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bdemon

Guitar Teachers--teaching autistic kids?

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Been teaching for 12 years, but had my first autistic student last week. The parents mentioned it, but played down how major it was, so I was thinking I'd have a kid come in who might lack a bit of focus (which is most of my students anyway), but this was serious. It took all of my energy--and both the child's parents--to get through a tab version of Star Wars. He literally wouldn't look at the paper, me...his focus went all over the place. I suspect I'm not qualified for this sort of gig, but I don't want to bail out until I make a fair analysis of what I can do and what might be expected. Anyone have experience in this area? Any websites worth checking out? :thu:

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From my experience most autistic people are EXTREMELY gifted in one area or another, and often times its something artistic (and I bet thats what the parents are looking for what it is.) I'd work on stuff besides tab also, some power chords or easy basic ones, get him hearing the sounds he can make. I wouldn't bail out on the gig, keep trying and good luck :).

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As I understand it, most autistics don't/won't make eye contact. It's not a shyness thing, it's some weird wiring.

 

They tend to be detached from the world, thus are in their own little world. It's kinda weird.

 

I also wouldn't hold out any hopes of this kid being a virtuoso. I suspect it's a rarity that some of these mental-problem kids happen to be able to do one thing better than anybody else, that's gotta be the exception, rather than the rule. TV likes pushing the amazing "little Timmy only has 1/4 of a brain, but he can play Guitar better than Steve Vai" stories.

 

I'm not trying to put down these kids, or yourself for trying. It's just that there's a whole lot of complicated stuff wrong with these kids, and if you go in with unrealistic expectations, you're going to be disappointed.

 

JoeNovice had some good ideas. What's it take to get the kid to make some noise come from the guitar. Don't even worry about a song. Just get noise to come out. When you learn how to teach the kid to make noise, use that same technique to teach him how to play a few specific notes, and so on.

 

Janx

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That's a tough one dude. I suspect to effectively teach this kid anything you'd need some training in how to connect with autistic kids.

If you start finding that it is more trouble than it's worth, it probably is. You can't be expected to teach an autistic kid to play....you are a guitar teacher not someone who is trained to work with disabilities(I assume).

Personally, my ADD kids are all I can handle.

I don't mean to sound cold. It would be nice if you could help the kid. But, it sounds like the whole experience was very taxing on you...and that isn't fair to you.

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Personally I think the most taxing situations can be the ones with the biggest payoff.

 

If you spend your whole life writting things off because of personal stress you'll never accomplish anything of spiritual worth.

 

 

Call a local psycologist or ask the parents if you can contact his therapist.

 

If it's a stress charge more money.

 

 

Just dont give up to quickly.

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I agree with you to a point joenovice, and I certainly agree with your general sentiment...there could be a great payoff. Either way, let us know how it goes.

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Good points, ya'all.

 

I'm still in the middle on this. On one hand, I'm not trained in this, and it's probably not my thing. But then, I've heard stories about how autistic kids can really open up in great ways when they find the right sort of stimulation. That would be a cool thing to be part of.

 

But I'd have to rethink my entire lesson approach. Ain't going to be teaching songs much. What to do...

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I have no idea about this stuff, but i suggest showing and teaching stuff that give instant results. E.G - teach him a C major chord, get him to keep playing it and solo over it (you solo!). Then say "see, we just played a song together!". From working with mentally challenged kids at school i've noticed a big reaction when tehy have a feel of accomplishment. This may help him pay attention more? Just speculation.

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I don't know about how to teach an autistic person on a long-term basis, but I think one of the easiest things to start with is the blues shuffle pattern on open strings in A. The classic

 

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I saw on TV where Esteban taught this to a girl picked at random out of the audience in about two minutes and she was so excited because she could actually play something recognizeable. Of course this basic pattern works for a hundred rock songs. It can even be played with one finger.

 

Anyway, just thought I'd share an idea, good luck with your student.

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I don't have any experience with autistic students. I did have a young student with ADD. The parents had warned me ahead of time, so at least I was prepared for it. There were a few lessons where I was lucky to get him to play for a total of 5 minutes throughout the 30 minute lesson. After six months of lessons he was still just playing a handful of one and two finger chords.

 

All I can suggest is to stay patient. Good luck.

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Originally posted by hhsuey

maybe try to inspire him. play something impressive and fast.

 

Don't do the above. That would probably discourage a lot of folks with normal brains. Impressing folks with complicated stuff is just showing off. If they feel it is too complicated (and it likely is) for them to learn, they will be discouraged. Which for a teaching is to be avoided.

 

If you want to impress and encourage them. Show them a cool riff they recognize, then teach them how to play it. That get's pay-off because as a newbie they see a riff that they know and are easily impressed. Then when you reveal the secret of how easy it is for them to play it, they're hooked.

 

Iron Man and Smoke on the water both have easily recognizable riffs that are easy to play as power chords or 1 finger pickin's. Start there, or with similar riffs.

 

Even blues scale might be tricky for some folks.

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I think a more realistic goal would be "Mary had A Little Lamb" or "Twinkle Twinkle."

 

 

Even for kids with normal status these songs can be a fun challenge.

 

 

The idea that you show any person younger than 13 real rock is crazy. Most young kids haven't even heard enough rock to know that they like it or what it is.

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It's funny though, a lot of kids DO listen to real rock now. I've got several kids I teach who listen to their mom and dad's AC/DC, Led Zep, and Queen collection all the time, for example. Rock is definitely coming back around.

Anyway, playing something REALLY impressive for students generally doesn't have the desired effect of inspiring them. The "Smoke on the Water" and "Iron man" ideas work great though. But, for a kid with autism who knows? It's an entirely unique situation.

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Let me define "kids".... below the age of 10. I've found that even if their parents are Rockers, kids that young have no concept of music, period.

 

They may know who ACDC was but they can't name a song.

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I agree with that.

Once kids hit about 12 or 13 things inside their little heads start changing and they are ready to start "getting" it....but, under 10, not so much:)

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Originally posted by joenovice

Let me define "kids".... below the age of 10. I've found that even if their parents are Rockers, kids that young have no concept of music, period.


They may know who ACDC was but they can't name a song.

 

What do you mean by "no concept of music".

 

i hope it's not b/c they can't name an ACDC song....:freak:

 

 

what about all those talented violinists and pianists that start at age 5? they have no idea what they're doing?

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Originally posted by hhsuey



What do you mean by "no concept of music".


i hope it's not b/c they can't name an ACDC song....
:freak:


what about all those talented violinists and pianists that start at age 5? they have no idea what they're doing?

 

Give it up..... you should try the political forums if you want to find a fight.

 

 

Those "talented violinist" at the age of 5 are not common. Maybe even 1 in a million.

 

Most kids.... American, middle-class, 5-10 yrs., parents with little musical background....... can't tell you anything intelligent about music.

 

I've had many students who didn't even know who the Beatles, Beethoven, Led Zepplin, Aerosmith, or [inster name here] were.

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Originally posted by joenovice



Give it up..... you should try the political forums if you want to find a fight.



Those "talented violinist" at the age of 5 are not common. Maybe even 1 in a million.


Most kids.... American, middle-class, 5-10 yrs., parents with little musical background....... can't tell you anything intelligent about music.


I've had many students who didn't even know who the Beatles, Beethoven, Led Zepplin, Aerosmith, or [inster name here] were.

 

 

I don't completely disagree with you that youngs kids don't have a concept of music. I just want to know what you think "concept of music" is.

 

In both of your last two posts you're implying that knowing the names of songs or the names of artists is what the concept of music is. I don't think anyone would agree with that.

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A "concept" of music.......

 

concept- the past participle of concieve

 

concieve-

1 a : to become pregnant with (young) b : to cause to begin : ORIGINATE

 

2 a : to take into one's mind b : to form a conception of : IMAGINE

 

3 : to apprehend by reason or imagination : UNDERSTAND

 

4 : to be of the opinion

 

 

For the kids I refer to; The lack of musical concepts stems from the under development of the subject or lack of education in the subject.

 

They have no knowledge of music history or theory. They have no opinions on styles of music due to lack of exposure. They can not creat anything musical with any part of their being (sing, clap, hum, etc.) without help from others, also due to their lack of experience.

 

Having a concept of music is all about a knowledge base. Any type of knowledge; trained or natural. They history of music is a part of the concept. The above mentioned musicians are some of the most well known in the history of the world. To not know them, even by name, constitutes a lack of musical concept.

 

They have no concept of music for many reasons.

 

This is something I know from years of first hand experience. It's not questionable in my view. Most kids don't know jack about music. History, Theory, Natural musical expression, Timber, Pitch, etc.

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Originally posted by joenovice


They have no knowledge of music history or theory. They have no opinions on styles of music due to lack of exposure. They can not creat anything musical with any part of their being (sing, clap, hum, etc.) without help from others, also due to their lack of experience.


Having a concept of music is all about a knowledge base. Any type of knowledge; trained or natural. They history of music is a part of the concept. The above mentioned musicians are some of the most well known in the history of the world. To not know them, even by name, constitutes a lack of musical concept.

 

Wow. Little kids are always singing and humming, most of it random crap from their little random number generating brains, as they attempt to be creative. So I find fault with the first statement of yours I quoted.

 

I agree with your second statement. Mostly. A normal kid with a TV at home in the US won't know the names of darn near any musician. Beneath a certain age, anyway. When I was between 8 and 11, I remember knowing who was Reo Speedwagon and Michael Jackson, and some artists. I'd heard of beethoven and knew he played classical stuff.

 

I suspect there's an age point where a kid has absorbed enough cultural info to know of music styles and icons. I think it is younger than age 10. I agree that at age 5, kids don't know much beyond kindergarten songs.

 

But I do believe that the underpinnings of music (not song recognition) are already there. Otherwise the little buggers wouldn't be humming and singing and crap on their own while playing in the sandbox.

 

Janx

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Wow. Little kids are always singing and humming, most of it random crap from their little random number generating brains, as they attempt to be creative. So I find fault with the first statement of yours I quoted.

 

 

I liken this expression in sound to that of a bird singing. Music? At that point I think this is a matter of opinion.

 

 

To my original point; I don't argue that childern have no natural musical ability. Simply that they have no knowledge of music.

 

Musical concepts derived from knowledge not random expressions in music.

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I have to wonder how this turned out....

In 2006, my son with autism (not high or low functioning, just autism) was 10.  He was very hyper and unfocused, but loved the guitar and banjo.  He had toy versions of each and would give "concerts," pretending to play while he sang songs he knew.  We encouraged him and joined his band when he would let us.  It was an opportunity to co-regulate and do something together.  

If I were starting with a student at this level, I would just have them play the 6th string along with me and sing "E."  I might play songs and let them "play" with me.

Fast forward to 2009.  My son (now 12) became seriously interested in playing the guitar.  We gave him short - ten to fifteen minute - lessons.  He watched videos on how to play guitar.  We slowed it way down and taught him chord shapes.  He began to play.  He began to watch other guitarists and musicians.

Along the way, he became interested in Irish music and began to study banjo, then pennywhistle, then mandolin.  In 2014, he joined an Irish band as a paid member and did gigs around Los Angeles.  He is not a savant; he is someone who works very hard at his craft.

Not saying all kids (even neurotypical kids) would have the same story.  But what most people enjoy about music is doing something together.  Most young kids aren't looking to be virtuosos, but just to be able to play simple 1-4-5 chords and sing along with their friends.  

Think of kids with autism as kids who have trouble communicating but have the same interests, dreams, and opinions as other people.  Some, like my son, will love music.  He works hard at it and practices for hours every day.  Others will pass through your studio just as other 10, 16, or 20 year-olds do.  It will be something they try.  Make it fun and make it relational and they will be better people for it even if they never pick up an instrument again.  

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