Autistic Student Can't Tell If Notes Are On Lines Or Spaces

by Paula

I have been teaching a 9 year-old girl with autism for about a year. She knows the notes on the keyboard, but doesn't seem to be able to identify whether a note is on a line or space. We use EZ play music, which has the names of the notes written in the notes, but with anything else, she is lost. Any suggestions?


You have probably tried some of this, but I wouldn't give up: first, I think I would have her DRAW line and space notes at every lesson. If she can MAKE them, she should be able to recognize them.

You draw them too -- draw them GIGANTICALLY on a whiteboard or a chalkboard. Make some that are obviously very poorly drawn -- too tiny or squashed to fill the space, or cutting into a second line, etc. Have her also make some very bad notes, and then try to make some perfect notes.

Draw one, and say "Pick a key on the piano." Then, draw a note higher, lower, or the same. Sit at the piano as you draw, and see if she will move a tiny animal up, down, or stay the same to follow your note-drawing.

On one of my web pages called Reading Piano Music I have two photos of kids using giant cloth keyboards/staffs; one photo shows the staff sides, and the other shows the keyboard sides. There are many different games I have made up using these helpful tools. You could make your own using heavy cardstock paper. I bought a set of tiny animals to use as markers, and my students enjoy working with them, and also getting away from the piano bench.

For reading practice, you might want to consider The Perfect Start for Notereading. This is a book filled with cute little pieces and not too much distracting text that use the same notes over and over again, then move on. The first 5 songs use only Middle C and D (like my little songs, C&D and C&B). Have you looked at my page, Wormies?

If Wormies is doable, then you can build on that. But first, she must recognize lines and spaces -- and I really think drawing them first would help the concept sink in.

Also, in my opinion, you'd be better off moving away from the notes-with-names inside them (the EZ Music). It must surely be a crutch. Perhaps you could try filling in just one note-head per measure (so she can't read the name), then treating it like a game, not a chore. Just an idea. I'd use pencil!

Best of luck!

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Lines and Spaces
by: michele

Re:the students who has problems determining lines and spaces: In my experience, this can be a visual perceptual problem. It can sometimes be corrected, even in children with special needs, by vision therapy through a person trained in that field.
Not all of what we see in special learners is intellectual in nature.

Birds on a telephone line
by: Charles Consaul

One of the strategies I have used is to have the student draw birds on a telephone line for the spaces, and those bright red or orange insulators that they used to use for notes on the line. Using the two colors seems to help, plus the student eventually recognized the difference between the placement of the note. In the case of one student, he actually related the notes as "Girl" "Boy!" I had been saying "Buoy" and I guess he thought I was saying boy. I am not sure how he got girl out of bird, but it worked for him, so I didn't pry into it too much. By the way, it takes more time to draw "Birds and Buoys" than it does to just draw notes, so be sure to allow for that.

One of my students sees notes on the line as shish-kabobs. One of my female students sees the notes on the lines as being on the road, and the notes on the spaces as being pulled over between lanes. I also play a game with the students where I have them draw a graph, give them specific statistical information to post on the graph, then at the end I have them draw a treble clef on the left side, and we "Play the song we made from the graph!" This is especially effective for students with Aspberger's syndrome who are fixated on science.

Wow, thanks for these ideas, they sound fun for any kid. I'm going to have a go at them.

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