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#1889364 - 05/01/12 11:37 AM Asperger Syndrome  
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Peanuts Offline
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I have a 30min weekly piano lesson with an 8-year old student who has AS, ADD and is gifted academically. She has very good ears, can sing in tune and beautifully. She likes piano.

She has been with me for a few months and struggled with notation and rhythm when we use Adventures Premier Lesson Book. She doesn't take instruction unless she is in the mood to. So we switch to Adventures Book B. I hope the sound track from the the second book could help with her pause, DIY. Unfortunately, her notation worsen. She attempted the last pieces (twinkle little star) on her own and play by ear, and make some mistakes. She would continue to play while i am trying to explain.

Her attitude has improve alot compared from when she first started. She used to reject trying a piece because it looks hard. Now, she practises daily.

I know she can read if she choose to. Her reading skills are way off the scale. But she doesn't see the need to, since her ears are good enough to pick up her favouriate tune but not good enough for her to detach her own mistakes. Her mother come into the class reguarly at the end of her lesson to discuss and update me on her progress at home and school.

As you can see, I have some sort of communicate break down with my student. She seems live between this and her world and would only respond to me as when she wants to. How can I reach the girl?

Last edited by Peanuts; 05/01/12 12:02 PM.

Currently working on Comping and Improvisation
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#1889386 - 05/01/12 12:26 PM Re: Asperger Syndrome [Re: Peanuts]  
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Meilen Offline
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Have you thought of taking a break from more formal teaching for a while and perhaps doing more singing, theory games, stuff like that. If you can try and get her more interested in reading by stealth while still capturing her interest, then hopefully her concentration will continue to improve, even if actual reading becomes only a small part of each lesson, at least for the time being.

It might also be that she just responds better when there are a range of activities, or that you have to be prepared to take each lesson as it comes, and make a judgement call as to what you will do depending on how she is on the day. If this means you spend a whole lesson singing and the next lesson completely away from the piano then so be it. You can still give her music to try at home and still encourage her to read.

I've had a couple of students who sound quite similar to yours, and I remember with the first I found it so disheartening when the approach that worked so well with other students just didn't seem right.



Teaching piano in English in Switzerland!
#1889391 - 05/01/12 12:35 PM Re: Asperger Syndrome [Re: Peanuts]  
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Students with AS do not learn the same way that other students do, so you will likely need to adjust your teaching style to fit the student's needs.
Using a traditional method book can be frustrating to some AS students, so if she resists a particular piece initially, pass over it and then go back to it later on.


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#1889452 - 05/01/12 02:35 PM Re: Asperger Syndrome [Re: BinghamtonPiano]  
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Originally Posted by BinghamtonPiano
Students with AS do not learn the same way that other students do, so you will likely need to adjust your teaching style to fit the student's needs. Using a traditional method book can be frustrating to some AS students, so if she resists a particular piece initially, pass over it and then go back to it later on.
+1

As a pianist who is both an aspie and has/is ADD I couldn't agree more. "We" are different in more ways than one. The aspie part is not teachable unless I want to be taught in a specific subject, it also means I take everything literally, so it means that you as a teacher has to be super clear in what you want to achieve.
Being ADD means that I have a hard time memorizing, following convoluted explanations, reading music and playing it, etc. I need very clear lessons that are short or a longer lesson with many breaks. ADD means that my working memory is slightly deficient (more often than not those with ADD are also Dyslexic) so I get easier and faster tired - or rather my head gets full up and confused.

I suggest you do some reading about Asperger - Tony Atwood has a great website http://www.tonyattwood.com.au/

#1889459 - 05/01/12 03:01 PM Re: Asperger Syndrome [Re: Peanuts]  
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keystring Offline
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Chrisbell, there has been a suggestion by one person to give a range of activities. My feeling from what I know about AS is that this would not be a good idea because the student would have to adjust to a new situation each time. Is this on track?

#1889465 - 05/01/12 03:14 PM Re: Asperger Syndrome [Re: Peanuts]  
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Meilen Offline
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I would agree that too many would not be good for some students, but on the other hand I had one student (Aspergers) for whom this worked incredibly well, after much discussion with his parents and close monitoring. In particular, time out in the form of singing worked amazingly well.



Teaching piano in English in Switzerland!
#1889636 - 05/01/12 09:32 PM Re: Asperger Syndrome [Re: Meilen]  
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Hi all, thanks for the suggestion.

Her combination of audio talent, giftedness, AS, ADD makes troubleshooting very difficult for me. If she only one of the above attributes, i am quite confident to work around it. From previous experience dealing with gifted kids, they have a very strong mind of their own and simply do not get persuade easily. Even her mother said the girl made her cry. But I take it with a pinch of salt.

Hi chrisbell, this student's condition doesn't seem to be so bad that she takes things literally. Because we joke. But she tends to be very repeatative. She drives her mother up the wall when she practises 'not so hard'. Thanks for the link. I am going through it later. Need to run.

She likes piano and is very eager to show me what she had pick out over the week at home. Meilan, How do you incoperate singing to help with notation?

We revise notation at www.musictheory.net a couple of lessons. We start off with 2 notes and then increase the pitches. She picks up fast. The problem is she completely forgets everything in the next lesson.

I tried All Cow Eats Grass, Good Boy Deswrves Food Always, etc. She doesn't want to memorise them! She keep changing the words. I am abolishing this method.

Last edited by Peanuts; 05/01/12 09:39 PM.

Currently working on Comping and Improvisation
#1889802 - 05/02/12 03:55 AM Re: Asperger Syndrome [Re: keystring]  
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Originally Posted by keystring
Chrisbell, there has been a suggestion by one person to give a range of activities. My feeling from what I know about AS is that this would not be a good idea because the student would have to adjust to a new situation each time. Is this on track?
yes.

#1889808 - 05/02/12 04:15 AM Re: Asperger Syndrome [Re: Peanuts]  
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Originally Posted by Peanuts
Hi chrisbell, this student's condition doesn't seem to be so bad that she takes things literally. Because we joke. But she tends to be very repeatative.

Not so sure if it's bad - or good. It's like the question: do you know what time it is? my answer would be yes. But the question: what time is it? my answer would be quarter past one (or whatever).
Repetitive is what "we" excel at, especially if we get inspired (some would say obsessed) by something.

Originally Posted by Peanuts
She likes piano and is very eager to show me what she had pick out over the week at home.
That's marvellous!

Originally Posted by Peanuts
She picks up fast. The problem is she completely forgets everything in the next lesson.

Yep, that's the ADD at work. It takes many repetitions to move information from the working memory to the storage department.

Originally Posted by Peanuts
I tried All Cow Eats Grass, Good Boy Deswrves Food Always, etc. She doesn't want to memorise them! She keep changing the words. I am abolishing this method.

Good for you that you stopped with that "nonsense". There's no cows in music, no good boy's either. As I wrote earlier, literally. So how did I learn music theory (and teach it at both High School and College level)? By becoming obsessed in why does music work, etc. Structure, pattern recognition, is amongst other things what we aspies excel at.
My earliest reason was because I wanted to play with other musicians (in my teens) so I had to figur out what something like: "let's play a blues in A" meant. My first classical teacher couldn't answer that question.
It wasn't until I figured out (yet again by myself) aha in the key of C its: C 7 F7 G7, etc. Aha they are called Tonic, Subdominant, Dominant or I IV and V. AHA! so in A it's the chords A7 D7 and E7. Eureka I can play a blues in all keys!!
Then I got it that I had to practice scales , etc in all the different keys, and so on. But what gave me the impetus to learn was that I desperately wanted to fit in and play in a band. (peer recognition, girls, play LOUD on an organ, and the marvellous feeling of grooving a groove with my kin; other musicians).
So you need to figure out what makes your student tick, why does she want to play the piano; and work from there.

#1889914 - 05/02/12 10:19 AM Re: Asperger Syndrome [Re: Peanuts]  
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apple* Offline
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My brother has Asperger's Syndrome. I was never able to teach him to read music, but creatively taught him many things.. mostly by having him play duets with me. He was easily able to copy. I was very in touch with mentally. I think it would be very difficult to learn how to touch and teach someone who you only get to see once a week, Peanuts, but i wish you great luck. My relationship with my brother is one of the most rewarding things in my life and he is still very musical even tho he could not find middle C from a notated page ever.

seriously? I'd try Suzuki - using your lesson time to focus on the fine points of playing music exactly as written with phrasing, staccatos, timing etc. emphasized. I have pretty good luck teaching keys, scales, chords with exercises that I make up and are not written down.


accompanist/organist.. a non-MTNA teacher to a few

love and peace, Õun (apple in Estonian)
#1889985 - 05/02/12 12:36 PM Re: Asperger Syndrome [Re: chrisbell]  
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Peanuts Offline
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Originally Posted by chrisbell
So you need to figure out what makes your student tick, why does she want to play the piano; and work from there.

That's a good suggestion. It's strangely simple and yet, it never cross my mind to ask her.

Hi Apple, she can copy very well. The mother is very proud that her girl was reading at an advance level by 7 years old. Is it usual for an AS kid who can read bilingually to struggle with notation? I may need to to discuss with her mother about the possibility of teaching by role if that's the case.

Last edited by Peanuts; 05/02/12 12:37 PM.

Currently working on Comping and Improvisation
#1914399 - 06/16/12 06:20 AM Re: Asperger Syndrome [Re: Peanuts]  
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Elissa Milne Offline
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Hi Peanuts, I've just discovered this thread, and researching the development and learning styles of gifted children with AS and/or ADD has been my focus over the past couple of months, so I thought I'd just add some ideas emerging from my studies and my collaborations with an occupational therapist who specialises in this field....

As mentioned above, people with AS are all about pattern recognition. This will manifest in the sense of the student expecting the lesson to follow the same pattern each week as well as in the sense of the student taking delight in finding and demonstrating musical patterns.

In regard to pattern and reading notation - keep pitch reading out of the lesson until the student can recognise the patterns aurally. Using the solfege scale degree names is a boon in this regard - and your use should be (unless the child already has pronounced perfect pitch) *moveable* because the whole point is to recognise pitch patterns, not specific pitches.

So, for instance, in teaching the simple three-note tune Hot Cross Buns you could sing it as Mi-Re-Do, Mi-Re-Do, Do-Do-Do-Do-Re-Re-Re-Re, Mi-Re-Do, and then play it on the group of three black notes. Once this is mastered move the pattern to E D C. Then introduce A G F, and then D# C# B and G# F# E and so forth. The student will delight in recognising the pattern of the melody as it is manifest in these different keyboard patterns of white and black notes.

And once this delight is in place you may well find your student recognising this same pattern in other nursery rhymes or songs. And you can at this point introduce some limited pitch reading to match the already existing aural and kinesthetic experience of the pattern. {and so forth}

Meantime, do introduce *rhythm* reading quite independently of pitch. Your AS student should relish the idea of recognising one rhythmic entity from another, particularly if you begin with a quarter note, two eighth notes and 4 sixteenth notes. These are visually easy to distinguish and your student will be internalising the vital skill of subdividing right from the get go. Don't get tricky with it, however - just work on combinations of these two or three units!

If your student can read bilingually it seems unlikely that they have any kind of reading disorder, so the challenge lies in creating a meaningful musical experience first prior to the student being shown the notation - this way the notation is a solution rather than a problem.

As regards a pattern in the presentation of the lesson I would suggest having a variety of activities planned and prepared for in advance. Many ADD and AS children struggle with what is known as executive function - they can do all the elements of the task but they struggle to sequence those elements so that they can reach the conclusion of the task. By restricting distractions, and by minimising choices, you can help teach your AS/ADD student skills in sequencing and problem solving that will assist you in further lessons, but will also be of benefit to the student in a more global sense.

I'm still wrapping my head around a lot of the issues, but these are the ways in which I've already changed my approach based on the wonderful experts I'm working with and the research I've been reading... I hope these ideas can be useful to other teachers dealing with these issues....


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