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#60875 - 09/26/12 02:34 PM Student With Autism
musicsmylife Offline
Contributing Member

Registered: 04/03/12
Posts: 22
Loc: Canada
I was wondering if anyone has any positive/negative experiences they could share about teaching autistic students. I have been asked to teach a 12 year old autistic boy (6 feet tall!), and although I have taught special needs before, I'm not all that confident about teaching an autistic student as I know relating to him would require special skill.

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#60876 - 09/26/12 03:58 PM Re: Student With Autism [Re: musicsmylife]
April H. Offline
Resident Member

Registered: 01/14/11
Posts: 348
Loc: Denton, Texas
I recently taught a highly autistic boy for about 6 lessons in the summer. I would have continued teaching him a little longer, but his family decided to not continue based on financial reasons.

From what I've read, autistic children can greatly vary in how well they learn, what bothers them and what doesn't, etc. The boy I taught was 7 years old and had a very hard time grasping any concepts at all. He was very sweet and wanted me to play for him for half of the lesson. He was obsessed with lights and I couldn't get him to stop asking me about every light in my house! He liked to move a lot to the music and would repeat words and phrases a lot. His speech was pretty poor, but his eye contact was great. I was able to teach him only very basic things: finger numbers, 2 and 3 black keys, high and low, and only that through pictures. He just wouldn't hold his hand in position to learn any actual songs, so we spent a lot of time experimenting/creating "songs".

One source that gave me ideas and was really so encouraging and inspiring was this site:

"Piano Teaching and Autism"
http://www.music.sc.edu/ea/keyboard/ppf/PPFPrice.html

I would suggest just meeting with the boy and parents first and see how he takes things in. It's really hard to know if you will be capable of really helping him with his particular needs or not; I was in the same boat and found out that the student really did need a more general music class. But of course if your gut instinct is no, then go with it. wink My gut instinct was to give the boy a try and I'm glad I did, because he really did touch my heart and life in an extraordinary way and I think he got something really positive out of the few lessons he had.
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#60880 - 09/26/12 10:50 PM Re: Student With Autism [Re: April H.]
Carole Offline
Star Member

Registered: 06/08/00
Posts: 2229
Loc: southern California
Musicsmylife, I am teaching an 8th grade Autistic boy now. He's been taking about 2 months. I started him in PA Primer and he has done very well. He learned his keyboard notes quickly, and we are now beginning on the staff. I'll let you know how that goes. I have taught him the same as others only a little slower. He rarely looks me in the eye, but does repeat what I say (loudly) and seems to enjoy lessons. I am enjoying teaching him.

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#62210 - 03/02/13 12:14 AM Re: Student With Autism [Re: Carole]
Carole Offline
Star Member

Registered: 06/08/00
Posts: 2229
Loc: southern California
I'm continuing this. I have been teaching the boy I mentioned now for 7 months. He is in level one and doing well. However, I am having trouble teaching him to play legato. He just does not seem to understand. Anyone have any ideas that could help? Thanks.

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#62211 - 03/02/13 09:35 AM Re: Student With Autism [Re: Carole]
Laura B. Offline
Contributing Member

Registered: 01/08/12
Posts: 22
Loc: New York

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#62232 - 03/04/13 02:48 AM Re: Student With Autism [Re: Laura B.]
Carole Offline
Star Member

Registered: 06/08/00
Posts: 2229
Loc: southern California
Thanks so much, Laura.

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#64390 - 12/01/13 12:42 AM Re: Student With Autism [Re: Carole]
Emily C Offline
Contributing Member

Registered: 10/30/13
Posts: 19
It would depend on where he's at on the Autistic Spectrum that determines how you would help a child with music. A lot of children that are Autisitic love music, it's calming and relaxes them when they get tense. The higher on the spectrum, the better they seem to deal with the noise and distractions and focusing on what they are being taught. The lower on the spectrum, the worse they seem to do with music, any noise for that matter, and the harder time they have with concentrating and eye contact. However, though the child may act or look like they are not getting it, down the road he or she may just start playing what they have been taught from memory. Each child on the spectrum seems to be affected in different ways, whether suttle or blatant, you have to learn how to work with each one separately. The same technique with one, may not work with another. My friend's child has Autism, he's 4, he was obsessed with underground sprinkler systems. He used to study the plan of the one that they had in their yard. It quit working one day and they called someone to fix it. The repairman had a hard time trying to figure out where the main shut off valve was that was out in the yard just above the ground, but almost impossible to see. My friend's son told the repairman to follow him, and he did, this little 4 year old took him from the house, followed the path of the sprinkler (which was underground) and led him to the main valve (which nobody knew was there)and the man was able to fix the hole in the sprinkler system with the little boy telling him how to navigate it. It was amazing. The same little boy moved with his family when he was 5 and used to go on long bike rides in the evening with his mom and dad. One day while they were exploring, his mom got lost and wasn't sure how to get back home. He ended up telling her he knew the way and led them all the way back home by telling her what street was going to be coming up soon and which way they were going to turn. He is low on the spectrum and has a lot of sensory issues, but he is extremely intelligent and absorbs everything like a sponge. You just have to figure out what works with each one of these special kids on an individual level. Good luck!

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