Music as Medicine 

with Luke Williams

In this episode of Beautifully Complex, we’re discussing the incredible power of music for those who are neurodivergent with Penny’s son, Luke. Luke shares his personal journey with music, starting from using it as a tool to assist his focus and mental clarity beginning in fourth grade. He also delves into his experience with creating digital music on his iPad and phone. Penny and Luke explore how this particular form of music — with its rhythmic and often heavy nature — has been instrumental in helping Luke regulate his emotions, cope with overwhelm, and ultimately improve his ability to refocus on his schoolwork. They also touch upon how different music genres, including heavy and fast beats, can have a calming effect on neurodivergent individuals. Join us as we dive into the fascinating world of using music to feel better and do better and uncover the beautiful complexity it brings to our lives.
3 key takeaways:
    1. Music can be used as a tool to assist focus and mental clarity, especially for individuals with ADHD or trouble focusing. Fast and complex music types can stimulate the brain and allow it to switch between different elements, utilizing the symptoms of ADHD to the advantage of the music.
    2. Creating digital music can have a calming and soothing effect due to the process of starting with nothing and gradually building something. The feeling of creating something can be very satisfying and help regulate emotions.
    3. Music can also be used to energize and affect moods. Different styles of music can have different impacts on individuals, and heavy, fast beats that might be overwhelming to some can actually be soothing and enjoyable for neurodivergent individuals due to their ability to discern and differentiate each part of the music.

You’ll Learn

  • The benefits of using music as a tool for focusing and clearing your mind, especially for individuals with ADHD.
  • Luke’s personal experience with using music, both as a listener and a musician, and how it has helped him regulate his emotions and improve his focus.
  • The specific apps and programs Luke uses to create his digital music and how you can explore them with your own children.
  • The therapeutic value of creating music, starting from nothing and gradually building something that brings a sense of satisfaction.
  • The power of rhythmic music in regulating the autonomic nervous system and how it can help individuals with neurodiversity, such as ADHD.
  • The unique ability of some neurodiverse individuals to discern and appreciate the intricate details of fast and complex music, which can be soothing and enjoyable for them, in contrast to neurotypicals who may find it overwhelming.
  • The importance of honoring the needs and preferences of neurodivergent children, such as allowing breaks and using music as a tool to help them refocus and succeed in their schoolwork.


Some of the resources may be affiliate links, meaning I receive a commission (at no cost to you) if you use that link to make a purchase.

Today’s Guest

Luke Williams

Luke is a young adult who openly shares about his experience with ADHD and autism. He creates digital music and loves video games, especially VR (virtual reality). His favorite personal characteristic is his ability to make people laugh, including the international characters he brings to life through voice acting, including imitating the accents of Britain, Russia, Australia, and Brooklyn. Listen to Luke’s music on Soundcloud via the icon below. https://soundcloud.com/user-28446203


Luke Williams [00:00:03]: All of these very fast and very complicated and condensed music types are actually better for a brain that has trouble focusing because it actually allows your brain to search between the different things going on to focus between them, and it's very stimulating. It takes a lot of the symptoms of ADHD and uses them to the advantage of the music.

Penny Williams [00:00:31]: Welcome to the Beautifully Complex podcast where I share insights and strategies on parenting neurodivergent kids Straight from the trenches. I'm your host, Penny Williams. I'm a parenting coach, author, and mindset mama, honored to guide you on the journey of raising your atypical kid. Let's get started. Hello, everybody. Welcome back 2 beautifully complex. I am super duper excited to have my kiddo with me, Luke on this episode, and we are gonna talk about music, using music to Help yourself in a lot of different ways. And I'm sure that Luke will share some experiences, And I know that he's going to be sharing some of the tools he uses too.

Penny Williams [00:01:24]: So if you have kiddos who might be interested in this, He is gonna outline what he uses as well in this episode so that you can help your kids try Making some music, listening to music, all the things that he's found super helpful. So why don't we start, Bunny, by Talking about your experience with music. How'd you get started with music?

Luke Williams [00:01:49]: You mean listening or making?

Penny Williams [00:01:51]: Any of it. Where did you start?

Luke Williams [00:01:53]: Well, tracing back my start with listening to music would be very time consuming. But if I were to say when I started using it as a tool Yeah. It was probably about 4th grade when I started using listening to music as tool for assisting focus and mentally clearing myself.

Penny Williams [00:02:16]: Yeah. And that was a long time ago, so you've been doing it for quite some time. Yep. When did you start making your digital music?

Luke Williams [00:02:24]: About 6th grade when I started tampering with some stuff on my iPad that I had for school.

Penny Williams [00:02:31]: I think it was 8th grade, bud.

Luke Williams [00:02:33]: I think it was 6th grade.

Penny Williams [00:02:34]: I don't think we got the iPad until 7th or 8th grade. I think it was when you were at middle school. But that's okay. It doesn't matter, really. And how did you use it? Like, I want people to understand how it's really helped you. So first, maybe explain what you do when you Create. So you were creating digital music on your iPad. What program do you use to do that?

Luke Williams [00:03:01]: It's an app called Launchpad. There's also an app called Groovepad, I think.

Penny Williams [00:03:08]: Mhmm. And so You were using some of the presets in there, right, to create what I call digital music. Some people might know it as, like, Electronic dance music. Right? Yeah. And why did you choose to start making music like that?

Luke Williams [00:03:27]: Because it was very cathartic to me. It was very brain consuming, I guess. Brain consuming? Just really it it took my attention into something that I learned that I enjoyed doing. So it was very easy for me to just lock down and focus on it.

Penny Williams [00:03:46]: Because you really enjoyed it. Yeah. So I wanna help people understand What it was about digital music in particular and the music that you were creating that helped to calm or soothe you, that helped to distract you and help you get regulated. What is it about that particular thing, the process, or the music that you made that you find really helpful?

Luke Williams [00:04:16]: It's definitely something to do with the feeling of creating something. So I start with nothing, and then it it's the kind of feeling of hearing your creation slowly build, and it's a very satisfying process.

Penny Williams [00:04:31]: Oh, yeah. I was thinking about the rhythm of it. That too. Because what I know about brain science is that rhythmic things actually help to regulate Our autonomic nervous system. And I noticed that what your teachers were telling me was that when you were starting to get What we know is dysregulated. When you were starting to get overwhelmed or things were getting difficult, you would take out your iPad and start creating Some beats with it, some digital music. Yeah. And was it hard for you to get back to work when you felt better If you were doing that in school?

Luke Williams [00:05:09]: No. Not really. But I did it, and then I started feeling better. I was able to get back to what I was doing prior to it cause it was just kind of a little distraction from my brain for a little bit.

Penny Williams [00:05:20]: I am so happy that you said that because and I think you recognize this reflecting back into your school experience, a lot of times, parents and teachers get really worried About allowing a kid to sort of take a break from schoolwork, and they worry that you're going to take advantage of it And that you would choose to only do the thing that isn't the schoolwork. So for making music, that's one of the things. You also were allowed to leave the classroom and take breaks if you needed them and not be prodded to go back to class. And we had to fight for a long time for people to get on board with that because they thought, well, if you let a student leave class, they're never gonna go back on their own. But that isn't true. Right? You're getting what you need, but you do wanna succeed. You do wanna follow the rules. You do want to please Your teachers and your parents, and so you were able to use your tool, get what you needed from it, and then get back to Your schoolwork.

Penny Williams [00:06:24]: Right? Right. And that's pretty amazing, especially for a kid with clinical level of distraction, I would say. It's pretty amazing that you're able to say, oh, you know what? I'm feeling pretty good again. I'm feeling like I'm able to do this work. I'm able to be in the classroom. This stuff feels doable now.

Luke Williams [00:06:44]: Right.

Penny Williams [00:06:44]: Yeah. What other ways do you use music? What other ways do you use music to help yourself?

Luke Williams [00:06:51]: Well, depending on what kind of music I'm listening to, it can energize me for certain activities.

Penny Williams [00:06:58]: Yeah. Music can really affect our moods too, so we can use it for that. We can use it to Help us when we're down, but also help us when we're feeling great and to really energize us. Yep. And I think that this Sort of brings up this topic that I always find really amazing with you, which is that really heavy, really fast beats are actually soothing to you. And to me, I literally want to put my hands over my ears, Crawl into a corner and get in the fetal position. It is an assault. Literally, it's like a sensory assault to my system, But you find it soothing.

Penny Williams [00:07:39]: Can you put any words to that at all? Parents listening need to understand that, like, Their kid could be using heavy metal music to actually make themselves feel better and calmer.

Luke Williams [00:07:51]: Well, I'm so very glad that you asked because that is something that I could talk very lengthy for. It's because of the fact that all of these very fast and very complicated and condensed music types are actually better for a brain that has trouble focusing because it actually allows your brain to switch between the different things going on to focus between them, and it's very stimulating. It takes a lot of the symptoms of ADHD and uses them to the advantage of the music. You know? Mhmm. Yeah. Very easy for someone to listen to something that's very fast without neurodiversity and get overwhelmed and very over simulated, but it's also very easy for someone who's neurodiverse to listen to something like, I don't know, camellia, and be able to, like, differentiate each and every part of it. And then that's very soothing to me in particular is being able to discern during each and individual part of a song.

Penny Williams [00:08:57]: Yeah. And that's something else that we do not have in common because you and your dad Can hear every little bit and pull it out and really notice each part of music because, I guess you have those genes. You have those gifts. And I really struggle with that. I just hear it as one thing. It's one whole part Together Right. For the most part. And you guys are able to hear all these different bits and also be able to replicate them very easily.

Penny Williams [00:09:27]: You know, your dad at this point can listen to something on the guitar, or any piece of music and immediately play it on the guitar. Like, there's no Sheet music, he just hears it and then can recreate not recreate it. But

Luke Williams [00:09:39]: Recreate it is a correct word.

Penny Williams [00:09:41]: Well, sort of recreate it, but it sounds the same. He can play it.

Luke Williams [00:09:45]: Reproduce it.

Penny Williams [00:09:46]: Reproduce it. Thank you. And I find that sort of magical because my brain doesn't work that way. And I think it's definitely a gift that you guys have, and it could be something that's more common with neurodivergent brains. I wanna talk a little bit to you about Beat Saber and rhythm games, Because music is tied into those automatically. You know, if you're playing a rhythm game, it's always gonna have music to it. Right?

Luke Williams [00:10:18]: Well, Beat Saber is stimulating for more than just the music.

Penny Williams [00:10:23]: Yes. And you can talk about that. Tell everybody what it is because Most of us old fogey parents probably don't know what it is.

Luke Williams [00:10:29]: Well, Beat Saber, old fogey parents. That's interesting. Beat Saber is a VR game where you have well, with VR, you have 2 controllers, 1 in each hand, and they act as, like, tracking your hands. And beat saber basically a game where you're given 2 lightsabers, and you have to cut blocks in the direction of the arrows on them to the beat of music. It's quite satisfying to do well.

Penny Williams [00:10:55]: And you, let's tell everyone, are one of the most amazing talents At rhythm games that I think exist. It blows my mind To watch you play these games because you are so fast, and you are very accurate. And I can't even begin to imagine how to do it. And we should say, you spend a lot of time doing it. You have a lot of practice. I think I have. You really enjoy it.

Luke Williams [00:11:22]: Thousands of hours recorded on one specific like, game. Yeah. I do play it a lot because it's very satisfying to get better at something and see the progress that you're doing. That's why I do it so much.

Penny Williams [00:11:35]: Yeah. And you're also getting music. Like, you're getting things that help you in different modalities all at one time by doing one thing. You've got the music. You've got the rhythm. You've got the satisfaction of practicing and getting better. It's really fast and really visual, so you've got that stimulation that your ADHD brain craves. Right? So there's so much going on there.

Penny Williams [00:12:01]: It'd be really interesting to have our listeners, their kids to try some of these games and see. I would love to hear from people.

Luke Williams [00:12:08]: Well, it would be very easy for them to start with the games that I do because they're free Mhmm. Except for Beat Saber.

Penny Williams [00:12:15]: Yeah. So name some of the games that you use that are free.

Luke Williams [00:12:18]: Well, there's a game on Roblox. It's called Friday night blocks, and it's the rhythm game that I play the most probably.

Penny Williams [00:12:26]: Is that the one I've watched you play?

Luke Williams [00:12:28]: Yes. Several times.

Penny Williams [00:12:30]: Yeah. You're very good at that game.

Luke Williams [00:12:32]: Yes. There is just the game Friday night funkin and the absolute ocean of content for that game. Friday night pumpkin? Funkin, f u n k I n. Funkin. Thank you.

Penny Williams [00:12:48]: We're gonna link them up in the show notes too for everybody.

Luke Williams [00:12:51]: Okay. Well, that one would be difficult to link because it's a lot of independent content. So maybe skip linking that one.

Penny Williams [00:12:58]: We'll put the name out there so they can understand what we're saying and find it themselves.

Luke Williams [00:13:03]: Okay.

Penny Williams [00:13:04]: Are there others?

Luke Williams [00:13:05]: Quaver, q u a v e r, which is free on Steam.

Penny Williams [00:13:10]: Nice. That's a good sampling for people to get started with if they want to.

Luke Williams [00:13:14]: Yep.

Penny Williams [00:13:15]: And I would guess that some of our adults listening might find these games really fun and entertaining and soothing or energizing as well.

Luke Williams [00:13:22]: They might. The competitive scene for a lot of rhythm games is actually mostly adults. So

Penny Williams [00:13:29]: Nice. Yeah. So cool. So that's bringing the music in and other things in. So there's one more way that you use music that we haven't talked about yet. You are learning to play instruments. Correct?

Luke Williams [00:13:44]: Guitar. I'm learning to play guitar.

Penny Williams [00:13:46]: Guitar right now? Mhmm.

Luke Williams [00:13:48]: Yes.

Penny Williams [00:13:49]: And are you enjoying it? I am. Is it challenging?

Luke Williams [00:13:52]: Satisfying. Yes. It is quite challenging. Mhmm. But it's very satisfying to get something right, and then you hear it come together. All of the parts and pieces come together, and it's like, hey. That kinda sounds like music.

Penny Williams [00:14:04]: Yeah. It's really cool, right, to create things. A lot of what you're talking about is creativity, being able to use your creativity and actually see what comes of it, what you produce with it. Which reminds me too, for a long time, you were taking music lessons that were more around music production

Luke Williams [00:14:22]: Yeah.

Penny Williams [00:14:23]: And That sort of thing. Right? And you enjoyed that too, I think. Yeah. Yeah. We're really lucky to find someone locally that does music lessons in that Field, like engineering, sound engineering.

Luke Williams [00:14:36]: Yeah. He's awesome.

Penny Williams [00:14:37]: Yeah. And he's also teaching you guitar. He knows a lot of things, so you've been able to stick with him for a long time, But also be able to test out some other stuff. You've tried a little bit, drum, Banjo.

Luke Williams [00:14:52]: A little bit piano.

Penny Williams [00:14:53]: Piano. But guitar seems to be the one that you have sort of really connected with, at least right now. You seem more excited about that than some of the other things you've tried. So it'll be really fun to see you learn more and more and be able to play. Someday, you can play like that, and you guys can have, solo offs or whatever they call them. You both can shred your guitars At each other.

Luke Williams [00:15:19]: I don't think I've heard of that one.

Penny Williams [00:15:21]: Yeah. I'm just being silly. Anyway, so I think that we've covered a lot of the ways that you use music. It's been a big part of your life for quite a while. Right? Guitars. Yeah. So we've got the fact that sometimes it's just helpful to listen for your mood or your energy level. Right? We've talked about how the rhythm and creating dance music and beats can be really regulating.

Penny Williams [00:15:51]: And we've talked about how just the creativity part of it is really satisfying for creative brains like yours. And I think you wanted to do this topic with me for the podcast. And I think that the reason for that is just because It has been such a big part of your life, but it's also really been very helpful to you in a lot of different ways, right, in a lot of different environments, At school, at home, when we are out places where the environment might have been overwhelming, you always have headphones with you. Phones with you. You always have music going. Yeah. Yeah. So, you know, I think you wanted to do this so that you could really encourage other kids And their parents to allow them to have some music playing in the background, experiment with different types of music, And talk about how different types of music make them feel.

Penny Williams [00:16:46]: Right? Is that a good place to start? Yeah. Yeah. And then play rhythm games or Create digital music electronically. Like, there's lots of ways to experiment these days that don't really cost much money as long as you have An iPad, right, or even a phone. Is there a mini version of Launchpad or something that you could do on a phone maybe?

Luke Williams [00:17:07]: I do do it on the phone.

Penny Williams [00:17:09]: You do?

Luke Williams [00:17:10]: The thing about Launchpad is it's only on Apple products. Nah. If you want something similar to Launchpad that's on all products Mhmm. Is something called GroovePAD, which is very similar to it. Alright.

Penny Williams [00:17:21]: Well, we're gonna link all of the stuff up that you talked about So people have easy access and reminders to exactly what it is that you have liked and might recommend to others. And all of that will be in the show notes at parentingadhdandautism.com/238 For episode 238, I do wanna mention also, before we close, that you also really enjoy voice acting.

Luke Williams [00:17:49]: Yes.

Penny Williams [00:17:50]: And making voices. And I think this correlates some because it is creative. You are creating something. It gives you an outlet, and it's also, you know, connected to sound engineering and production. And I think that you are hoping that you can make a career out of voice over and voice acting. Yeah. And so I would encourage The parents to talk about that with their kids too. What Luke started out doing was having all these different people inside of him that would come out sometimes invoices.

Penny Williams [00:18:25]: So we had the Russian. We have the Brooklyn guy. We have what else have you had over the years? There's so many.

Luke Williams [00:18:33]: The British one.

Penny Williams [00:18:34]: British. Yes. You have a great British accent. It just blows my mind every time you do it. I am shocked Yeah. That anybody can do accents, really, that aren't their own. But yeah. So, you know, I think, really, The crux of this conversation is to take the creative interest that your kid has and let them run with it.

Penny Williams [00:18:56]: Give them opportunities to try all sorts of different things and also be open to having music play a larger role in their lives. You agree with that?

Luke Williams [00:19:07]: Yes.

Penny Williams [00:19:08]: Anything else you wanna tell the people listening?

Luke Williams [00:19:11]: I would love to invite anyone listening to join me in the Roblox game that I mentioned. There will be a link labeled as the private server, where whenever I'm on, you could click that link and join me.

Penny Williams [00:19:26]: So you could play the game against each other. Right? Yes. The adults listening, Their kids, anyone. You're open to anyone? Yeah. Awesome.

Luke Williams [00:19:34]: Anyone can join. All you have to do is make a Roblox account. That's it.

Penny Williams [00:19:38]: Sounds so fun. Maybe I need to do that one day.

Luke Williams [00:19:43]: I'd love that.

Penny Williams [00:19:44]: You will Pound me to the ground.

Luke Williams [00:19:46]: I've pound most people in that game. But

Penny Williams [00:19:49]: I know. It's just crazy.

Luke Williams [00:19:51]: It's about the fun. It's not about winning.

Penny Williams [00:19:53]: Exactly. Clip when it's about winning. Oh, you're hilarious. You're hilarious. Well, thanks, buddy, for doing this.

Luke Williams [00:20:00]: Of course.

Penny Williams [00:20:00]: I know everybody listening really appreciates Every time that you offer your insights because we get an insider's view that way. Right? Some of us aren't neurodivergent or aren't Neurodivergent in the same way. So we don't necessarily understand what's going on in our kids' heads. And when folks like you are open and you take the time to share, it It really helps us understand our kids so that we can do better for them. So I'm so so grateful when you are on the podcast or on a summit, And I know that all the people listening are really grateful too. With that, we are at the end of this episode, and I will see everyone next time. Take good care. Thanks for joining me on the Beautifully Complex podcast.

Penny Williams [00:20:45]: If you enjoyed this episode, please subscribe and share, And don't forget to check out my online courses and parent coaching at parentingADHDandautism.com And at thebehaviorrevolution.com.

Thanks for joining me!

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