Rote Recommendations - Autistic Student

Posted by: Lilla

Rote Recommendations - Autistic Student - 10/19/06 07:33 AM

I have a very talented and high-functioning autistic student. For various reasons which I won't go into right now, I am going to focus on teaching him by rote for the near future. I would love to hear your best recommendations for pieces or material to use when teaching by rote. He plays well by letter, can play by MC notes but doesn't have confidence that he can read. He can quickly and easily transpose any short melody. He knows all his pentascales. We are working on developing a daily warm-up activity where he plays a pentascale, triads, arpeggios, tetrascales, and one-octave scales (he struggles here insisting on using his left hand to complete the final notes). Sooooo, what suggestions could you offer for the rote materials? Thanks.

P.S. Do you like my subject line? I'm trying to make it self-explanatory because I, too, hate not knowing what the heck the subject is until you open the message.
Posted by: Susan

Re: Rote Recommendations - Autistic Student - 10/20/06 04:17 AM

I *do* like your subject line being self-explanatory.
How about the intervallic series that has come out of FJH. There are several levels. You might want to start with Book 1.
Gypsy Earrings is level 2 reading, but it can be taught by rote, at least the first page can.
Blue Windmills is level 1 1/2, but it sounds harder and can be taught by rote.

I can't think of anything else off hand, but if I do, I'll post again.
Posted by: Rhondo

Re: Rote Recommendations - Autistic Student - 10/20/06 04:20 AM

Is this the Gypsy Earrings by Gillock you are referring to? What is the name of the FJH Intervallic series?
Posted by: Susan

Re: Rote Recommendations - Autistic Student - 10/20/06 10:53 AM

Gypsy Earrings is by Bret Adams.
The FJH book is the Intervallic Reading Series. I actually posted this already, but for some reason it didn't make it on board.
Posted by: Lilla

Re: Rote Recommendations - Autistic Student - 10/23/06 07:40 AM

Thanks for suggestions. Is the Intervallic series the "Be A Star" book? Or the "On Stage" book? I'm using both of those for other students and they are a huge hit. I have a primer student who is ripping right through "On Stage" - sometimes I think his mother helps him, but he is doing well when we preview the pieces. Very interesting how students learn in different ways. And he loves it.

For my autistic student - we were playing a game this week - kind of like pulling an activity card - and his card said to play with a CD. So I put one in from a previous book. Wow! I'd forgotten how well he picks up from the CD's. I must incorporate more of that into his lesson - He has just finished Hal Leonard Lesson Book 1 - and I did not use the CD. I may review it with him, or try the next book, this time with the CD.

Trying to teach him by rote is going very slowly. He's really not so interested in focusing on what we're doing. But if I can incorporate it with the CD's - maybe even with the music in front of him - which he'll pay attention to or not - I think I can get him re-inspired. One of the reasons I wanted to do rote is because he plays very well by ear - makes up all kinds of things, transposes at will, instinctively plays the correct patterns jumping right onto the black keys. But trying to teach him lines and spaces - forget it. Or to read the music - he can, but insists that he needs help. I just need to get him over this hump and I think it's more important that he plays, rather than by what method. Always a challenge.
Posted by: John

Re: Rote Recommendations - Autistic Student - 10/23/06 05:43 PM

Lilla, do you have any of Paul Sheftel's books? You'll find some patterned pieces, many were written with rote teaching in mind.
Posted by: Lilla

Re: Rote Recommendations - Autistic Student - 10/24/06 07:34 AM

John, I have an anthology-type by Paul Sheftel - and some pcs from the Celebration series. I suspect you're referring to a different type of book. I've seen some at the music store but never picked them up. Actually, I just made a note yesterday to look for patterned rep for another student. I'll check it out with an eye towards both students - thanks.
Posted by: John

Re: Rote Recommendations - Autistic Student - 10/24/06 08:07 AM

Some may be hard to find, you may find some in bargain bins and used books stores.

I'm esp. thinking of these:

Piano Patterns
Keyboard Challenges
Patterns for Fun
Merry & Mellow
Play's the Thing
Posted by: Lilla

Re: Rote Recommendations - Autistic Student - 10/31/06 08:03 AM

Here's an update on my autistic student. The last few lessons have gone very well. We start out with "warm-ups" - (each week a different key going around the circle of 5ths) - as stated above - pentascales, triads, etc. This is to satisfy their need for routine, and to instill the patterns in his fingers and in his ear. That way when he makes up music or attempts to play, he will recognize many components of the music from his warm-ups.

I have made a very large change in his lessons where I now assign one piece of music per week. Actually, the past few weeks have been a Bastien pre-reading Halloween book. We have played every duet in the book satisfactorily. He now has a piece of sheet music to work on. I have written in certain note names only where he struggles. His mother tells me she places the music on the stand, but he never opens it. So the written note names are utilized only at his lesson. Interesting. He does play it. (In the past, I don't believe he even played it unless it happened to come to his ear. He never opened his folder of music.) He comes back showing progress and can usually play a duet ok.

At each lesson I spend time showing him something by rote. I'm still figuring out what to do with this. The past week I showed him a cool American Indian pc by Martha Mier, Ceremonial something. He liked the Indian sounds and played it well. We'll pick it up again next week and see if he can remember it. I suspect he will.

At the end of the lesson, I always ask him to play me something and it is usually a piece from his lesson book (such as Pianimals) that he plays by memory. I'm hoping to eventually hear something from rote - or composed. We'll see.
Posted by: Lilla

Re: Rote Recommendations - Autistic Student - 12/31/06 11:08 AM

Another update - only because it may help some of the other posters with autistic students. My student is doing well with the warm-up exercises. We are now on C# Major/D flat Major. He readily plays the pentascales, triads, argpeggios. Tetrachords - although I always have to remind him to use only one hand at a time - right or left. And he can now play 1 octave scales - although, again, I have to remind him to use only one hand. This is a huge accomplishment in my view as one month ago he was unable to play a scale correctly. I'm going to continue around the circle of 5ths - but starting next week will begin introducing some harmonics. Playing the melody from easy pieces in his lesson book, but adding the LH a 3rd apart - or any other interval that he picks up on. He likes the interesting harmonies. I tried to read to him from a book I picked up about the philharmonic - because of something that came up in the lesson. Total bomb. I lost him within seconds. I have been working with him in a theory wookbook. Whenever his attention wanders. This is working well and for the first time he seemed to understand lines and spaces. But I'm not betting on it. This has been a huge struggle. We are working on simply *seeing* the difference in a line note and a space. I think he's getting it. I have him draw the notes on the whiteboard occasionally, but he often starts randomly drawing silly things. It's always interesting with these kids!! He can read simple pieces within MC position, but doesn't think he can. He always asks for help. He seems to not want to take the time to actually look. He would rather guess at the note. After all it only takes 3 or 4 guesses to get it. Anyway, I'm randomly talking here. Just interested in comparing notes. Does anyone have an autistic kid at a somewhat similar level? I'd love to exchange experience. Thanks - Happy Holidays, all.
Posted by: Ginger

Re: Rote Recommendations - Autistic Student - 12/31/06 07:00 PM

My autistic student is 5 and we've been trying for 4 weeks now. So he's not at the level that you have been explaining. We are still trying to work at small things that I take for granted in my regular students, like having him repeat the things that I play, or having him repeat my rhythms. Progress is very slow of course, but it's fun to see small changes each week.

How old is your student and how long have they been learning the piano?
Posted by: Lilla

Re: Rote Recommendations - Autistic Student - 01/04/07 07:53 AM

At this time, I have two autistic students. Both high level - both about 9 years old. They have both been taking from me for about a year and a half. One of them displays few of the usual autistic mannerisms, but sometimes has a major attitude problem. I never know which "person" is coming in the door.

The other, has many of the usual autistic problems so he is a real challenge to work with. He is very tuned in to "being good" so I usually have to employ something along that line to gain his cooperation. Sometimes I use small rewards, sometimes when he is uncontrollable, I have him sit in a chair and count to 10 to calm himself. He dislikes being asked to sit away from the piano and he usually returns ready to listen. He never, never looks at his books or assignments during the week. Once I discovered that, I began working more on teaching him theory and rote pieces - hoping that his fingers and ears will automatically reach for the correct notes. So far it's working. What are some of the particular things you are attempting? What has been successful? and what has not? (so far)
Posted by: Mishee

Re: Rote Recommendations - Autistic Student - 01/05/07 03:34 AM

I have two young sons with high functioning autism and have worked with others. A lot of these kids have sensory issues. Sometimes if their "autism" gets in the way of learning, it is good to get them away from the piano and have them do a physical activity to help them regulate or regroup.
For example, My 4 yo can't sit for too long to work on a project that requires a lot of fine motor skills. He will often be put on an exercise ball and be bounced for a few minutes. Then he will be able to go back and finish a task. It sounds silly but these kids often have lots of "quirks" that the rest of us don't understand.
Kids with ASD are usually strong visual learners and have kean auditory skills when it comes to music. Also autistics tend to be very musical but at the same time have auditory processing issues where the "wiring from their brain to their ears and mouths is not working properly.

My older son (6yo) takes piano lessons. One of the things that helps is to point and sing the notes before he actually sits down to play the song. I know some teachers think this is useless but it helps ASD kids to see the music and hear the notes. At the same time it becomes rote and in his "quirky" way he learns to recognize the notes. My son is great at reading the notes on the grand staff but when we look at flash cards of just one staff and the note, he can't name it.

Anyway, as a parent of two kids with asd, I can tell you that it means a lot to the parents that you're teaching their kids. Most people would not want to attempt to even try.

Anyway it sounds like you're on the right track....Just keep it fun. Keep your sense of humor. Don't expect less of these students, just remember it might take longer to get there.
Good Luck
Posted by: Ginger

Re: Rote Recommendations - Autistic Student - 01/08/07 04:15 PM

My situation is still so new to me and him that it's hard to say if piano is really going to be a go or not. (I think that with time it will be) It seems that there is little steps of progress each week, and I think that it's mostly because he is getting to know me and getting used to the routine.

My short-term goal is to get him to play around more on the piano. He loves to play high-C over and over. I am succussful if I put stickers on the keys. When I introduced the black notes with the black-note songs in "My First Piano Adventure", I put blue stars on the groups of threes that I wanted him to play. He thought that was so great, you could see the excitement. So with each song, I've started by showing him the keys that we'll be playing that day with the stickers. I'm discovering also that he'll copy or repeat after me, so learning a song by rote maybe successful. Last week, we went back to "Twinkle, Twinkle" in the lesson book and I put all gold stars on the keys that we used. I showed him what song we would be playing, and he pushed my hands away and began to try himself. He's so funny this way, because I can see some of his personality coming out. Things like wanting to be independent and wanting to do things by himself without help, just like my 3 year old son! Boy, what a treat! I actually know how to deal with that!

Another thing that we did two weeks ago...kind of by accident, is that I showed him the inside of the piano. I do not have a grand, I have an upright, so he was looking under the keyboard at the hammers moving as he played his high C. I too the front out, and boy was he excited to see the strings and a most of the action going on inside! He sat there for 10 minutes pushing every key over and over, up and down the keyboard!

So, things are going well. His parents have reservations about learning the notes of the piano (the alphabet), because he's been taught solfege, so I'm not sure what to do next.
Posted by: Ginger

Re: Rote Recommendations - Autistic Student - 01/08/07 04:20 PM

My older son (6yo) takes piano lessons. One of the things that helps is to point and sing the notes before he actually sits down to play the song. I know some teachers think this is useless but it helps ASD kids to see the music and hear the notes. At the same time it becomes rote and in his "quirky" way he learns to recognize the notes. My son is great at reading the notes on the grand staff but when we look at flash cards of just one staff and the note, he can't name it.
Thanks for that idea, I'll try it so I can get him to look at the book more. He loves to look at it, but when at the piano it's far from his mind.

Thank you for the encouragement too, it really helps.
Posted by: Mishee

Re: Rote Recommendations - Autistic Student - 01/08/07 05:53 PM

It sounds like the two of you are having fun. That's probably the most important thing he's experiencing. You said he's 5....So he might be that age "academically" but in reality might have the maturity of your 3 yo. My 6 yo has no problem with K level school work. Emotionally he's more like a 4-5 yo.

Whether or not he's going to stick with it....Well, my motto when working with special needs kids is "Aim for Carnegy Hall, but being able to play for Grandma is ok too!"

Remember like you said, Take it slow. Repetition Is the key. The "stuff" you teach will eventually "stick". And with time, it will stick more quickly.
Autistics do real well with motivators (incentives). Letting look inside the piano is a great one.

As for solfege, my son uses solfege with a fixed "Do". It hasn't hindered him from playing. It was something I had to get used to at first, but now I know it well. If your student knows solfege, I would treat him like a transfer student to see what he does know...Then go from there.
With lower functioning ASD kids, it's not uncommon to use some of their stims or "quirks" to make a connection with them by going into their world...By building a bond therapists will then begin to add a little variation to an activity to get a child to learn. Maybe try this with your little guy. Start with solfege and eventually move out. We did that with my son. We learned a little chant and motions to equate the Solfege names with the ABCs. We did it A LOT. Now he knows his ABCs (LOL) but still uses the solfege name as well. I figure as long as he knows what he's doing and he's playing the correct notes....(well, sometimes that's more than I can say for my Neuro Typical students!!!!)

Sorry to be so long winded. Feel free to email me off line if you want more ideas or info. Overall, it sounds like you're going at it with the right attitude and rom the right angel..
Posted by: Ginger

Re: Rote Recommendations - Autistic Student - 02/05/07 08:58 AM

I found in my pile of music books that somebody gave me this huge collection of "Wee Sing" Books. They are by Pamela Cann Beall and Susan Hagen Nipp. Published by Price/Stern/Sloan. The copyright is 1982, but there have been lots of printings. Have you heard of them? They have many different books like "Silly Songs", "Folk songs" "Children's Songs" Each has a simple melody line with the words written in and the chord symbols above it. This may be a good help for you. I saw them at our library too, so I know that they are around. This may help...if you still need it.

Posted by: Emily C

Re: Rote Recommendations - Autistic Student - 12/02/13 01:37 AM are two really good sights to look at. I would give them a look.
Posted by: Jennifer

Re: Rote Recommendations - Autistic Student - 12/04/13 10:53 AM

Wendy Stevens has blogged about rote teaching a few times. Here is a helpful link that should take you to those posts...
Posted by: Emily C

Re: Rote Recommendations - Autistic Student - 12/05/13 03:10 AM

Jennifer thank you for posting that. The information is great for anyone to read. Autism is hard, you have to have a different appraoach with each child almost, because it affects children so differently.