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I accepted a transfer student who was 6 years old. I've been teaching him for almost 2 years now, and have been unsuccessful at fixing flying, dented fingers (thus, very uneven sound), his insistence on playing everything too fast, ignoring all fingering, and whenever he sees "f" he proceeds to bang on the keys as loud as possible. I've used all methods of persuasian - pictures of flying/dented fingers, painting a happy face on the part of the thumb you should play on, coloring/highlighting finger numbers, explaining the reasons, demonstrating dynamic levels which he is capable of playing. He doesn't want any additional repertoire, and only cares about passing through each assignment. I find myself dreading lessons. I have tinnitus, and his banging on the piano is very difficult to listen to every week. I notice after he plays his songs, he "hand flaps" for a minute. I've wondered if there is a special learning needs issue, but the parents have never indicated that. Has anyone had a student they just could not reach? Do you release that student?


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Originally Posted by chasingrainbows
Has anyone had a student they just could not reach?
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Yes.
Do you release that student?

Yes.

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Thanks, Gary, right to the point! smile


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Originally Posted by chasingrainbows
Thanks, Gary, right to the point! smile

I was not being cryptic! But we can't teach everyone. We are human beings!

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You've been teaching him for two years, and he's six, and you are not his first teacher?! So he started lessons at about three years of age? Wow.

What are "hand flaps"?

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chasingrainbows says he "was" 6 years old. So I assume she accepted him when he was 6, and that he's now 8.


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PianoStudent, you are correct--he is now 8.

Peter: hand flapping - he raises his arms up in the air, and flaps his hands back and forth - like bird's wings--he flaps about 10 times.


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I'm not sure about the teaching thing but the hand flapping definetly sounds like special needs. My nephew is 8 and has autism and does the same thing, he also rubs his hands together real fast. His teacher calls it "stimming" or self stimulation. Of course me or you couldnt make such a diagnosis but I'm just throwing out there


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and I'm from NJ to =D

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Yes...if the students are not willing to learn, nothing you can do.

In addition, if you have many other students whom you can teach without too much effort, why do you want to teach somebody whom you need to suffer.

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Originally Posted by chasingrainbows
dented fingers (thus, very uneven sound)

For some kids, they can't help it. I've learned to accept this problem and pick my battles.

As for banging, there are teachers who actually teach their beginners to play as loudly as possible, slamming down on every single note with brute force and exaggerated arm motion.


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I agree the hand-flapping thing sounds like stimming. Best to handle this issue try delicately with the parents. Perhaps ask them if their son has any learning disabilities that they are aware of. They may admit to him being autistic, or they may not even know (or want to know). Tell them the behaviors you have observed, and ask if his teacher at school has mentioned anything to them about it. Then see where the conversation takes you.

I think you will have to decide if you are willing to continue with this child, knowing that he most likely has some special needs. If you do, read up on this forum and other resources on how to teach piano to special needs. There are ways of making lessons much more productive and comfortable for the child. Routine and neatness in the room are especially important for special needs kids. And patience, of course.


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Sounds like he is somewhere on the autism spectrum to me too. It might be helpful to chat with the parents about goals for him which may differ from the goals you have in mind from your typically developing students.


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If a student has specific disabilities or a peculiar learning style, then he is not unteachable, but cannot be taught in certain ways. For example, a generally slow student might need lots of stimulation, colours, appeal to the imagination. If the child is autistic, then he is continually under a barrage of sensations: sight, sound, touch. Usually we filter out a great deal of this and focus on one thing. The autistic child gets it all at 110% all the time and is struggling to stay focused and not be overwhelmed. So the strategy suitable for a slow student would be an absolute disaster for the autistic child. Young children may need lots of variety and change of pace. The autistic child may get overstimulated and no longer be able to adjust to all the changes. If autistic kids take things literally, then a happy face painted on the fingers might be confusing. Etc. The example we were given in teachers college was "Jack Frost painted the leaves red." Most kids will get that this is a metaphor for leaves becoming red in the fall. The autistic child may wonder about this person called Jack, and why he's standing on a ladder painting leaves, and how the heck he can get at all of them.

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Originally Posted by keystring
If a student has specific disabilities or a peculiar learning style, then he is not unteachable, but cannot be taught in certain ways...
So the strategy suitable for a slow student would be an absolute disaster for the autistic child. Young children may need lots of variety and change of pace. The autistic child may get overstimulated and no longer be able to adjust to all the changes. If autistic kids take things literally, then a happy face painted on the fingers might be confusing. Etc. The example we were given in teachers college was "Jack Frost painted the leaves red." Most kids will get that this is a metaphor for leaves becoming red in the fall. The autistic child may wonder about this person called Jack, and why he's standing on a ladder painting leaves, and how the heck he can get at all of them.


I totally agree. "Hand flapping" is usually an indication of autism spectrum challenges. The child is not "unteachable", the material just needs to be presented in a way that the child is able to understand.


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Originally Posted by BinghamtonPiano
Originally Posted by keystring
If a student has specific disabilities or a peculiar learning style, then he is not unteachable, but cannot be taught in certain ways...
So the strategy suitable for a slow student would be an absolute disaster for the autistic child. Young children may need lots of variety and change of pace. The autistic child may get overstimulated and no longer be able to adjust to all the changes. If autistic kids take things literally, then a happy face painted on the fingers might be confusing. Etc. The example we were given in teachers college was "Jack Frost painted the leaves red." Most kids will get that this is a metaphor for leaves becoming red in the fall. The autistic child may wonder about this person called Jack, and why he's standing on a ladder painting leaves, and how the heck he can get at all of them.


I totally agree. "Hand flapping" is usually an indication of autism spectrum challenges. The child is not "unteachable", the material just needs to be presented in a way that the child is able to understand.


Assuming that there is a possible Special learning need, I am open to suggestions about correcting awful hand position, stopping the banging out of any note with "forte" under it, playing too fast. IMO, from what I've observed, he is a very coddled child, who is very hyperactive and just wants to do things his way. When I suggested writing a happy face on his thumb, he became angry and started to cry. Is it possible for an autistic child to be highly intelligent? According to mom, he's "exceptional" in many subjects.


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Originally Posted by chasingrainbows
Originally Posted by BinghamtonPiano
Originally Posted by keystring
If a student has specific disabilities or a peculiar learning style, then he is not unteachable, but cannot be taught in certain ways...
So the strategy suitable for a slow student would be an absolute disaster for the autistic child. Young children may need lots of variety and change of pace. The autistic child may get overstimulated and no longer be able to adjust to all the changes. If autistic kids take things literally, then a happy face painted on the fingers might be confusing. Etc. The example we were given in teachers college was "Jack Frost painted the leaves red." Most kids will get that this is a metaphor for leaves becoming red in the fall. The autistic child may wonder about this person called Jack, and why he's standing on a ladder painting leaves, and how the heck he can get at all of them.


I totally agree. "Hand flapping" is usually an indication of autism spectrum challenges. The child is not "unteachable", the material just needs to be presented in a way that the child is able to understand.


Assuming that there is a possible Special learning need, I am open to suggestions about correcting awful hand position, stopping the banging out of any note with "forte" under it, playing too fast. IMO, from what I've observed, he is a very coddled child, who is very hyperactive and just wants to do things his way. When I suggested writing a happy face on his thumb, he became angry and started to cry. Is it possible for an autistic child to be highly intelligent? According to mom, he's "exceptional" in many subjects.

Yes. It is also possible for a child who is not autistic to display minor autistic behaviors while not actually falling within the spectrum. Things like sensory integration disorders, which could cause someone to be unaware of just how hard they hit and press things (and to need harder force exerted on them for them to notice being touched compared to others) are very common in autism but can be present all on their own.


I'll figure it out eventually.
Until then you may want to keep a safe distance.
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He seems to get some odd pleasure out of playing very loudly. He could also have hearing loss. When I tell him that it hurts my ears, he laughs. He's not very respectful. I've had some students with mild special needs, but he just doesn't seem to fall within that realm other than the hand flapping.


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Originally Posted by chasingrainbows
He seems to get some odd pleasure out of playing very loudly. He could also have hearing loss. When I tell him that it hurts my ears, he laughs. He's not very respectful. I've had some students with mild special needs, but he just doesn't seem to fall within that realm other than the hand flapping.

Sounds like he might have mild autism.

The hand flapping provides stimulus for autistic individuals; because the brain cannot process stimulus from his surroundings, he stimulates himself with actions like hand clapping. Other typical stimulus activities might be staring at lights, laughing loudly, etc.

Of course, it's best to have a talk with his parents.

Go with your gut feeling. If it's time to let him go, then do it.

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Chasingrainbows, supposing that this child falls under the autistic spectrum. (Explanation: "spectrum" is used because there's a wide variety). Then to work with him it would be good for you to learn about this so that you can work with him. That is extra work for you, doing the research and the planning - do you want to take this on?

A lot of what you described does seem to resemble autistic spectrum (I am not an expert). Also, at this time you don't seem to know about autism - it's not your job to know about it so that's perfectly ok. You know something about "special needs" but that can be many things.

Here are some things to get you started, and I hope if I write something wrong people will correct it.
- with non-autistic people, what comes in through the senses in sight, sound, smell, touch, is filtered, and they can control it by "tuning out" things. With autism, the senses can be very enhanced and they're on all the time - like being constantly hyper-aware. Therefore they have to shut out this constant barrage. If I'm in a noisy room with everyone shouting me at the same time and lights flashing erratically in my face, I might close my eyes, and try not to see or hear anything. I will appear stupid because nothing is coming in. Or I get bits of what everyone is saying, but can't focus on any one person, so I don't understand anyone's message. Again I'll look like I'm not that bright.

- being hyper-aware, needing to focus on one single thing, needing to put things in order, looking for patterns - these are traits that make for experts and highly specialized professionals. It's been suspected that Einstein and Bill Gates may have (had) autistic traits. Many are of above average intelligence. They are not your "special needs slow learners".

- inability to read social cues that we take for granted: you raise or lower your voice, smile, frown, expect certain social behaviors to be in place by a given age. The person is literally unaware.

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When I tell him that it hurts my ears, he laughs.

You do not want him to know (literally) that it hurts your ears. You want him to stop banging. He won't get the connection that if it hurts your ears he should stop banging, or that he can cause your ears to hurt, or a real awareness of your feelings. I wonder what would happen if you told him exactly what you want -- play softly. (Assuming he might be autistic, which may not be the case.)

In any case, the present situation sounds very unpleasant, and you have been dealing with it for two whole years.

I watched this last night - it's a documentary that lasts over an hour. It explains some things about autism, shows three types of treatment programs i.e. what those teachers, therapists and parents are doing.
Documentary - Autism: The Road Back

Originally Posted by Bluoh

Go with your gut feeling. If it's time to let him go, then do it.

Agree.

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