Teaching Autistic Children Music...
by Susie Norman
I have exclusively taught autistic children music, both in school and privately for the past ten years.
Much of the information given in this article is correct, however, I do not agree with some of the observations. For example, yes, any child plays something they have heard better than something they haven't heard. I find it better to give unknown music, otherwise the student is only playing by ear, and unfortunately may never learn notes. This occurs almost 100% of the time in autistics as opposed to neuro-typical children.
Every single autistic student I know greatly benefits from visuals. I use goal-oriented visual charts for motivation. For example....Johnny is working for (3) stars to earn (free play on piano, listening to CD of choice, watching animusic, etc)....whatever motivates that child. Visuals help to shorten processing time for the brain.
Autistics have many issues with fine motor skills and their fingers. Students with particular difficulties in this area should be referred to an Occupational Therapist, if they are not already seeing one.
I have more than one student with perfect pitch. Perfect pitch in autistics is more prevalent than in the general population.
For anyone teaching autistic children music, just remember that they are some of the most intelligent children I have ever taught. Just because you think they aren't listening, or don't understand, doesn't mean anything. These kids are great!!
The Westview School
Houston, Texas 77043
Thank you for your experienced input, Susie.