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#3112431 04/30/21 07:24 PM
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Hello everyone. I have a new student who is a tween. I work at a music school so I just get the students I am assigned. I have only got to speak to the mom briefly and she only shared that the young lady would not speak to me. So I have been doing my best to be patient and kind, and she is learning. However, I don't think I am giving her the best experience possible. I wish I had more to share but that's really about it. Any input would be appreciated.

Thank you.

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I don't understand the details.

All I can tell from your post:

Mom reported that the student will not speak to you.
The student is on the autism spectrum.
You have had some lessons and the student has made progress.

You believe that there may be some better experience "out there" for her.

If that's it, here are my thoughts:
My teacher wishes I would not talk so much.
"Autism spectrum" doesn't tell you much, if anything about the student as an individual.
Making progress seems like a good thing.
For every student, is there not the possibility of a better experience?

How are any of these issues a problem?

Does this student's atypicality make you uncomfortable?


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Originally Posted by CameronW
I have only got to speak to the mom briefly and she only shared that the young lady would not speak to me. So I have been doing my best to be patient and kind, and she is learning. However, I don't think I am giving her the best experience possible.
If it makes you more comfortable about teaching her, just regard her as the "strong, silent" type, and you (and she) will be fine. I'm assuming she doesn't behave in any abnormal manner.

Actually, come to think of it, my four piano teachers over a decade all probably thought I was a "strong, silent" type (I only ever spoke when spoken to, and most times, I just nodded or shook my head, as opening my mouth was too much of an effort wink ) - except that I was a weak kid then and could not possibly be strong. ASD didn't exist then, of course. (And children were seen and not heard.)


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You can't solve a problem if you can't define it. I would start there. Do you wish you had more choice in who you teach? Stop with the music school. Do you wish the child would say more? Ask her to speak. If she doesn't, can you handle that? If not, can you send her to another teacher? Basically, you need to look within.

I think unless a music school gives teachers direction on how to teach, they aren't worth much. You are basically renting space and a piano and getting in return no control of your life.

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Originally Posted by CameronW
Hello everyone. I have a new student who is a tween. I work at a music school so I just get the students I am assigned. I have only got to speak to the mom briefly and she only shared that the young lady would not speak to me. So I have been doing my best to be patient and kind, and she is learning. However, I don't think I am giving her the best experience possible. I wish I had more to share but that's really about it. Any input would be appreciated.

I think that you are doing just the right thing. Be patient, be kind. And as you said, she is learning.
The name for not speaking in certain circumstances is selective mutism. It is difficult even for trained professionals to help a tween to start speaking, so I would give up any hopes that she'll do so. It is also not your job! So don't put any pressure on her, just respect that she doesn't speak. If you need to ask her a question, she may be willing to write the answers down, or communicate in different ways, for instance nodding or shaking her head.

Animisha


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If you make the lesson a safe space for the child, you have done your job. Making progress on top of that is wonderful!

If there are some self stim behaviors I would just pretend they aren't happening.

You might have to be aware of how correction is being received, if you are correcting mistakes and it is causing anxiety. But you'd probably have picked that up by now.


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Those are good questions. I guess it does make me uncomfortable, but in the sense that I feel like I am not doing my job the best that I can. I suppose I have been trained to always check for understanding and a large part of that is verbal feedback. I appreciate your input!

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Sorry I am new here and I thought I was replying specifically to Malkin. I appreciate everyone's input. I wish I could abandon the music school thing, but unfortunately, I am new to the area and it the only way I can get work at this time. I used to have my own studio in California, but life circumstances have brought me to a new place and started over. Thank you TimR for what you said, I try my best to do that with each student. Also to Animisha. I will try to improve how I work with non-verbal cues.

Thanks again!

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Might understanding be gained through action? I mean, it is piano after all. If you demonstrate something, ask the student to repeat it, and it is repeated in a way that shows understanding.
Have you learned anything about the spectrum, and/or gotten feedback by the parent on how the child ticks.

Some things I know as generalities: "stimulus, excitement, variety" in order to make things interesting are the wrong way to go. Someone one the spectrum receives everything at once with no filters, so it's overwhelming, like a dozen people wanting you to listen to them at the same time. Routine, predictability therefore, for the same reason. Maybe find strengths and teach toward those? Be literal and direct. Facial cues and body language may not be read or understood.

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Originally Posted by keystring
Be literal and direct. Facial cues and body language may not be read or understood.

That's a really good point.

At the higher levels I think a good bit of teaching is nonverbal reinforcement of precursor behavior. Once upon a time there was something called "fractional anticipatory goal response," but I've been out of that field about 4 decades now. At any rate, people on the spectrum tend not to be as attuned to the same nonverbals that teachers use subconsciously with other students.


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Originally Posted by keystring
...Someone one the spectrum receives everything at once with no filters, so it's overwhelming, like a dozen people wanting you to listen to them at the same time...


Yes.
Some.
But everyone with autism or on the autism spectrum is different.
Certainly some individuals experience stimulus overload with intense input, but another person may need a high level of input to maintain sufficient arousal to pay attention.

You're going to have to try things to figure out what works for this kid.

One thing you might consider is that lots of kids with special needs need more time to process information than typical kids. So, she might need to think for a minute after you tell her something. Giving her opportunities to respond with gestures is a good idea; keep in mind that she might take a little bit longer to respond than some other kids. It is ok for you to wait. If fact, it may honor her and her process for you to wait. You might feel weird just sitting there, but that's ok too.


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Wonderful, thoughtful thread. And I agree that Cameron is likely doing better than he realizes. Seems to me that an interchange with the parent
- via telephone or email - would help to gain some perspective.

And he could simply ask quiet little Agnes to describe some attributes of a perfect piano teacher for her.

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Does the child speak at home? If so, getting feedback via parent on the piano experience might give Cameron some insight. Also, perhaps you can discuss generalities of Autism spectrum with a special education teacher to understand better how to teach the student. I encourage you not to give up. She may end up being your most rewarding student!


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