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Autisum, sightreading, processing and note recognition
#2896044 10/01/19 08:05 AM
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I'm really struggling with my 11yr old son who is autistic. He's passed grade 1 ABRSM piano but we are having significant difficulties with learning new pieces and sight reading is almost impossible. I think some of the problem lies in note recognition and processing this into playing. Admittedly he relies on memory and his musical ear to avoid reading the score. We are working on note recognition, every good boy deserves favours ect and interval recognition (is the note next door or next door but one? Is it up or down?) Also trying basic written theory exercises but I feel I'm not fully understanding how he is learning any suggestions? With many thanks.


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Re: Autisum, sightreading, processing and note recognition
Pippa #2896056 10/01/19 08:57 AM
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Pippa
There are many fine musicians who never learned to read a musical score but developed the skills of playing by ear, memorizing and even composition without any reading, Have you considered lessons to develop your son’s strengths rather than focusing on his weaknesses? Written theory and the traditional exam path may not be the right one for him to proficiency and enjoyment.


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Re: Autisum, sightreading, processing and note recognition
Pippa #2896077 10/01/19 10:11 AM
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During my teaching years, I had several autistic students; all of them had difficulty in reading music, and preferred to learn songs by ear. In the end, I began to consider lessons with such students as music therapy, rather than preparing for the profession of a pianist; therefore, the goal was to achieve the joint joy of the student and teacher, one of which later became the champion in swimming at the alternative Olympic games. Over the course of a year and a half, she learned to play around 40 of her favorite songs by ear, and together we rejoiced at her every note!

Re: Autisum, sightreading, processing and note recognition
Nahum #2896118 10/01/19 11:43 AM
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Originally Posted by dogperson
There are many fine musicians who never learned to read a musical score but developed the skills of playing by ear, memorizing and even composition without any reading, Have you considered lessons to develop your son’s strengths rather than focusing on his weaknesses? Written theory and the traditional exam path may not be the right one for him to proficiency and enjoyment.

Just to say how much I like and support this way of thinking - actually not only for autistic students, but for all students: build on strengths!

Originally Posted by Nahum
In the end, I began to consider lessons with such students as music therapy, rather than preparing for the profession of a pianist; therefore, the goal was to achieve the joint joy of the student and teacher

Yes!

Originally Posted by Nahum
During my teaching years, I had several autistic students; all of them had difficulty in reading music

However, this must be something of a coincidence, because there are also autistic people who are better in reading music than in playing by ear.


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Re: Autisum, sightreading, processing and note recognition
Pippa #2896154 10/01/19 01:08 PM
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Originally Posted by Pippa
I'm really struggling with my 11yr old son who is autistic. He's passed grade 1 ABRSM piano but we are having significant difficulties with learning new pieces and sight reading is almost impossible. ........ We are working on note recognition, every good boy deserves favours ect and interval recognition (is the note next door or next door but one? Is it up or down?) .

When you say "we", does that mean your son's teacher and you, or are you teaching him yourself?

As I understand it, the autistic mind tends to be very literal, and also attuned to patterns (of which there are aplenty in music). The "every good boy... " method has been mostly discarded, and in this case you are moving away from direct association. I.e. the note on the piano has nothing to do with a boy. The note on the piano has everything to do with a dot in a unique location in the score (the B (boy) corresponds to the fourth line up. Patterns on the piano are things like the two blacks and three blacks that keep repeating. What are the primary senses that he uses? (vision, sound, tactile) Can he discover things along those lines in his own way?

Your "note next door" has two aspects. On the piano, you have keys that are side by side. In notation, you have dots that are side by side if they are on a line and then a space - I'm thinking a non-verbal more tactile and visual exploration. "next door" again puts in secondary imagery maybe.

These are random thoughts, in case any are useful.

Re: Autisum, sightreading, processing and note recognition
Pippa #2896209 10/01/19 04:34 PM
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I also, like keystring, wondered whether you or someone else is teaching your son.

Regardless, I think it's useful to look at the broad picture. Music can be enjoyed in various ways. Some love to listen to music, and their lives are enriched simply by doing so, without need of playing/performing music themselves.

Some who struggle to read enjoy improvising music, or playing by ear. Are these aspects of music-making something to which your son has been exposed and/or that brings him delight?

What does your son love about music? Also, I'm curious, was taking piano lessons something in which he expressed an interest, or did his start in piano study begin another way?

Not that parents can't decide they'd like to have their child(ren) try piano lessons, whether the kids are interested or not, but, at your son's age, if he's verbal, it may be good to ask him how he feels about his past and present music experiences, and what hopes, if any, he has for music experiences in the future.

Having the big picture in mind can help determine a course of action that leads to joy in experiencing music.

Re: Autisum, sightreading, processing and note recognition
Pippa #2896230 10/01/19 05:57 PM
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Originally Posted by Pippa
I'm really struggling with my 11yr old son who is autistic. He's passed grade 1 ABRSM piano but we are having significant difficulties with learning new pieces and sight reading is almost impossible. I think some of the problem lies in note recognition and processing this into playing. Admittedly he relies on memory and his musical ear to avoid reading the score. We are working on note recognition, every good boy deserves favours ect and interval recognition (is the note next door or next door but one? Is it up or down?) Also trying basic written theory exercises but I feel I'm not fully understanding how he is learning any suggestions? With many thanks.

Does he have the same trouble reading and writing? Or is it only musical symbols that he struggles with? Is he able to read maps? If he can read words and maps, how was he taught those things?


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Re: Autisum, sightreading, processing and note recognition
Pippa #2896290 10/01/19 11:35 PM
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My suggestion is to bring him to another piano teacher for a session. This teacher will probably ask to hear what he's playing and try to teach him a piece below his current level to assess his ability to learn. None of us can possibly help as much as a person in real time. Each autistic child is different anyways.

I have one autistic student who plays very well, but like all my students, needs more time to be able to read well. She likes playing by ear. I do different exercises such as covering her hands while she plays and having her only look at the score. Then she can look at only her hands. Then, she is to play it without benefit of sight.

You could also have your son play on an electronic piano that is switched off to see if he can locate the notes of a beginner tune. You can also try some music which has the occasional letter name written in the note heads for guidance. I've seen some easy-play books that do that.

I think playing by ear is a dead end. All piano teachers understand chording. But it's difficult to turn that knowledge into sound pedagogy. I can't do it. I've improvised some in my day and play advanced music. But I can't teach chording. Where can it lead? First I try the 12 bar blues. I try to get the student to play a simple boogie woogie pattern in the left hand. If by some grace, they learn it in one key, I can teach them the same piece in another key. Nobody comes back having practiced this. Period. It's simple as can be but not the thing that sustains interest.

Re: Autisum, sightreading, processing and note recognition
Candywoman #2896305 10/02/19 02:19 AM
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Originally Posted by Candywoman


I think playing by ear is a dead end.

Dead end - where to? I feel the desire to adapt the student to the learned method.

Re: Autisum, sightreading, processing and note recognition
Pippa #2896314 10/02/19 03:11 AM
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I shall refrain from giving advice, since there's so little information in the original post.

However, one thing that does strike me as strange is the ABRSM test. Is this even mandatory? What's this obsession about? If your son is autistic, the last thing I would do is to put him in an exam situation.


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Re: Autisum, sightreading, processing and note recognition
Pippa #2896335 10/02/19 05:09 AM
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I wish I could give some concrete advise from my own experience as a child, but I've seemed to have blocked it all. I am not diagnosed autistic but autism is definitely in my family, but I am badly dyslexic.

As a child when my peers could all read and write I couldn't, I was over 2 years behind until I could, but I was having piano lessons before I could and I have no recollection of having difficulty learning the piano and music. By the time I have memories of me playing the piano I could read the music.

I suspect these labels like autism are just too broad, and cover such a huge diversity of differing capabilities that there is no one solution for teaching someone. You may need to be a bit experimental until you find something that works.

Re: Autisum, sightreading, processing and note recognition
Pippa #2896352 10/02/19 07:54 AM
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Just to say a quick thank you to everyone who responded. Some amazing suggestions and thoughts. My son does go to a fully quailified and excellent teacher but I try to help him too. Its an exciting journey. :-)


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Re: Autisum, sightreading, processing and note recognition
Pippa #2896360 10/02/19 08:31 AM
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Wow! So simple but true, I never thought of that :-)


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Re: Autisum, sightreading, processing and note recognition
Pippa #2896752 10/03/19 12:50 PM
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OP: Glad to have helped out.

Nahum: If you've had success, please tell me how it is accomplished. All teachers adapt the student to their method. There is some adaptation by the teacher, but it can never be large for economic reasons. If I had to design a primer book for every student, for instance, I could never make any money. There are principles and concepts which every student must go through, even students who learn by ear. For instance, intervals and chords are two concepts you must cover. And teaching them has not resulted in success for me. At least not at the age group under discussion.


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