Continued from: A Lesson Plan for Children with Autism
Just when I was getting a bit frustrated with Mano’s lack of interest in and progress on the clarinet, she proved to me that with patience and time, conditions can change abruptly.
Mano not only played successfully the two pages we have been struggling with for the past month, but she played part of the next new page for me which contains new material. Her embouchure was showing immense improvement over the previous weeks, she was beginning to understand rhythm, that some notes last longer than others, and her tone production was much better than I could imagine.
After the 20 minute lesson, I was wondering what the variables were; what was different from our last lesson. I know that kids and especially kids with autism are very sensitive to their surroundings and can show positive or negative reaction to changes.
First of all, the lesson took place in the warm comforts of the living room rather than downstairs in the not so conducive laundry room. Secondly, the lesson time was earlier in the day rather than the evening when Mano seems to be most tired and anxious, probably because of school occurring the next morning.
Thirdly and foremost, Mano’s mother was present. The Suzuki method of teaching very young children violin was based on the premise that children learn to speak their native language from their mothers. Mothers are the first ones to teach language to the very young. Suzuki capitalized on this idea and successfully, up to a point, thought that this mother-child relationship with language could be transferred to the violin. Children were given small quarter size violins and mothers not only attended lessons but were encouraged to learned violin alongside their children. I believe this mother-child relationship model was present, though briefly, when Mano was showing her mother, me, and her younger brother her abilities. Mano now had a small audience and this encouraged her to play better than before as her family gave her instant positive feedback.
As I continue with these lessons, I will be cognizant of where we have them, when we have them, as well as who may be within earshot of Mano’s playing, Mano is also practicing for a short time by herself on Saturdays, a day before her lesson with me.
Much credit should be given to her Band class which meets several times a week. She recently received a good grade from her instructor and she gets to play on a regular basis. It should be mentioned that Mano has been grounded from using the computer for a period of time for an unrelated incident. Though she may think this is a huge punishment, I believe that it is a blessing in disguise. She can no longer, at least for the time being, spend hours mesmerized at the computer. Perhaps with the computer no longer in the equation, she can now concentrate on other more mind expanding activities.
All the above makes for a good recipe for success and I am very interested in seeing how far Mano progresses.