The bond between parent and child is said to be one of the strongest in nature. The lengths we are willing to go for someone we love seem to be nearly limitless. Conductor Zap Van Zweden usage of music to connect his son Benjamin, who was diagnosed with autism, stands as another shining example of this.
According to CBS News, Van Zweden served as first violinist for the Dutch Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra for twenty-five years. After his succesful career as a violinist, Van Zweden shifted into the role of conductor. It would not be long until he would soon occupy one of the most prestigious posts possible, as conductor for the New York Philharmonic.
When not conducting, Van Zweden spends his time at home with his wife Aaltje and his third son, Benjamin, who was diagnosed with Autism at an early age. According to the Inquisitr, Van Zweden described his son at a young age as being “lost in a routine of repetition, opening and closing gates with remote controls or sitting in a chair, rocking back and forth.” At the time they were told by doctors that Benjamin’s autism was so severe that they recommended he be institutionalized.
Luckily, Van Zweden’s passion for music and desire to share it with son would lead to a breakthrough. Van Zweden talks about how he would often sing children songs to his son, and one day he noticed that when he had forgotten a word on accident and Benjamin got excited. He realized that Benjamin was understanding the songs that they had been singing, and soon Van Zweden began to leave words out on purpose. He encouraged his son to fill in those missing words himself.
The success of this exercise would begin Van Zweden’s entry into the world of autism activism. Van Zweden and his wife Aaltje would go on to start the Papageno Foundation, which offers art and music therapy to children and young adults with autism. As time passed, and their son grew older, the Van Zweden’s recognized the necessity of creating safe living spaces where individuals with autism could stay. The opening of the Papageno House in 2016 allows its residents to have both a safe place to live, and the opportunity to receive the training they need to join the workforce and earn their own living. To this day, Van Zweden ranks the Papageno house as one of his proudest achievements.
Van Zweden’s ability to combine his love for music with his love for his son lead to a breakthrough that would go on to help hundreds of other families who found themselves in a similar situation. The creativity and ingenuity that can comes from a parent searching for what’s best for their child can truly make the world a better place.we at the American Autism Association encourage any of you who are looking for help or advice to contact us through our Help Hotline at 877-654-4483 or via email at [email protected]