Teaching my son with ASD and significantly delayed understanding

by Christine
(England, UK)


Thank you for your interesting page. I am currently teaching my nearly 5 year old son the piano. I wondered if I could get your opinion on how to move his learning on and step things up?

He has severe language difficulties.He cannot answer basic questions which is mainly due to him not understanding the question in the first place! However he seems to love music. I decided to start teaching him the piano/keyboard. I placed different coloured stickers on the keys. C= Red, D=Orange, E= Yellow, F=Green etc. I then drew coloured notes on plain paper. He started to follow the notes and played the whole tune. After introducing a few songs, I wrote more notes but on manuscript paper. He loves songs he has heard many times before so these are the tunes I write for him. I predominantly write them in the key of C but have now introduced G and F major. The black keys are introduced as similar colours but darker ( i.e. F# is dark green, on the manuscript paper it is dark green with a black outline)

He is left handed so plays it all one fingered with the left hand. Shall I change this? What do you think my next target should be?? (Ultimately I would like him to be able to be independent with reading and learning music)

Thanks for reading!!


I am very impressed with your good ideas for your son.

To keep on as you are going with the key identification you are writing out for him, perhaps you could make Middle Cs look like a Middle C note, along with retaining the color you have been using for C's, until he recognizes that ONLY the middle C looks that way, then very gradually add the staffs around it, and one new note at a time very slowly.

I don't know how important the reading of notes ought to be at this point, but he IS doing a kind of reading now, with your system, which seems very successful from your description, so it makes sense to gradually keep refining what you are already doing.

I would encourage him to start using his right hand too. He may be very resistant at first -- but you know your son and how to encourage him. Perhaps the hands can "take turns" playing the song, or bits of the song.

In order to break him away, gradually, from the use of the pointer finger only, he needs to gain some coordination using all 5 fingers. For that, probably scales are the best, if you can get him to do them! I would start with "Mirror scales" -- thumbs together sharing a note, and all the other fingers lined up each on its own note, and play, and say:

1 - 2 - 3 - 4 - 5 - 4 - 3 - 2 - 1

hands together. Make a game out of it! Sing the finger numbers as you play them. Because he is only 5, he might do best with just 1 - 2 -3 for now. Some methods start on the black keys using fingers "2, 3, & 4", but with this approach, I have trouble with students letting their thumbs hang off the edge of the keys if they don't learn early on to perch their thumbs up on the keys.

Then, I would play "listening games" too -- perhaps he can close his eyes while you play different notes on the piano, higher or lower. And be teaching him some songs by ear, as well as by the reading method you have developed. Let him play the chords or bass note to make a duet with you (he is Secondo, you are Primo).

So, continue with the reading, add some technique, and let him learn some songs by ear -- those are the most fun.

I would also be looking around the web continually for new ideas. Check out the links I have on my piano pages:

Great Music Resources:



Martha Beth's Piano Site





Piano Adventures Forum

Piano Music for Boys



Susan Paradis Teacher Resources

TCW Resources


Note that the FreePianoLessons4Kids has short little video lessons about 7 minutes long that you can watch over & over - your son might really like those!

Good luck, and please write again to say how he is doing!

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