Autism, Kids and Piano
I’ve had a good deal of experience teaching piano to kids with various levels of autism and Aspberger’s syndrome and can safely say to parents that there may well be a dose of musical genius in each one of these children.
My first experience was with a girl of ten, delightful and giggly but shy, and very gifted at doing what I asked at the piano. I could ask her to do anything, slow it down, change key, play it staccato, play it legato, she instinctively knew what I meant. And she was calm and collected, cooperative and diligent, at least in terms of the piano.
It was only in a conversation with her Mom that I discovered that this child had Aspberger’s, a high functioning type of autism. I was flabbergasted. I could not believe that this child was in any way disabled. In fact I found her far more able at the piano than most other “normal” kids.
And that sets the pattern for my experience with autism and piano: there is a solid connection between the two.
If you have an autistic child, it is very likely that one outlet for their expression may be music at the piano. I have found that these children adore both the sound and the musical theory behind the piano.
My most recent student, who has autism, is practically the definition of childhood musical genius.
Let’s call him David (not his real name.)
David is five and is the warmest and bubbliest child that age you would ever meet. I was prepared for autism, whatever that is, but found a child who loved the piano, and wanted to play.
So we immediately embarked on Piano by Number, a choice I made because of his age, not his condition. We could have started reading music right away, but I wanted to be sure that he had a good first experience, and so, not knowing what to expect, I used numbers.
His response was immediate and 100% approval. He was fascinated at the idea of numbers on the piano keys, but even more striking was the fact that this child could find the pattern in anything. In fact, he lived for pattern, because apparently that was one thing he could be sure of, in his perhaps uncertain little world.
So we embarked on a study of chords and the patterns within. It didn’t take long, a matter of weeks, before he was composing songs that actually made musical sense. They were not childish nonsense, but fully formed melodies that had musical syntax and logic, plus a bouncing old-time Broadway style!
Soon after we started a study of scales, and David soon surprised me by playing all twelve major scales, with no preparation or prompting from me. We played the C scale, he saw the pattern, and the rest is history.
I did have to adjust my curriculum completely to meet his needs. The problem was that David would become so interested in a certain aspect of music theory that you could not introduce another at all. He simply wanted to play with the idea that interested him, and so I designed each step of learning around his interests, taking the cue from him.
We worked on what delighted him, with fabulous results.
What a pleasure to walk into the music room and have him smile and say, “Let’s work on chords!” Or, “Here, I wrote a song, listen!”
Follow the interests of the autistic child at the piano, and they will lead you to their success.
Visit http://pianoiseasy2.com for a beginning piano method kids really enjoy!
Copyright 2013 John Aschenbrenner All Rights Reserved
Visit http://www.pianoiseasy.com to see the fun PIANO BY NUMBER method for kids.