My Autistic Child

My daughter is two and a half and has just been diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder. She seems to be very drawn to music. As a piano teacher, this obviously pleases me! What I am wondering, after reading your inspiring experience, is how old was the little boy when you started teaching him? My daughter is obviously very young but I do plan on eventually guiding her in that direction to see if it is something that she can thrive in!

Dana's Reply: My autistic student was eight years old when he started, I think. And he didn't start with piano... It was his love for singing that first pulled him into music lessons. His mother wanted lessons to be less about developing vocal technique and more about enjoying music, so we sang a lot of songs he already knew, and I made recordings of the lessons for him to take home. Later, we switched to piano to expand his musical experience.

In retrospect, I wish that I had done some recording during his piano lessons, because he always played best the pieces he could sing. And I wish that I had made part of each lesson about singing a song -- even if it was just 5 minutes. I think he lost touch with the singing side of himself.

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Never too young to start some kind of music program!
by: Anonymous

First off, welcome to the world of Autism. I have two boys on the spectrum... That said, it can be a devastating blow.

You've probably heard that early intervention ASAP is key, and it is. But you can also use your knowledge of piano to help your daughter.

Kids on the autism spectrum usually LOVE music. Have her sit with you as you play simple song nursery rhymes and such. SING SING SING. Don't worry if you think you can't! My older son did not really talk until he was 4. However, he was singing a Hebrew (We're not even Jewish!)folk song in full at 2 1/2 years old! I believe that really helped him make the connection between his singing and talking. Now he never stops talking (at age 9 1/2).

Any kind of connection that you make with her is great. Even if you think she isn't responding, at a totally random moment later on, she'll surprise you with a word, the humming of a tune, etc. You're her mom, you know her better than you think you do. Trust yourself. Good luck.

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