Special education and  the arts - Opportunity?

Share your experiences or ask for help with special needs students

Postby Dr. John Zeigler - PEP Ed » Tue Oct 10, 2006 7:53 am

Most of you know that my wife teaches special ed in the local high school, one which is recognized nationwide for its innovative programs in both special and general ed. She has noticed that, despite their disabilities, her special ed students have a disproportionate talent for artistic creativity, both in the visual arts and performing arts. For many of them, drawing or listening to music is a way for them to "chill out" on a bad day.

This raises the interesting question: Do special education students represent a largely untapped resource for the arts? Should piano teachers make an effort to recruit such students, since their disabilities (which are usually more mental than physical) often don't interfere with their ability to appreciate and do artistic work? Such kids usually find the arts only by accident, because they often come from families where the fine arts are largely unknown. Has anyone else made similar observations? :)
All religions, arts and sciences are branches of the same tree. All these aspirations are directed toward ennobling man's life, lifting it from the sphere of mere physical existence and leading the individual towards freedom. - Albert Einstein
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Postby Beckywy » Tue Oct 10, 2006 10:14 pm

I taught a blind student who was born at 25 weeks - he only had 3 functioning fingers in each hand. He wouldn't listen to instructions, but he could play anything I did on the piano. I taught him intermediate pieces by ear, 1 line at a time.
"The real purpose of studying music-to unite ourselves with our special gifts in such a way that one would add strength to the other" Seymour Bernstein
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Postby 108-1121887355 » Fri Nov 03, 2006 12:13 pm

What a great experience for both the student and for you. I wish more teachers were trained or would try to teach people with disabilities. I wish I had gotten into it as had a lot of experience later on in this area working with my husband on a Commission on Disability.

I taught a young girl with mild Cerebral Palsey and a boy with a hearing aid, and many dyslexic students and those with what I call ADD! It is hard to teach a child who cannot sit still on a chair and whose chair is always moving! Music can offer a source of pride and success when dealt with correctly. One adult student, now, mixes up and down when reading music.

Every student is a challenge of some kind. It keeps us 'on our toes'. That is why this site is so helpful - offering new ideas and thoughts.
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Postby Beckywy » Fri Nov 03, 2006 3:20 pm

I have a new student who started with me a couple months ago. He has muscular dystrophy. A lot of bad days and a few good days. The bad days, we do a lot of singing and rhythm exercises - playing the piano with the palm. Good days, he would be able to move his fingers over the keys.
"The real purpose of studying music-to unite ourselves with our special gifts in such a way that one would add strength to the other" Seymour Bernstein
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Postby 108-1121887355 » Fri Nov 03, 2006 4:04 pm

You are a very special, patient, talented person.
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Postby Glissando88keys » Thu Nov 30, 2006 6:16 pm

Does anyone have any experience teaching piano to an autistic child?

I suppose the degree of autism would determine what could be accomplished, however, any accomplishment, no matter how small, would be a triumph, in my view. I have also heard that many autistic individuals are talented in the arts.

Any comments?
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Postby jenscott90 » Wed May 30, 2007 8:41 am

This is an old topic, I know, but I am interested if anyone has taught autistic children. They tend to be easily overstimulated by touch or sound, so it might be an interesting proposition where you have to start by desensitizing them bit by bit to the slippery feel of the keys or the volume of the piano, assuming you don't have a digital with volume control.

Use of rewards, depending on the parent's system, would be key, as well, I would think. I have a couple of friends with autistic children and they are as different as the day is long. The kids have totally different issues and the parents attribute the disability to different causes, etc.

What are your experiences?

And, by the way, congratulations and kudos to you who take time to individualize your curriculum for these and any kids. No one learns at exactly the same pace or through the same avenues, but I think a good teacher is someone who strives to use all available material and methods (books or not) to get that child to love and play music.

Just my opinion! :)

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Postby Dr. John Zeigler - PEP Ed » Wed May 30, 2007 8:54 am

jenscott90 wrote:This is an old topic, I know, but I am interested if anyone has taught autistic children. They tend to be easily overstimulated by touch or sound, so it might be an interesting proposition where you have to start by desensitizing them bit by bit to the slippery feel of the keys or the volume of the piano, assuming you don't have a digital with volume control.

Use of rewards, depending on the parent's system, would be key, as well, I would think. I have a couple of friends with autistic children and they are as different as the day is long. The kids have totally different issues and the parents attribute the disability to different causes, etc.

I'm still hoping to get my wife to write some in this thread, now that school is out. In her absence, let me just point you to a web site that touts a set of materials for autistic piano students, http://www.AutisticPianoEXpress.com. I'm not advocating (or for that matter, dis-advocating) the materials, but you may be able to pick up a few tips from the site that will help you with autistic students. I hope that, this summer, we can add an article or two to the main part of PEP about teaching such children.
All religions, arts and sciences are branches of the same tree. All these aspirations are directed toward ennobling man's life, lifting it from the sphere of mere physical existence and leading the individual towards freedom. - Albert Einstein
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Postby 112-1182392787 » Thu Jun 21, 2007 4:36 pm

I guess I should introduce myself first. I am an adult music student, and also have some training in learning disability teaching.

The following link is to a documentary about Derek Paraviccini, a pianist who is also autistic and blind and "can barely count to ten". "Musical Genius"

Is it my imagination, or do rhythm and tempo stand out in his playing, sometimes (in another segment) even in his conversations? Can this help in teaching an autistic student? A book written by a highly functioning autistic woman described how regular rhythm had a calming effect that brought the world into order.
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Postby M&m » Sat Sep 01, 2007 10:09 pm

jenscott90 wrote:This is an old topic, I know, but I am interested if anyone has taught autistic children. They tend to be easily overstimulated by touch or sound, so it might be an interesting proposition where you have to start by desensitizing them bit by bit to the slippery feel of the keys or the volume of the piano, assuming you don't have a digital with volume control.

Use of rewards, depending on the parent's system, would be key, as well, I would think. I have a couple of friends with autistic children and they are as different as the day is long. The kids have totally different issues and the parents attribute the disability to different causes, etc.

What are your experiences?

And, by the way, congratulations and kudos to you who take time to individualize your curriculum for these and any kids. No one learns at exactly the same pace or through the same avenues, but I think a good teacher is someone who strives to use all available material and methods (books or not) to get that child to love and play music.

Just my opinion! :)

Jen

My son is on the high end of the Autistic Spectrum. You are right when you said that "they are different as the day is long" Each kid is different in their own personality as well as where they are on the Autistic Spectrum...and it is a diverse spectrum.

My son has the problem with sound. It is really strange though because the speakers of the computer will bother him or certain noises. Even certain music bothers him like Beethoven's 5th. My voice even bothers him when I have a cold. It just depends. But as we are driving down the road he wants me to turn up a Beethoven piece so he can hear it. I think he wants to listen to the left hand as well as the right. That is why we bought a Clavinova first. So he will have the same sound always. In a couple of years we will get a regular piano to hear the tones. He works with both in his lessons. Music has always calmed him. It was Music Therapy that got him to speak.

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Postby Tranquillo » Sun Sep 09, 2007 4:00 am

Its great to see teachers wanting to look into learning disabilities inparticular Autism. Have a friend that is Autistic with Aspergers, the higher range autism. He enjoys the piano a lot but found not paitence in taking lessons.



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