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#956441 - 04/25/07 06:51 PM Autistic Student - please help!
mbrown Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 04/25/07
Posts: 2
I am a piano teacher with almost 15 years teaching experience and I've recently agreed to take on a 7 year old child with autism and language delay; my first special needs piano student. I am having a difficult time finding suggestions/materials/advice on how to structure the lessons for a child with these challenges.

I had my first lesson with her last week and it was much more difficult than I had anticipated. I did research online beforehand and had read that starting special needs children with pre-school age piano lesson materials is a good idea, such as the Alfred's Piano Party lesson series for very young children. Also, I tried to think of very basic exercises to start her with, such as showing her a picture of a frog and of a bird and associating the low sounds of the keyboard with the frog and the high sounds with the bird. I then tried to ask her to play all the groups of twos on the keyboard, etc. Everything though seemed too overwhelming and confusing for her. Her greatest difficulty was focusing and concentrating and she would get frustrated very easily, and none of my simple exercises seemed to communicate well with her or interest her.

I'm hoping someone can shed light on what techniques are good to help focus autistic/language delay children and what other approaches I might try at the piano with her? I would love to help her develop musically at the piano but I'm currently at a loss of how to do this.

Thanks in advance for your help.

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#956442 - 04/26/07 11:13 AM Re: Autistic Student - please help!
pianolady14 Offline
Full Member

Registered: 04/26/07
Posts: 131
Hi- I'm new here but am very interested in this post since I have taught many special-needs children. Most are classmates of my autistic son. Most autistic children (but not all!) are extremely visual learners. For example, I do a similar high/low sound exercise (I use elephants and birdies) but I put a picture of the animal on the music rack. Before asking for "groups of two" I would put a picture of this up for her. Tactile prompts have also helped me. For example, I have the student play with a silk scarf when I talk about legato, and a comb for staccato. I use a small piece of picket fence to illustrate quarter notes. Since this student is very active, I would explore having 2 15-minute lessons per week or at least breaking up lessons with frequent movement breaks. I hope this is helpful to you! Debbie
_________________________
Piano teacher since 1995

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#956443 - 04/26/07 11:14 AM Re: Autistic Student - please help!
pianolady14 Offline
Full Member

Registered: 04/26/07
Posts: 131
Sorry, I just reread your post and realized you're already using pictures. Great idea!
_________________________
Piano teacher since 1995

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#956444 - 04/26/07 11:30 AM Re: Autistic Student - please help!
Gyro Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/24/05
Posts: 4533
I saw a program on tv recently that showed
that all autistic individuals are completely
normal intellectually, that is, they know
exactly what's going on in the world and
understand everything that they hear and
see. However, the problem is that they
are unable to communicate with other
people and are thus left isolated in
society.

This should be kept in mind when
teaching an autistic student. The
student knows exactly what is going on
and understands everything you say.
Therefore, teaching her on a level of a
3 yr. old would be very insulting.
Teaching at the level of a 7 yr. old or
higher would be more appropriate. But of
course there is still the communication
problem, which you'll somehow need to
overcome.

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#956445 - 04/26/07 11:41 AM Re: Autistic Student - please help!
pianolady14 Offline
Full Member

Registered: 04/26/07
Posts: 131
I would agree with this in principal, and I agree that age-appropriate instruction is important. However, a very large percentage of autistic children have secondary diagnoses. For example, an autistic child with mental retardation would be considered primarily autistic. In these cases, we need to also consider the secondary diagnosis. Other common co-morbidities are obsessive-compulsive disorder, oppositional defiance disorder, ADHD, depression, and seizure disorders.
_________________________
Piano teacher since 1995

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#956446 - 04/26/07 11:51 AM Re: Autistic Student - please help!
Gyro Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/24/05
Posts: 4533
Autistic individuals are not retarded.
Their inablility to communicate is
diagnosed as being retarded, but these
so-called retarded people are just as
smart as anyone else and understand everything
that is going on around them. Their
problem is an inability to communicate.
This would be like the brain of a Liszt
in the body of a clam.

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#956447 - 04/26/07 11:55 AM Re: Autistic Student - please help!
Monica K. Offline

Platinum Supporter until Dec 31 2012


Registered: 08/10/05
Posts: 17809
Loc: Lexington, Kentucky
 Quote:
Originally posted by Gyro:
I saw a program on tv recently that showed
that all autistic individuals are completely
normal intellectually, that is, they know
exactly what's going on in the world and
understand everything that they hear and
see. However, the problem is that they
are unable to communicate with other
people and are thus left isolated in
society.[/b]
[puts on psychology professor hat] Gyro, with all due respect, that television show was a crock.

Most autistic children have both expressive (communicating to others) AND receptive (understanding what is being said) language difficulties.

mbrown, it might be helpful to know where exactly on the autism spectrum the student lies. I would teach a child with Asperger's, say, differently than a child with autism proper. You may also want to ask what other therapies the child is currently receiving. If she's in an ABA program, for example, she will be used to working for and receiving small reinforcers (cookies, M&Ms, or other small treat), and you might be able to incorporate the use of reinforcers in your lessons.
_________________________
Mason & Hamlin A -- 91997
My YouTube channel: http://www.youtube.com/pianomonica

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#956448 - 04/26/07 12:07 PM Re: Autistic Student - please help!
pianolady14 Offline
Full Member

Registered: 04/26/07
Posts: 131
Gyro, I have to agree, both from professional experience (I have a Special Ed. degree) and from living it (my son and niece are autistic) that that TV show, although well-intentioned, failed to accurately portray autism. My son has high-functioning autism. Although he is completely verbal, at age 14 he is completely unable to memorize addition facts, understand multiplication concepts, or distinguish the washer from the dryer. (However, he can quite easily beat all of us at Star Wars Trivial Pursuit!) My niece, at age 15, is totally nonverbal, tantrums when not permitted to watch shows such as "The Little Mermaid", and prefers Fisher-Price toys to age-appropriate activities.

I think we need to exercise great caution when confronted with simplistic explanations for any mystery in life, and autism, in spite of much research, is still a very mysterious condition.
_________________________
Piano teacher since 1995

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#956449 - 04/26/07 12:25 PM Re: Autistic Student - please help!
Gyro Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/24/05
Posts: 4533
If someone is unable to communicate
with others, that by definition
in our society is being retarded, but
what the television program (this is
the one with the autistic student,
formerly considered hopelessly retarded,
who is in college now--she is still
unable to communicate verbally and
must painstakingly type out her thoughts
on a laptop with much physical assistance,
and restraint, from a mentor; the assistance
is physical only and the thoughts are
the person's own) showed is that behind
the communication barrier is a completely
normal human, intellectually and emotionally.

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#956450 - 04/26/07 12:35 PM Re: Autistic Student - please help!
Gyro Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/24/05
Posts: 4533
If someone is unable to communicate
with others, that by definition
in our society is being retarded, but
what the television program (this is
the one with the autistic student,
formerly considered hopelessly retarded,
who is in college now--she is still
unable to communicate verbally and
must painstakingly type out her thoughts
on a laptop with much physical assistance,
and restraint, from a mentor; the assistance
is physical only and the thoughts are
the person's own) showed is that behind
the communication barrier is a completely
normal human, intellectually and emotionally.

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#956451 - 04/26/07 12:40 PM Re: Autistic Student - please help!
pianolady14 Offline
Full Member

Registered: 04/26/07
Posts: 131
Well, the clinical definition of mental retardation differs signicantly from yours, but the question presented was about teaching techniques. Rather than dispute your obviously vast knowledge of autism, perhaps we should address ourselves to the question at hand. How would you teach this student?
_________________________
Piano teacher since 1995

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#956452 - 04/26/07 01:25 PM Re: Autistic Student - please help!
pianolady14 Offline
Full Member

Registered: 04/26/07
Posts: 131
If you can tolerate one more post from me --- here it is: autistic children, even high-functioning ones, take a very long time to adjust to new situations. It is probable that the stress of meeting you, seeing your studio, listening to you talk, etc. completely overwhelmed her to the point that it was impossible for her to attend to you. I would suggest that you just sit with her away from the piano, speak quietly, and maybe show her one of the books you had in mind. (I only use one book at a time.) I have offered several books to students and watched them carefully for reaction. Sometimes they just like to look at them for awhile and take things in. I would introduce the piano in a very laid-back way. I have had entire lessons with some students with both of just playing random notes/chords. I like to eventually work into a "duet" with me playing I-IV-V7 chords in Eb and them playing any black keys. I have had some very rewarding teaching experiences with autistic students and these students play in my recitals, which I find helps to foster an "attitude of gratitude" in some of my other students.
_________________________
Piano teacher since 1995

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#956453 - 04/26/07 01:38 PM Re: Autistic Student - please help!
pianobuff Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/09/06
Posts: 1580
Loc: Pacific Northwest
I like to express immense kudos to mbrown to take on such a student and want the best for him/her.

Pianolady14 and other parents/relatives of autistic children deserve much praise for their enduring patience and love in dealing with this disease/disorder. It must not be easy!

I had a student who must of been autistic, although it was not yet diagnosed, the parents were leaning toward him having Asperger Syndrome.

I did not use anything visually. Except for the patterns on the keyboard. I teach by ear and demonstration at the beginning of their studies in piano. Although he would burst into tantrums for no reason even before the lesson, after the lesson, during... perhaps without prediction. Some days (very few) he was attentive and perfectly fine. Loved to talk to me *after* the lesson. We kept lessons short. He learned very quickly. But his behaviour was too much for me to handle, particularly because there was no formal diagnosis. Therefore, I was unsure of why he behaved the way he did and because of no diagnosis, I did not have the tools to know how to teach this child.

The parent beat me to the punch and called me to tell me that he just seemed not ready for lessons. Of course, I agreed. And that was the end of that. Although, I do still think of him and hope they have found the problem and are dealing with it the best they can.

Back to mbrowns question. Personally, I feel not equipped to take on an autistic child. I am not a special ed teacher. There is still, please tell me if I am wrong, but there is still little known of this disease and what tools a teacher can use to help the child.

Have you talked to the parents, regarding what tools are best for their child in regards to learning piano? Can you talk to the child's therapist or doctor with the parents permission? This is what I would do, if I was to take on a student again, with obvious behaviour issues. I would also make sure there is a diagnosis, otherwise the teacher and parent are completely at a loss.

Good luck and keep us posted!
_________________________
Private Piano Teacher,
member MTNA and Piano Basics Foundation

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#956454 - 04/26/07 01:40 PM Re: Autistic Student - please help!
Gyro Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/24/05
Posts: 4533
I would teach at the 7 yr. old level or
higher, which would be something like
John Thompson's Teaching Little Fingers
to Play, followed by the grade 1 book--
or the equivalent. No frog imitations
or handing out treats like animal trainers
do, that would be very insulting
to a 7 yr. old (is it any wonder
that autistic students have so many
behavioral problems when they
are constantly being treated like
infants or worse).

This student is intellectually normal,
the problem is one of communication,
which is not to be minimized in an
autistic situation. Here you have
a normal human brain in what is almost
a non-human container by our society's
standards. This brings to mind the
research done on gorillas. They apparently
have human-like intelligence, but
of course the problem is one of
communication: they are unable, or
see no reason, to communicate with
humans and must do so by jury-rigged
means like computers or sign language
--a gorilla might be able to learn
to multiply or how to use a washer
and dryer, but they (wisely) see no
benefit from this and thus decline to
learn.

With this student I would teach like
you would teach any 7 yr. old, with
maybe more hand upon hand guidance. It
might be difficult in the beginning,
but the student should soon catch on,
if she sees that she's being treated
like a normal human being.

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#956455 - 04/26/07 02:20 PM Re: Autistic Student - please help!
Monica K. Offline

Platinum Supporter until Dec 31 2012


Registered: 08/10/05
Posts: 17809
Loc: Lexington, Kentucky
Gyro, I'm not often at a loss for words, but your posts really have me grappling where to start. I realize there is no convincing you, but I am concerned about what other people reading this thread might think. So let me just summarize a few notes of contention. I am writing this as a person with a Ph.D. in psychology and as the mother of a son on the autism spectrum. I have read literally dozens of books and articles on autism spectrum disorders. I would be curious to hear what your source of knowledge of autism spectrum disorders is, other than the aforementioned TV show. :rolleyes:

1.) People on the autism spectrum are not[/b] "completely normal intellectually and emotionally."

2.) While some individuals on the spectrum have normal or above-normal intelligence, the concordance of autism and mental retardation is very high.

3.) The technique of communication you observed in the TV show is called "facilitated communication," and there is considerable evidence that this method is ineffective and that the "mentors" as you called them are subtly influencing the autistic individual's responses. [edit: here's a resolution adopted by the APA on the controversy.]

4.) ABA programs (Applied Behavioral Analysis, or "handing out treats like an animal trainer") are the only[/b] empirically validated treatment programs shown to yield significant improvement in autistic children. They tend to be most useful and effective in children with relatively severe autism, which is why I was asking where on the spectrum mbrown's student lies.

mbrown, in a probably futile attempt to get your thread back on track, I agree with pianolady's point that many autistic children have a hard time with transitions and changes in routine. What often is helpful is to create a visual schedule for the lesson (using pictures as well as words, if possible). When the student comes in, you can point to the schedule and say "here is what we're going to do today. We'll start off with X, then do Y, and finish with Z." Then as you do each component, pick up a marker and cross it off the schedule. Keeping the schedule as similar as possible across weeks may also help.

good luck!
_________________________
Mason & Hamlin A -- 91997
My YouTube channel: http://www.youtube.com/pianomonica

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#956456 - 04/26/07 02:25 PM Re: Autistic Student - please help!
U S A P T Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/20/06
Posts: 1645
Loc: An Indiana University
(Nervously wondering how people can still believe that something they see on TV is indisputable fact).
_________________________
Full-Time Music/Entrepreneurship Major: (Why not compose music AND businesses?)
Former Piano Industry Professional
************
Steinway M
Roland Atelier AT90R
************
All Posts are Snarky Unless Otherwise Noted
************

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#956457 - 04/26/07 02:29 PM Re: Autistic Student - please help!
Piano*Dad Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/12/05
Posts: 10406
Loc: Williamsburg, VA
Monica,

Let me be more succint:

Gyro, you reveal your ignorance with each post. You also reveal your inability to question yourself in the face of evidence and argument that does not support the conclusions you have already reached ....conclusions reached on the basis of watching a television show.
_________________________
Grotrian 192 #156455

https://www.youtube.com/user/dhfeld/videos

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#956458 - 04/26/07 02:54 PM Re: Autistic Student - please help!
Monica K. Offline

Platinum Supporter until Dec 31 2012


Registered: 08/10/05
Posts: 17809
Loc: Lexington, Kentucky
 Quote:
Originally posted by Piano*Dad:
Monica,

Let me be more succint:
[/b]
er...yes...I guess I wasn't as much at a loss for words as I had originally stated. Sorry about that folks.

...but I do have one other piece of advice. I just re-read Gyro's teaching tips for children with autism, and I need to voice disagreement about one other strategy he suggested, which was greater hand on hand guidance. Many children on the spectrum are actually hypersensitive to physical contact and would resist being touched, or even having the teacher sit closely to them on a duet bench, say.
_________________________
Mason & Hamlin A -- 91997
My YouTube channel: http://www.youtube.com/pianomonica

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#956459 - 04/26/07 03:01 PM Re: Autistic Student - please help!
Piano&Flute Offline
Full Member

Registered: 09/30/06
Posts: 384
Loc: Alberta, Canada
I have nothing to add to this thread except to say that aside from some aforementioned posts I am following with great interest.

At the risk of generalizing I think almost every music teacher sees music lessons as something very benificial to all children, but especially ones with additional challenges. My meagre background of first and second year psycology courses didn't prepare me at all to work with special needs students and I have learned a lot from Monica's and now Pianolady's posts.

A music therapist would probably be the most suitable teacher in these cases however these can be very hard to find, which leaves regular music teacher with usually no expertise in this area scrambling.

I should also add that having the parents full honesty and support is important. I have had parents of autistic students be very upfront and provide a lot of helpful information on how to best teach their child, and I have had parents not tell me that their child even has autism. Huge difference in the quality of the lessons in each situation.

Pianolady and Monica, I am curious if you have any favorite book series or visual aids that you think work best with autistic students.

Thanks,
Stephanie
_________________________
Registered Private Piano and Flute Teacher

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#956460 - 04/26/07 03:09 PM Re: Autistic Student - please help!
mbrown Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 04/25/07
Posts: 2
Thank you pianolady and Monica for your great feedback and helpful lesson plan suggestions. I really appreciate the specific activity plans you suggested.

To answer an earlier question, the student's mother offered the following regarding the girl's abilities given her language delay/autism diagnosis: "she knows her ABCs, can read about 40 words (such as the, boy, girl, yellow, little etc.). She works well if shown a picture or hand over hand. She can say sentences, like, Put the coat on. I want juice. Let's go skate. Sing a song. etc. When she does not want to do something, if you start counting --she will stay with it--it is as if she sees there is an end point. For example, her swim teacher says kick 20 times and she will kick more readily if there is counting. She can count to 50, by 2s to 20, by 5s to 100 and by 10s to 100--she can also add numbers up to 10. Oral instructions work only after a lot of hand over hand and repetition. Once she understands, she won't need prompts or gestures."

Again, I appreciate the informative responses to this thread and hope the dialogue can continue. I can send periodic updates of the progress we make in the lessons and any helpful discoveries I make along the way. Please continue to update me as well with ideas for games, techniques, etc that would be useful. I will be out of town the next couple weeks but look forward to checking back in when I return. Thanks again.

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#956461 - 04/26/07 03:10 PM Re: Autistic Student - please help!
Monica K. Offline

Platinum Supporter until Dec 31 2012


Registered: 08/10/05
Posts: 17809
Loc: Lexington, Kentucky
Stephanie, nothing involving music education specifically comes to mind. Carol Gray's "Social Stories" can be very useful, and she describes a methodology for creating your own social stories that you could perhaps adapt to a piano lesson context. Essentially you draw a comic book type story where you outline the expected behavior in a given context, e.g., you could have a "going to McDonald's" social story where you show a customer standing politely in line, giving his order, paying for the food, taking his food, eating at a table, throwing the trash away, etc. It's a way of communicating all the routines of daily life that we soak up unconsciously and take for granted but that many people with autism find mystifying.

Depending on your artistic talents, it could be easy/fun to adapt this procedure to piano lessons, or it could be just too much effort. \:D
_________________________
Mason & Hamlin A -- 91997
My YouTube channel: http://www.youtube.com/pianomonica

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#956462 - 04/26/07 03:29 PM Re: Autistic Student - please help!
pianobuff Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/09/06
Posts: 1580
Loc: Pacific Northwest
mbrown,

What do you mean by hand over hand?

Would anyone else know?

I have to agree with Monica. Students that I have had where I have suspected a disorder such as autism, did not like to be touched. They even had a hard time with the feel of the keys on their fingers.

Very difficult situation for a piano teacher.
_________________________
Private Piano Teacher,
member MTNA and Piano Basics Foundation

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#956463 - 04/26/07 03:54 PM Re: Autistic Student - please help!
bellspiano Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/25/04
Posts: 516
Loc: Boston, MA
I am so impressed with MBrown's hard work in beginning to figure out avenues by which to teach this child.

I am curious: whose idea was it for the child to take piano lessons? Hers? Her parent's? Some other educator or resource person? I think this would make a difference in the child's degree of application and interest.

I have known autistic children who are terrified by sudden sounds and others who will do nothing else but play the piano. These end up being totally different teaching situations. I would probably start just with showing the child that pushing a key gently makes a soft sound and judging my direction from her response.

The piano can also be visually very overwhelming -- all those keys, all those nearly-repetitive patterns. For example, I think that "finding twos" on the keyboard might be daunting. Is B/C (two whites with two blacks neighboring) a two? Then E/F is probably a two also -- but what about G/A, which has two whites with two blacks neighboring but with one in the middle? A two, but a different kind? I'm not even going to guess about F/G, which is clearly not symmetric -- but is the teacher thinking only about patterns involving symmetry?

I guess my point is that an idea which might seem simple to one person can be absolutely bewildering to another, and a sensation which feels good to one person can be appealing or terrifying to someone else.

If I were in this teaching situation I would be looking for lots of information, from people who actually know the child, about what the purpose of piano lessons for her was supposed to be.
_________________________
Dorrie Bell
retired piano technician
Boston, MA

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#956464 - 04/26/07 04:01 PM Re: Autistic Student - please help!
bellspiano Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/25/04
Posts: 516
Loc: Boston, MA
P.S. I do wonder about the validity of research which says that "starting special-needs children with pre-school materials is a good idea" (I hope that quotation is accurate, it's intended to be). In my experience, you can't generalize about "special-needs children": each one is different and requires a fairly individual teaching strategy. I don't mean to move the thread to a non-piano topic, but there's a lot more to this question than any of us can address here, not knowing the particular child.

(Disclaimer: musician, R.N., and special-needs mom.)
_________________________
Dorrie Bell
retired piano technician
Boston, MA

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#956465 - 04/26/07 04:04 PM Re: Autistic Student - please help!
pianoid Offline
Full Member

Registered: 03/21/07
Posts: 314
Loc: somewhere in the space-time co...
Gyro, I believe your "normal brain in a defective body" theory would suit, say, Stephen Hawking's condition better than people in the severe autistic spectrum.
_________________________
gggEb!

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#956466 - 04/27/07 10:23 AM Re: Autistic Student - please help!
Piano*Dad Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/12/05
Posts: 10406
Loc: Williamsburg, VA
ah, Steven Hawking. He just completed a trip on the Vomit Comet, which is as close to outer space as he'll ever get while in this world. He loved the experience of weightlessness.

Yeah, this is clearly OT, but what the heck.
_________________________
Grotrian 192 #156455

https://www.youtube.com/user/dhfeld/videos

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#956467 - 04/27/07 12:01 PM Re: Autistic Student - please help!
Gyro Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/24/05
Posts: 4533
The student in the television program cannot
utter a single word and can't type without
physical assistance, so, unable to respond
to an oral examination, it's safe for
detractors to say she's retarded and
not really doing the work. But for
this to be true would require a conspiracy
of unreasonable proportions: the mentor
is secretly a history grad who keeps up with
all the obscure history courses the student takes
so that she can guide the student's hand
on the keyboard when the professor
grills her in class; the mentor, who
takes no notes in class, memorizes
the lectures and then writes the student's
papers for her; all of the student's numerous
professors are also in on it; the mentor
who takes the student to the racetrack
to bet on horses is also in on it and
picks the races for her; and so forth.

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#956468 - 04/27/07 01:22 PM Re: Autistic Student - please help!
pianolady14 Offline
Full Member

Registered: 04/26/07
Posts: 131
My "philosophy" (if you could call it that) of teaching students with special needs is pretty much the same as teaching "typical" students: everyone is different. Some students might respond well to age-appropriate materials, some might not. The series I use most often with my "typical" students is Piano Adventures. With my autistic students I usually start with Alfred (the regular course, not the early beginner). IMO these books use the visual element to best effect. I only use the lesson book. The picture schedule idea is great -- just be sure you stick with it "to the letter" because the student certainly will! I use social stories with my son, and I have a preprinted one I use for students but to be perfectly honest with my own time challenges I don't write new ones for students. Most of my students see therapists and I have found them to be very willing to address specific problems with the student.

Oh yes- one more thing. I recently found two Alfred notespellers that I like. One involves coloring pictures, the other just patterns. Two of my students really like the pattern one. I don't usually use notespellers but my ASD students seem to like them.

Thanks for the support, folks.
_________________________
Piano teacher since 1995

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#956469 - 04/27/07 11:56 PM Re: Autistic Student - please help!
Mark... Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/27/06
Posts: 4381
Loc: Jersey Shore
I have a 20 year old autistic son who is moderate to severe. He is totally non verbal. I have been involved in this for almost 18 years, before anyone even spoke of autism. And much of the info here is off base and inaccurate. Especially Gyro...

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#956470 - 04/28/07 12:44 AM Re: Autistic Student - please help!
pianobuff Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/09/06
Posts: 1580
Loc: Pacific Northwest
Mark737,

Then what is the answer? Is there one?

How does a piano teacher instruct an autistic student successfully. Can one?

You say that your son is totally non-verbal. Does this mean he might be able to learn music through listening and/then demonstration only. Not bothering with verbal instruction or music books.

My heart goes out to you. I am truly interested in finding a way. It to me seems that everyone is different, but when you have autism thrown in as well, what does or can a teacher do to succeed?
_________________________
Private Piano Teacher,
member MTNA and Piano Basics Foundation

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#956471 - 04/28/07 01:03 AM Re: Autistic Student - please help!
Mark... Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/27/06
Posts: 4381
Loc: Jersey Shore
 Quote:
Originally posted by pianobuff:
Mark737,

Then what is the answer? Is there one?

How does a piano teacher instruct an autistic student successfully. Can one?

You say that your son is totally non-verbal. Does this mean he might be able to learn music through listening and/then demonstration only. Not bothering with verbal instruction or music books.

My heart goes out to you. I am truly interested in finding a way. It to me seems that everyone is different, but when you have autism thrown in as well, what does or can a teacher do to succeed? [/b]
Autism traits and abilities cover a huge spectrum, My son could never play the piano as sad as it is to admit.

It sounds like the student you have can learn, and without knowing him/her I would be only guessing. I just hope the parents don't think just because the child is autistic that he/she is a savant, which is actually extremely rare.

Some traits that the autistic have are that they are very visual and take clues via vision. They also love structure as in doing thinks in a certain order.

The parents probably can help you the most of course.

Let us know how you make out. You probably can really make a difference in this child...

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#956472 - 04/28/07 01:22 AM Re: Autistic Student - please help!
pianobuff Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/09/06
Posts: 1580
Loc: Pacific Northwest
Mark 737,

Thank you for your reply.

Sorry for all the questions, hope you don't mind.

And by the way to make it clear mbrown is the original poster asking the original question. Don't mean to hi-jack.
Although, I'm sure this discussion will help us all.

I too have experienced teaching or trying to teach autistic children, that is why I am curious and why I am asking these questions.

When you say clues via vision, could this mean teaching by rote? Or demonstration? Could the structure you are talking about be for example playing one note in a specific rhythm and repeating it until the rhythm and technique (via vision) is mastered and then learning the next note, same way, etc, building upon small goals?

Or do you mean visual as learning from a book?

Thank you.
_________________________
Private Piano Teacher,
member MTNA and Piano Basics Foundation

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#956473 - 04/28/07 10:00 AM Re: Autistic Student - please help!
Mark... Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/27/06
Posts: 4381
Loc: Jersey Shore
 Quote:
Originally posted by pianobuff:
Mark 737,

Thank you for your reply.

Sorry for all the questions, hope you don't mind.

And by the way to make it clear mbrown is the original poster asking the original question. Don't mean to hi-jack.
Although, I'm sure this discussion will help us all.

I too have experienced teaching or trying to teach autistic children, that is why I am curious and why I am asking these questions.

When you say clues via vision, could this mean teaching by rote? Or demonstration? Could the structure you are talking about be for example playing one note in a specific rhythm and repeating it until the rhythm and technique (via vision) is mastered and then learning the next note, same way, etc, building upon small goals?

Or do you mean visual as learning from a book?

Thank you. [/b]
Demonstrations will be very usefully as well as using a book. Verbal instruction can be difficult since they sometimes process information differently. Especially abstract information. Again, it truly depends on the child's handicap severity. With my son we use lots of hand signals and sign language.


The structure I speak of has more to do with a certain routine. These children seem to love an organized approach and to maintain a specific pattern in their activities. When you abruptly change things on them they can get upset.

I would imagine that scales which run in distinct patterns and can be demoed visually very well could be a great way to start.

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#956474 - 04/28/07 12:14 PM Re: Autistic Student - please help!
Monica K. Offline

Platinum Supporter until Dec 31 2012


Registered: 08/10/05
Posts: 17809
Loc: Lexington, Kentucky
 Quote:
Originally posted by Mark737:
I just hope the parents don't think just because the child is autistic that he/she is a savant, which is actually extremely rare.
[/b]
I share that concern, and I think one of the most important things mbrown can do is have a long chat with the parents about their goals and expectations regarding piano for their child. I got the feeling that mbrown was feeling frustrated because the lesson(s) were progressing slowly. But it could be that the parents are not worried about the rate of progress at all and simply want their child to have the experience of lessons. I know that I have enrolled my son in a plethora of activities, some meeting with more success than others, not because I am expecting him to excel in all or even any of them but because I am trying to give him as "normal" an upbringing as possible.
_________________________
Mason & Hamlin A -- 91997
My YouTube channel: http://www.youtube.com/pianomonica

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#956475 - 04/28/07 05:49 PM Re: Autistic Student - please help!
Eternal Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/21/06
Posts: 1285
Loc: Posts: 80,372
 Quote:
Originally posted by Mark737:
I just hope the parents don't think just because the child is autistic that he/she is a savant, which is actually extremely rare.
[/b]
I agree, though it has been shown that the occurrence of savants is much more likely among autistic population than the general one. This short article estimates 10% of autistic savants vs. less than 1% of savants in the general population.

Check out this amazing example of an autistic man with photographic memory:

http://break.com/index/autistic-man-draws-near-perfect-panorama=of-rome.html

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#956476 - 05/25/07 07:45 AM Re: Autistic Student - please help!
AutisticPianoMethod Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 05/21/07
Posts: 1
Loc: Syracuse, NY
Greetings,I see lots of interest in teaching autistic children. I have been doing this for three years and have developed a curriculum targeted to that population. It is focused on playing by ear though it introduces reading gradually through a proto-reading system. You can check it out at www.AutisticPianoEXpress.com. I am also interested in comparing ideas with anyone else who is teaching special needs kids or adults. No doubt there are many and varied approaches to this work.

Nice to meet you all,
_________________________
Alex Citron
www.AutisticPianoEXpress.com

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#956477 - 05/25/07 08:28 AM Re: Autistic Student - please help!
Monica K. Offline

Platinum Supporter until Dec 31 2012


Registered: 08/10/05
Posts: 17809
Loc: Lexington, Kentucky
Welcome to the forum, Alex. \:\) Any relation to PW member John Citron, by any chance?

I've only had a chance to look briefly at your website, but your approach sounds intriguing. My son has been asking for piano lessons, but I'm not convinced he's got the motivation to sit down and concentrate for a normal lesson. I've been dabbling with him a little, using a John Thompson beginner book we had sitting around. He's usually ready to stop and do something else after 5 or 10 minutes. So your teach at home curriculum that I could do in short spurts sounds promising. I'll look closely at your materials this weekend.
_________________________
Mason & Hamlin A -- 91997
My YouTube channel: http://www.youtube.com/pianomonica

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#956478 - 05/25/07 10:34 AM Re: Autistic Student - please help!
pianolady14 Offline
Full Member

Registered: 04/26/07
Posts: 131
This does look very interesting. I love the 2-track idea for repeats! I will look over it more over the holiday weekend.
_________________________
Piano teacher since 1995

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#956479 - 05/28/07 10:14 PM Re: Autistic Student - please help!
PerformingYak Offline
Full Member

Registered: 11/16/05
Posts: 205
Loc: Lightning Ridge, Australia
wow, this is really interesting. I have not had a lot of experience in teaching autistic students myself but I know there are a couple coming up in the school.. thanks for all the info here guys.
_________________________
"Work hard and strive to reach the power of bland"

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