How Cheap Trick Rocker’s Music Is Helping Kids with Autism


The rock band Cheap Trick’s bassist, Tom Peterson and his wife Alison founded the Rock Your Speech Project to help kids with autism through the gift of music. Alison says, “My 8-year-old son is a smart, kind, non-verbal autistic child who struggles mightily to express what he’s thinking. It hurts my heart to see him grow increasingly frustrated as he attempts speech or typing, but due to motor skills, sensory overload, or other processing problems, he can’t ask for simple things much less express his complex thoughts and feelings.”

Like many other parents of autistic kids, you have probably tried all sorts of methods—sign language, picture cards, iPad apps with picture icons, video speech programs, speech therapy, and RPM, all to varying degrees of success. You may still be looking for the right fit, or perhaps you are amongst the lucky ones who have found it, but this new Rock Your Speech project to help kids “find their voices through music” is one we’re excited about!

Rock Your Speech is a CD and video program that has helped the Peterson’s 7-year-old autistic son start to speak. The way it works is simple—according to their website: “Rock Your Speech uses songs and lyric videos to build language skills in children with autism. [The music includes] useful phrases and sounds, such as “I’m hungry,” “What’s your name” or “I don’t feel good.” Repetition techniques teach language simply and literally, and since it’s truly rock and roll, the music appeals to all ages.”

“As a toddler, Liam (Peterson’s son) was fascinated with computers, electronics and music. He learned to navigate iTunes, and we saw what a huge motivation music was for him. He learned his first words from listening to his favorite songs. When we saw that music encouraged him to vocalize, we started brainstorming how we could use it to help him learn to speak. I started to keep a journal about all the things I wanted Liam to learn to talk to us about – basic things like “I’m hungry”, “I’m tired”, or “I don’t feel good.” We incorporated these themes into rock songs that don’t sound childlike, but teach language in a very simplified and literal way. We wanted to use just enough words and lots of repetition, just like we do in speech therapy. One of the first songs we recorded was “What’s Your Name,” and an amazing thing happened. Liam started to ask everyone he saw, ‘What’s your name?'”