Denise A. Marullo-Cook


My daughter was born twelve years ago, as the world doubted it was a good, sound idea. I never doubted it. God gave me a choice, to rejoice in my gift, wrapped in a different package, or to reject it. I chose to rejoice in it.

From early on, my life revolved around music. I sang in choirs, played guitar and piano and soon learned to love the sound and feel of drums.

My life revolved around music. It got me through the tough times of being a teen with undiagnosed depression and bipolar disorder. It kept me from drugs and alcohol. It saved my life. So when my children were showing interest in music, I encouraged it and let the seeds grow. My daughter, with Down Syndrome was no different; she loved music!

Early on, although verbal expression was limited, she expressed joy and excitement through music, particularly congas and other drums. She learned to play guitar quite effortlessly. Soon came the piano, an old church upright I bought for nearly nothing. Then she showed great skills with dance and singing to her then favorite pop star, Hannah Montana.

Before long, she was enjoying jazz, R &B, show tunes and rock. Her verbal ability began to blossom as she sang the words to her favorite songs. Her world opened up and included her with many typically developing peers. Having Native roots, music was ingrained in her soul. The beat of a drum was also a heartbeat, connected by the universe.

When Layiah was nine, autism began its debilitating hold on her. It quickly became evident that Autism was taking over my child's speech, mannerisms and way of life. By the age of eleven, Layiah had regressed so drastically, that she was relearning all she knew from five years of age.

The only constant in her little life was music. Although she forgot much of what she knew musically, the foundation was there. Drums still had a place for her as did moving to the beats of a song.

We have a long road ahead of us, but we'll get there, as music leads the way. Music will indeed bring my child back from the land of autism with help from many, and a determined heart. Music will save my child's life.