Music therapy - Working with an autistic 2 year old...

Share your experiences or ask for help with special needs students

Postby celia » Sun Nov 02, 2008 11:29 pm

I have looked into Music Therapy courses and I have discovered that to become properly qualified and registered it is going to involve a 3 yr music degree followed by a 2 yr masters. Sadly this is more study than I feel I can take on right now...
However...
a friend of mine has a child at my pre-school who is 2 and he has been diagnosed mildly autistic. She was asking me about piano lessons as she knows I have successfully taken on pre-schoolers at age 4. I said it would probably be better to wait until the child is 3 at least. She knows I have no experience of this but she knows I relate well to young children (I already have a great relationship with her son) and she may have heard I'm a good piano teacher (!??)
So anyway I have tentatively offered to start sessions with him in January (when he turns 3) The question is... What to do with him? I have had huge success with the 4 year olds but this is entirely different as he is younger and has speech and communication difficulties. If anyone has any advice for how I could plan these sessions or where I could go for more information (books/websites etc) I would be very appreciative... This will be a big challenge for me but one I hope we could both benefit from!!
celia
 
Posts: 73
Joined: Fri Mar 28, 2008 1:37 am
Location: New Zealand

Postby Tranquillo » Mon Nov 03, 2008 10:00 pm

HEY CELIA!

I have EXCELLENT NEWS! There is a music therapist in my school, I was talking to my teacher at school and told her I wanted to get into music therapy ... she asked me if I wanted to meet him ... I said "yes" (ofcourse) ... so I am meeting with him on Tuesday next week ... he works with the autistic kids in my highschool. I am so excited! I'll tell you how it goes ... who knows maybe I'd be able to observe a session! :D
Music is organised sound
User avatar
Tranquillo
 
Posts: 465
Joined: Wed Sep 05, 2007 11:43 pm

Postby celia » Wed Nov 05, 2008 11:24 pm

Great news Becibu, good luck with that it would be wonderful if you could observe a session! And if you do, be sure to take lots of notes so you can tell me all about it! I have been researching books on the internet and have seen one which looks good for a beginner, "Music Therapy" by Betsey King. Has anyone heard of this or knows whether its any good?
celia
 
Posts: 73
Joined: Fri Mar 28, 2008 1:37 am
Location: New Zealand

Postby jenscott90 » Sat Nov 08, 2008 10:12 am

Wow, music therapy and autism.

Well, the two autistic children I know (but do not teach..have never been asked) have sensory issues. One's issue is more tactile and the other's is auditory. Since piano involves many sensory inputs, I'd be sure to speak with the parents about any sensitivities to noise, lights, visual patterns, smell, touch, etc that he/she has before beginning. There may be a timeframe that you'll want to slowly introduce and acclimate the child to any area he may be sensitive in. Be sure to find out what the child considers a 'reward'...does he like to play with Playdoh? Can he have a fruit snack after performing a task successfully? Is he working on using words to describe things? Sooo many of his possible 'issues' can be worked out in piano, and don't necessarily have to be teaching him piano with books. Just getting him to see the pattern on the keys may be the task of a session or two, depending on what he needs. You say he's mildly autistic. Does he have Asperger's or another on the autism spectrum? I assume you have intimate knowledge, but just for the sake of the discussion, one would have to know more about that and even think about including Mom or Dad in the lesson very closely.

I tend to refer young students to a Kindermusik class, but that's because I know I don't have the skills or understanding of how preschoolers learn music. Once they have some reading skills and a decent attention span I can do "traditional" lessons. Anything outside of that would be pure experimentation on my part and not a true structure. If the parents are okay with that, then I might consider trying it.

Anyway, good luck, have fun and let us know how it goes and what you do!! Especially report back with challenges and what you tried to use to overcome them...what worked and what didn't etc. I'm very interested!!

Hugs,
Jen

PS - this is all just me rambling off the top of my head. Please excuse me if anything seems out of line!
User avatar
jenscott90
 
Posts: 52
Joined: Thu May 24, 2007 7:20 am
Location: Central Illinois

Postby celia » Sat Nov 08, 2008 11:29 pm

Hi Jen, thanks for your thoughts.
The child in question has very moderate difficulties, and as some-one who is very experienced with "normal" children at pre-school age, I am unsure whether the "mildly autistic" diagnosis is even accurate. Socially the child is not really "unusual" for a 2 yr old, his mother thinks he is but she has only known one 2 yr old and I have known hundreds of them!!! He is different at school from when his mother is around and I'm sure he is very different sitting in a clinic being assessed.
Anyway, what is for certain is that he has quite a severe language delay - very premature baby, many medical issues, one of those being that his hearing was very poor as a baby. So he has recently started speech therapy, and I think this could be very well supported through music therapy. He loves classical music, songs and poetry, and through reading up a little I have realised that I am already familiar with some of the techniques used in music therapy to encourage participation and interaction - for example if you sing the beginning line of a song "twinkle twinkle little..." a child who is very familiar with the song will not be able to resist filling in "star!" Much less pressure than asking the child to sing a song, or even answer a basic question in some cases.
I am getting on very well with teaching 4 yr olds piano. I am used to teaching structured sessions with this age group so attention span is not really a problem. I stay one step ahead and recognise before they get bored so we usually break up the session with some music colouring in or games at the piano. They start off just getting the concept of high and low and how the music looks on the page. I have taught them left from right this way. They are excellent at rhythm. The next stage is to recognise the notes on the piano in relation to the black notes. D is the first note I teach, it is the easiest to find. They love the sound of playing all the D's up and down the piano. Another favourite activity is playing all the white keys up the piano from the lowest key and singing ABCDEFG, ABCDEFG etc. Hopefully the boy in question will be open to some of this, mixed in with some "music therapy" and maybe a bit of colouring in, half an hour will fly by! Of course I will update you all when I start the sessions with him (planned for Jan) I have ordered the book. Any further comments welcome! Thanks, Celia
celia
 
Posts: 73
Joined: Fri Mar 28, 2008 1:37 am
Location: New Zealand

Postby Tranquillo » Sun Nov 09, 2008 1:57 am

What type of Autism does this boy have?
Music is organised sound
User avatar
Tranquillo
 
Posts: 465
Joined: Wed Sep 05, 2007 11:43 pm

Postby celia » Sun Nov 09, 2008 8:40 pm

Hi Becibu! Did you get to meet with the music therapist yet? Let me know how it goes.
Not wanting to stray too far from the topic of "piano", the boy has not been diagnosed with a "type" of autism (yet), just "mildly autistic". The trouble with autism is that it is very difficult to diagnose when a child is only 2. Equally, if a child has severe difficulties it NEEDS to be diagnosed as early as possible, preferably at age 2, in order to put in place the intensive therapy he needs to help him - "early intervention" As the child gets older it gets much harder to help him learn "normal patterns of behaviour" etc.
The other problem is that many "normal" children display autistic tendencies to one degree of another, in pre-school and also through school. Eg. lack of social/communication skills, not making eye contact, trouble making friends etc. Also, having obsessions over certain things to the exclusion of other interests (in this case trains).
Whilst he does display these characteristics to a degree, as a professional teacher I know it is not unusual. His lack of communication skills is related to and caused by his lack of speech - therefore poor hearing as a baby often leads to poor social skills (and anti-social behaviour) but hopefully in most cases this can be rectified before the child starts school. But I expect music therapy can also be effectively used to help children with other learning difficulties such as dyslexia, and even those who are simply very shy...
celia
 
Posts: 73
Joined: Fri Mar 28, 2008 1:37 am
Location: New Zealand

Postby Tranquillo » Mon Nov 10, 2008 2:02 am

No ... I know its exciting but tomorrow's the day! I saw the autistic boy in my school, he is very quite but can still communicate ... its not hard to communicate with him.

Can't wait!
Music is organised sound
User avatar
Tranquillo
 
Posts: 465
Joined: Wed Sep 05, 2007 11:43 pm

Postby Tranquillo » Mon Nov 10, 2008 10:56 pm

Celia, I have been inspired.

I met the music therapist in my high school and we had a brief 25 minute conversation. I told him that I had always wanted to get into music therapy ... I asked him what courses are involved and what is a good way to get started?

He told me he did a two year masters degree at a university and before that he was a musician 'by night'. He said that he loves what he does, it seems like such a great job. He also invited me to observe a session at a center I would like to know more and I took down his contact details.

He plays guitar and admits that he can't read music well, the course that he was taught emphasized the need to have good Aural skills and have the ability to improvise. I asked him about practical requirements and explained mine, he acknowledged that I am not diploma level, he said that I don't need to be.

He didn't sit in the session but he did tell me of what he did. He told me the autistic boy had trouble at home, he wasn't feeling too good. He wouldn't talk in the beginning ... to really 'connect' with his feelings he improvised on some minor chords with the Autistic boy improvising along with him on a keyboard.

The music therapist seemed to really empathize improvisation and really communicating with music. He also said that he goes to nursing homes and music therapy centers.

I was glad to meet him, great experience to talk to someone in the profession.

If you want to ask more about what we said I'll be happy to answer. I hope to attend a session next time to watch.
Music is organised sound
User avatar
Tranquillo
 
Posts: 465
Joined: Wed Sep 05, 2007 11:43 pm

Postby 112-1182392787 » Fri Nov 21, 2008 9:05 pm

Hi, I've finally been able to log on again, and am catching up. What signs is this child displaying, or why do they think he is autistic? You say that he "was" hard of hearing as a baby. Has he now stopped being hard of hearing? Did his ears recover their ability to hear? Or might he still have hearing problems? What I am wondering about is that if he cannot hear well, this might affect his behaviour, and that makes me wonder about the autism diagnosis. Does he do things like rock himself and do rhythmic things?

You say his speech is delayed and that he is receiving therapy. What is his speech like? Does he have poor pronunciation for a two year old? (When I taught, I was told by the speech therapist that control of all letters can be delayed up to 7, and she did not like to work with children below that age unless there was something severe going on. Mind you, that was 25 years ago.) Low vocabulary? But he is only two! Closer to two or closer to three?

You say he behaves differently at preschool than when his mother is around. In what way?

As I understand it, autistic people generally have all their senses open and cannot block the input. In comparison, we tend to selectively block and decide what to focus on. Therefore they have to block out the extra stimulus, and the "behaviours" are actually coping mechanisms. If he were autistic you would avoid over-stimulating, frequently changing activities, since each new activity would require an adjustment --- IF he is.

My gut feeling: You have described some of the enjoyable things you do with other little pupils. Would it not be "music therapy" to just allow him to enjoy and explore music, following your instincts as you interact with him as a little person? Have you interacted with him already, or played with him so that you have gotten to know him?
User avatar
112-1182392787
 

Postby 112-1182392787 » Fri Nov 21, 2008 9:09 pm

Becibu, your chance to learn from a music therapist by being allowed to attend some of the things he does sounds fascinating. What a wonderful opportunity. :)
User avatar
112-1182392787
 

Postby jenscott90 » Sat Nov 22, 2008 2:06 pm

The question of hearing loss I can speak to as a professional teacher of the deaf and hard of hearing.

Hearing can be recovered if the reason for the loss was something like chronic ear infections. You'll often find children who had recurrent middle ear infections have delays in speech and language development and play "catch up" with their peers. Assuming then that the infections are no longer hindering them, many do catch up quite quickly, however, if there was no diagnosis or realization of the loss, and no interventions were given, they can often lag behind their peers in several areas, including socially. Because we depend so much on verbal language to cue our social skills, a child with a hearing loss depends on the partial information coming to them and body language to make decisions. It's a complicated situation (or can be) to remedy, and takes a fair amount of backpedaling to find the exact areas that need to be addressed.

If he now has normal hearing, I would think his chances at success in piano are excellent. :) Even if he still has a mild or moderate loss, he might still gain significant benefits, as those often find hearing aids help tremendously.

Good luck!!!
User avatar
jenscott90
 
Posts: 52
Joined: Thu May 24, 2007 7:20 am
Location: Central Illinois

Postby 112-1182392787 » Sat Nov 22, 2008 6:56 pm

Jenscott, there seems to be an iffy question about mild autism for a child so young. Could hearing loss create behaviour that might be mistaken for autism, maybe since it's harder to communicate when you can't hear well?
User avatar
112-1182392787
 

Postby celia » Sat Nov 22, 2008 7:11 pm

Hi again everybody and thanks for all the input.
Becibu I am glad you got to meet the music therapist. It would be great for you to go along and observe one of his sessions. I would love to know more about how a session is structured. From my research I understood that you have to have a music degree to do the masters music therapy, but I wonder what this guy did, surely not a music degree if his music reading's not great!!? I would love to know. Well improvising sounds fun, I improvise songs all the time at work, and I guess to begin with I can use chords and melodies from nursery rhymes etc. along with the improvised song. I was also thinking as this little guy is so into "Thomas the tank engine" I plan to work out the theme tune on the piano (there are no words to it) and we can make up songs to the tune!
I have a great relationship with the boy (I will call him R) because I have looked after him a lot in the past year. He will be 3 in January which is when we are going to start the sessions.
I am pretty sure his hearing is recovered because he does usually respond when you call him in a noisy environment (when he wants to that is) What Jen describes about loss of hearing (along with my knowledge of little children's behaviour) seems to fit perfectly, so thanks Jen for clarifying that. The speech therapy has worked wonders. Whilst before, R only had maybe 10 words and hardly ever spoke, he is now trying to talk ALL the time, although his speech is very unclear, he can usually make himself understood :D Great to see and hear this improvement!!
QUOTE
"Would it not be "music therapy" to just allow him to enjoy and explore music, following your instincts as you interact with him as a little person?" (Pianissimo)
Yes I agree entirely!!! I feel that I have a lot to offer in my areas of interest - piano, pre-school, and learning difficulties, and that I can combine all 3 to work out a great method which can be tailored to fit the individual. Because, of course, all going to plan, if things work out with R's piano sessions, I can start taking on more children of a young age/learning difficulties/autism etc.
celia
 
Posts: 73
Joined: Fri Mar 28, 2008 1:37 am
Location: New Zealand

Postby Tranquillo » Sat Nov 22, 2008 7:53 pm

He did a masters in Music Therapy. To get a music degree your reading needn't be good depending on the course you wish to take. You can get degree in musicology or music studies or music education without that much of a great skill to read.

Some conservatoriums drill reading into students in the first year, not just sight reading but sight singing! One of my teachers said its not a build on to the grading system, its a double brainwashing!

He had excellent aural skills, being able to play a song after hearing it. Improvisation seemed to me a great skill that he emphasized. The masters degree was a two year course that he took without doing a Bachelors, he said he got by lucky making the audition however many people do a Bachelors.

It helps to know a few instruments ... he said that guitar is useful. He said that some people get away with less than grade five in their instruments.

Hope that helped.
Music is organised sound
User avatar
Tranquillo
 
Posts: 465
Joined: Wed Sep 05, 2007 11:43 pm

Next

Return to Teaching Disabled Students

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 2 guests

cron