Think Outside the Box

by Bebe

My son has low cognitive level, in addition to being autistic. He does not understand numbers, letters, "which finger", left, right, etc. However, he has loved piano and music since he was born (I played for him before he was born and he recognized the pieces even at a couple of weeks old.)

When he started lessons at age 7, I thought he would probably play five moving notes in a row after a couple of years. However, he managed to plunk out "Mary Had a Little Lamb" in just 4 months.

What the teacher (who has never taught autistic children before) did was to put him on the black keys. My son is left handed, so we let him play melody with his left hand. In 3 months, he plunked out Bb Ab Gb ("Ma-ry had"). We were very excited already.

It was ASTOUNDING when he managed to change directions and play Bb Ab Gb Ab Bb Bb ("Ma-ry had a lit-tle") in another month. He can now play the whole tune, sometimes with his left, sometimes with his right.

He learns by listening. He plunks out melodies in a very unusual way. He usually sits on the floor and reaches his hands up to the keyboard. He plays the same two notes over and over and over and suddenly the third or fourth note comes out. I don't understand it at all, but it is amazing.

So, think outside the box. Don't get stuck on numbers or letters or notes or reading. If my son can plunk out a couple of his favorite songs, I am completely happy!

Thank you so much for sharing this with us! There are some good ideas here.

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Hi Dana
by: Anonymous

Dana - I am currently teaching a little boy very like yours, and am looking for really simple ideas that will engage him - I would love to communicate with you to find out what worked for him, especially in engaging him to copy or respond to any guidance. My little student is very musical - loves to dance and move to a beat but is stuck on one little sequence on the piano, and doesn't seem interested in anything else. I have a lot to learn!
Hope you can help
Lucy (Australia)

Hi, Lucy,
You are surely a treasure to that family and little student. Instead of saying to you to cut your expectations back, I'm going to suggest that you think a little differently about this student's goals. It can be so hard to get a special needs student to focus, especially when it's YOUR ideas you are asking them to focus on. Find out what his or her favorite music is, then write out a decent melodic version of that, which can be counted in simple notes. This can become the new favorite pattern. Why don't you write back using the "Contact Me" button? Good luck.

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