy of self-expression through music is unparalleled, and we’re grateful to play a role in Colton’s story.

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