Jennifer Iverson and Alejandro Cueto Featured in UChicago News Article

UChicago Assoc. Prof. Jennifer Iverson (center), director of the school’s Music Sociality program, participates in a drumming session with City Elementary students, led by autism advocate Victoria Boateng (left).


Jennifer Iverson, Associate Professor in the Department of Music, and Alejandro Cueto, graduate student in the Department of Music, were both featured in a recent UChicago News article titled "UChicago student volunteers foster creativity and belonging at South Side school." The article, written by Benjamin Ransom, highlights the roles music and medicine play in neurodiverse student education. 

The article focuses on UChicago partnership programs with City Elementary, a school in the Kenwood neighborhood. One such program is called the Music Sociality program. Led by Prof. Jennifer Iverson, this program "leverages collaborative and discussion-based activities to improve social skills in a fun and welcoming environment."

Alejandro Cueto, a teacher in the program, emphasizes that music as an inherently communal practice makes it well-suited for neurodiverse education: "There’s so much nonverbal communication, so much collaboration involved throughout the practice. I think teaching in that context with students who are on the spectrum is a cool way to work on social skills in a space where these students are really enthusiastic.”

Iverson points out that collaborating on a song is one great way for autistic children who struggle with turn-taking to practice reciprocal communication and listening. 

“What happens if you don’t like something that your friend does? And how can you express your own opinion, but in a way that still demonstrates kindness for your friend? How can you engage in some position-taking and ask a curious question? These are the complex negotiations that happen when we’re in a musical scenario,” said Iverson.

In addition to supporting neurodiverse students, programs like Music Sociality also provide on-the-ground knowledge of neurodiversity for UChicago students and future professionals.

“We’re training these UChicago students to become adults who are more sensitive to the kinds of access adjustments and environmental adjustments that will make the world a friendlier place for neurodiverse people,” said Iverson.

Read the full article by Benjamin Ransom here