My Child Has Autism

"My child has autism; do you know of a teacher experienced with autism and music?"

I get this question a lot from parents anxious to give their son or daughter with autism music lessons.

My child has autism - where can I find a teacher?

So how do you go about finding one of those teachers experienced with both autism and music? (By the way, I do not think experience educating children with autism is a necessary prerequisite for fun and rewarding music lessons for your child; rather, a teacher's heart and the willingness to find solutions are the most important qualities for teaching students with autism.)

Here are the steps I would take:

Call the local schools and talk to music teachers.  

Call the local churches and ask to speak to the musicians.

Call the local libraries and children's clubs such as tye Boys and Girls Club.

Find out who the homeschoolers are (the librarians will know) and talk to them.

Please read the following letter exchange for more tips on how to locate teachers.  Take this information about Massachusetts, and apply it to where YOU live:

Hi,

I have an 11 year old who is PDD (higher spectrum form of autisim). He loves playing with his brother's piano keyboard. His brother is taking lessons. It breaks my heart seeing him trying to play, but not know how to, and I don't know if he can be taught to play piano...

Do you know of any teachers in the south shore, MA area that can teach autistic kids piano? Please refer me to him/her?

Thanks for your help.

Sincerely,

Brian

Reply from Music-for-Music-Teachers:

Hi Brian,

I live in Alaska, a long way from Massachusetts. But I spent some time on Google, and came up with a few autism organizations and societies. I am sure there are local autism support groups as well, that you could hook into. Please take a look at these Massachusetts websites, and give them a call:

ArcMass .org encourages visitors to "[g]o to [this page] at AFAM to connect with local support centers which are members of Advocates for Autism. Most programs listed here will provide information and referral to all callers." 

At the website of The May Institute, for example, you find this description of their music teacher and her approach:

"Annie Christian, M.Ed., is the music teacher at the May Center for Child Development in Randolph Mass., a specialized school for children with autism and other disabilities. A licensed teacher of children with severe special needs, she holds a college degree in music education. 'We teach fundamentals about music,' she says. 'We break down concepts in a way students can master.' Using ABA methodology, she uses practice, reinforcement, and teaching in small steps in her instructional sessions.

"Annie teaches students to identify the difference between loud and soft sounds and high and low tones. She also introduces students to different musical instruments. Her students are particularly drawn to the piano, drums, and bells. Using a color-coded method, she teaches her students to read music, including notes, rhythms, and beats. Many of her students learn to independently play songs on these instruments. She teaches her students to sing with the help of Curwen hand signs.

"Annie’s students are exposed to a variety of classical composers, including Mozart and Beethoven, and to many different genres and styles of music. Her group and individual sessions are guided by the National Standards for Music Education, the Massachusetts Department of Education Curriculum Frameworks, student’s individual education plan (IEP), and student’s individual preferences."


That sounds a little expensive to me, but I could be wrong!

So, no matter where you live, the US, Europe, or South Africa, locate online and call these associations and find out what they know.

As I suggested at the top of the page, call your local schools and talk to a music teacher and ask that person who he or she would recommend. A local college might also be a good source of information, as they will have students studying music, and child development, and education.

Don't take no for an answer. There are people who will be glad to teach & to help your son, but you must keep pushing. You are the best advocate he has.

Best of luck,

Dana at Music-for-Music-Teachers.com


More and more, there are national, state, and local autism support groups. The internet is such a wonderful asset; parents don't have to feel all alone.

Please visit my other pages with more information about actual teaching techniques that can be useful when teaching children with autism:

Autism and Music 

Tips for Teaching Autistic Children

Autism & Interactive Toys, by Helen Nichols





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Have you got experiences, insights, knowledge or just plain frustrations to share with others who teach music to these special kids? Perhaps you have books, articles, or websites to recommend, techniques you've found helpful, or a success story! Every additional bit of information is helpful to those seeking for solutions...

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