Mano Lesson 7

Continued from:  A Lesson Plan for Children with Autism

Our lesson took place downstairs in the early afternoon. While I was getting my instrument, Mano already had hers together. She was a little nervous since the big number for the week was Jingle Bells; the school band is getting ready for their Holiday debut. 

Some new musical notes had been introduced along with some different rhythms in her Band class. Mano continues to apologize when she makes a mistake but I have found her making the same progress at the same speed a child without autism would make.

Repetition seems to be the order of each lesson. We go back and review and attempt to build on what she has already learned. Mano remembers certain things that were taught weeks ago but can’t seem to remember something I taught her five minutes ago. I can really witness this short term memory problem that she has through these lessons.

As students continue with me as their teacher, I stress independence. They should not always depend on my playing along and my playing along with the correct notes. Though I do let students play by themselves, I do find it useful to improvise a harmony line as the student is playing what is on the page. At first they think they are making a mistake as Mano did at first but eventually they hear how lovely the harmony sounds along with what they are playing. 

Rhythm continues to be a problem with Mano but I cannot discern if it is because of her autism or that beginning students are initially just bad at rhythm and learn, unfortunately, by rote rather than by actually reading and playing what is on the printed page.

Mom’s sudden appearance in the middle of the lesson provided for some positive reinforcement though I usually do not let parents sit in or interrupt a lesson. It usually stops the flow of the lesson and the train of thought is often loss. But in this unusual circumstance, i.e. Dad as teacher and as Dad with Mom close, by it worked. Mano was able to show off what she was learning to Mom. But when Mom left, we were back to learning some new concepts which is a slow process, teaching one concept at a time. For someone like me, who teaches several related concepts at one time, this type of teaching is rather painstaking.

The teaching of a beat or the natural pulses that are around us is difficult with young children. Teachers use analogies like the regular pulse of the heart, of ocean waves, of listening to a car thumping along an interstate, etc. What I have found is a bit less abstract. I gently beat my foot on top of Mano’s. This is something new I am trying and I will see if Mano can eventually “feel” the regular recurring of the musical beat.

I have asked Mano on several occasions to practice at least once before our lesson. She hasn’t done so, though her and her younger brother, who is learning recorder in school, had a “dueling banjos” competition during the week.

I am having difficulty in determining if these lessons in themselves are having any positive effect on Mano. I do see some improvement in her speech but it could be the result of other factors or several factors in combination (lessons, Band Class, speech therapy in school)  and not necessarily the lessons alone.

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2 thoughts on “Mano Lesson 7

  1. Thank you Mr. Kolman for sharing your experience in teaching your daughter, Mano, how to play the clarinet. I have tried to teach my son who has autism how to play the piano. I ,myself, am not a professional pianist, but know enough to be able to teach a beginner. However, after signing him up for private lessons, I realized that I was doing most of the teaching at home since he would not practice on his own. As you’ve mentioned, teaching individuals on the spectrum needs a very different method, pace and a very creative approach. He is now able to read the notes and the time signature and some fraction notes. The hardest part in teaching him is trying to overcome his anxiety and his lack of patience to practice. I was discouraged when he would not practice independently after many months of learning. Your lesson plans have encouraged me to go back to teaching him (even if I need to stay next to him the whole time).

    • =] Hello there Aline! (Random person who just happened to stumble upon this site through a CNN post…) I have learned that when teaching ANYONE, patience is STILL key, no matter what! If you have enough connection with that person to say that they know something from a particular lesson you have taught them, then its safe to move on… but slowly! Base it on THEIR needs.

      With that in mind, its still OK to experiment with teaching sometimes. After teaching your son for some amount of time, and with you trying to get him to practice on his own… perhaps you should tell him with a different approach! If he is already doing so, Kudos to you! But this approach works for almost anyone!

      Step one: Teach them yourself 1on1 for awhile.

      Step two: Observe their progress through this method and determine whether or not its time to get them to try on their own.

      Step three: When their ready, if they still won’t try to practice on their own by telling them exactly that, “Try some practicing on your own.” Tell them to mess around with the piano in any way they desire, just tell them to be careful as to not physicially damage the piano! =P. Most people will hit random keys and start having a fiasco of jumbled notes that may not work… but if you taught them enough, they will eventually start practicing! If not, after you get them in that mode of “messing around with something fun” tell them to “Now try this musical piece based on what I taught you earlier.” Considering they were already enjoying the piano… it will be easier to get them to practice this way! This method usually works with ANYTHING your teaching about. From music to writing with proper grammar. =] It works!

      Try it! Cheers!

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