Music Teacher for Special Needs Students... What Books are Best?

by Esther


I am currently teaching piano to special needs students. The regular Bastien or Alfreds materials are too long and move too quickly. Note reading is definitely difficult for these students.

What other materials are available? And is there a better method for teaching these students? Currently I am teaching in a traditional format, with the use of games but at a much slower pace. But, I am running out of new materials constantly.

Any advice would be wonderful.



I AM GOING TO RECOMMEND YOU HAVE A LOOK AT 67 FUN SONGS & 67 FUN SONGS PRIMER by Jon Schmidt of The Piano Guys. I have been using these digital downloads for a couple months now, and though it is early days yet, I'm impressed by the greater confidence of my students' note-reading. Plus, many of the little songs are VERY SHORT. The method he recommends (he includes a free guide on how to use his course) suggests VERY SLOW READING aiming for no mistakes, even if a student takes 20 seconds to decide what a note is.


Hi, Esther,

You don't say if you are teaching a group of students, or individual students... I am going to assume they are individuals.

I definitely agree that most courses move on TOO fast for most special needs students. One teacher I've quoted here on my site suggests moving from a book in one method to a book of a similar level in another method. I have done this myself, but it is best to try to do this in such a way that it seems not like a demotion, but just like more music.

I had a boy who had finished the Faber Piano Adventures Primer and was struggling with Piano Adventures Level I. The notes and rhythms just didn't seem to "take" with him -- he would learn it at his lesson, and the next week we would be back to square 1 again... or at most square 2.

We switched to the Level B book of the My First Piano Adventure Lesson set, and it was a whole new set of songs for him to learn. The switch worked quite well - I was pleased. He progressed slowly through Book B and went on to Book C, which ends in a place very close to Level I, but with much repetition of the basic concepts and skills.

I really recommend Book B and Book C of that set, but only after (and this is my own idea of what makes sense) going through at least the first half of the Purple Primer of Piano Adventures. (The reason for this is that the Primer teaches finger numbers starting on the black keys, plus note values, and piano key locations... basic interactions of fingers and piano. I skip Book A of the "My Beginning P.A." altogether, because it is only useful, in my opinion, for a young child whose parent will sit down with him or her every day and essentially re-teach the lesson to the child again. After all, the child can't read all the directions! But Book B begins a little far on, and therefore is not adequate for the very beginning.)

Two suggestions: put the child in a book aimed at a younger age than the child actually is (you've probably tried this), and also give the student the Technique Book that goes along with the method's Lesson Book. These books tend to be repetitious, and should help with reading patterns, and with motor skills.

I hope to finish writing another page soon about good methods for special needs kids and post it in this section of my site. My own experience is quite limited, I feel, and I'm glad for those who will write in and describe their own experiences and successes. (Failures, too; failure is also instructive!)

I've found a large discussion on one of the threads at one of the Piano Forums on Yahoo (there are at least 3 forums for pianists on Yahoo -- perhaps more since I last checked!) I would go there and read for a couple of hours or more, Esther. Good luck.

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