I’m the father of a 15-year-old son with severe autism.
At this age, educational goals are focused around “life skills.” Educators asked my wife and I, “What did we want our son to ‘be’ when he grew up?” There aren’t many jobs for people with special needs—un-employment rates for autistic adults
are close to 90%
I wish I had a craftsman’s skill to pass on to my son—carpentry or cabinet-making. But the best I can offer him is my knowledge of guitars and basses. I’ve been taking guitars apart and putting them back together since I was a teenager, and I’ve made several instruments for friends and family. It may/will take years, but I think I can teach my son to do the same.
Guitar-building (I wouldn’t call us luthiers yet!) is about precise adjustments, something my son, and other individuals with autism, excel at. It also requires hours of repetitive work—sanding, buffing, polishing—tasks that you or I might find tedious, yet can be calming to special needs individuals. Music. Patience. Mindfulness. Purpose. These are things I want to foster in both myself and my children.
Watching paint dry…and stain penetrate
It may take a while, but, with luck, my son will not only learn a viable skill, but our business will grow to a point where we can hire additional special needs employees to craft instruments along with us. I think of the young men and women my son plays hockey and baseball with—what kind of jobs will be available to them once they finish school? What about the kids in my son’s class? What about all the special needs kids he doesn’t go to school with? That’s a lot of young people who need a place to work. I want them to come make guitars and basses with my son and I, and fill the world with art and music!
That’s what It’s Your Guitar is all about—unique, one-of-a-kind instruments, hand-crafted by unique, one-of-kind individuals! Maybe my son will land a job in a music shop some day, the quiet guy in the back who does expert set-ups and repairs. Or maybe he’ll run a vast, guitar-making empire! Either way, we’re creating beautiful musical instruments—ain’t nothin’ wrong with that!