Mano Lesson 4

Continued from:  A Lesson Plan for Children with Autism

What began as a little girl so anxious to play clarinet like her father has evolved into less than enthusiasm in learning to play the instrument. It is very possible that like most young beginners the shiny new instrument looks real cool to play but then the reality of actually learning to play it causes some consternation. I often have read that children with autism seem to have more positive experiences with piano. In that case, tone production is guaranteed and there is no wooden tube to blow into like the clarinet.

The first few steps of playing the clarinet are often the most difficult in trying to produce a sound that is recognizable and devoid of the omnipresent “squeaks.”

In Mano’s case, if I weren’t her father, I would have consulted with the parents by now, even at these early steps and suggest that private lessons are perhaps too overwhelming and that playing in Band class at this juncture maybe all that Mano can handle at this time.

We are still working very slowly on the first two pages of her Band Method Book. The book itself is not helping either. The book begins with placing number in the middle of the note heads supposedly to help the student with counting. On page two, the numbers appear at the bottom of the page and the note heads are black like they should be. This small change did take Mano by surprise and she could not easily recognize these notes which were the same notes we have been working on for three weeks.

I added one more variable, my playing alongside Mano. Hopefully, hearing the way the notes are supposed to sound may encourage her to play better or at least help her understand the concept of playing these 5 beginning notes. This is the usual modus operandi of most teachers; play with the student as a means of encouragement. This was not the case in Mano’s case. Even when I played the same small passage several times, she still could not get it correctly even with my trying different teaching techniques.

Having a lesson without practicing would be another reason for this lack of progress. I have asked Mano to practice at least 20 minutes on Saturday before our lesson on Sunday. Our lessons have been in the evening which might be contributing to her lack of motivation because of fatigue. I will move the lessons to an earlier time.

Mano has the habit of trying something once or twice and then discards it or forget about it like certain toys and books. She has definite interests like watching cartoons on TV as well as on the computer. I have not seen her take out the clarinet and do some experimentation herself. As the lessons have progress, her progress has been minimal by any standards.

Perhaps my frustration with Mano is contributing to her lack of interest for the clarinet. It does take work to play the clarinet and Mano doesn’t seem to want to put in the work to improve her playing. It is difficult for me to convince her that better things will happen if she works at it. I feel that she wants the clarinet to play without much effort but this is impossible. If only I can convince her that once she is able to produce an acceptable tone, then she would be able to play some of her songs that she likes. If she learns to read music more efficiently, we can move further on.

Lessons are on the weekend and to Mano the weekends are not work days. I have tried to make it fun to play the clarinet but there is a point when the student needs to put in some work and show that he or she really wants to learn.

I don’t know exactly where these lessons will lead us. I am still waiting for the light bulb to go on and for Mano to realize that it is pretty cool to play the clarinet. We will see how things go during Lesson 5.


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