My Autistic Son Won't Practice for More Than a Few Minutes.

by Kimberly C.
(Palm Beach Gardens, Fl)

I have a question, sort of, for the parents of your student.

My son started piano this year and really seems to like it. He has Asperger's, a high level of autism, and ADHD. He is 11. He is doing well in lessons and moving along nicely.

My problem is I cannot get him to pratice at home more than a few minutes. Any suggestions to help him want to pratice at home? He only has lessons once a week.

Thanks for your interesting writing on your student.

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I do this with my sons and other piano students
by: Michelle

In addition to short practice spurts, I find that if you have a checklist of what you're looking for when he/she practices also helps. First might be learning the correct notes and rhythm. This might also be split up into 2 steps depending on the kids. Then add the articulation and then the dynamics. Books with cds can help as well. I usually include an assignment where they have to listen to a song or two that is ahead a few pages in the book.

If it's a matter of not liking the song, I try to have at least one on their practice list that they like so there's some variety. I also have a rule that once we learn a song the way the composer intended, the child is then able to make up or play his/her variation from that point on.

Kids with ADHD and/or on the spectrum are very smart. It helps to make them feel they have some control when given some choices in things (not TOO many!) I find they tend to be more workable when given the next step. "First we'll do it this way, or play this, then we'll _______."

Just make sure you follow through with what you say and say what you mean. These kids will make great lawyers one day! :o) With this comes, make sure you say exactly what you want and not more. You'll soon learn quickly what works and what doesn't.

As a parent of two high functioning kids with ASD and a touch of ADHD, I find that most of these principles work with anything else we have to handle in life... Just apply them to piano playing as well.

Also if you have time in the morning maybe before the bus comes or while you're getting breakfast ready, (If that's the case) my son will practice a song then. Just one, but it works. He's also not as tired as in the afternoon.

Getting an Autistic Boy to Practice Music
by: Dana


I asked my student's mom what she did to get him to practice, and she told me that she couldn't make him work on a song over and over to polish it (unless he was really in love with a song).

So she had him, as part of his school routine (she was homeschooling him) practice 3 separate times a day, for short segments. Each time, he zoomed through his lesson sheet, straight through, and she didn't try to make him go over and over one thing.

My lesson assignment sheets tend to be very "busy" (a polite way to say messy and cluttered), which is difficult for him, so my friend would re-write the assignments, turning one busy sheet into 2 or 3 orderly sheets, with a box to check off opposite each assigned item. Then, he would check items off as he went, otherwise he might forget if he had practiced it or not.

She didn't worry about the pace.

It was interesting to me that she didn't try to force him to extend his practice time, preferring instead to let him practice in short bursts, because he always has seemed not only pleasant, but even compliant and obedient to me. But I guess it's often another story at home!

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