One of my friends who is a piano teacher teaches autistic students. He confided in me that throughout his many years as a teacher, he only had to deal with a student who threw violent tantrums once. He said typically, most teachers would give up at this point, but with his sufficient training and experience, he handled the tantrums. I thought it would be great to share this story and show readers that piano can assist autism.
How Piano can Assist with Autism
Autistic children adore the musical theory and sound of the piano. They are able to “connect” with the piano at levels that we find it difficult to comprehend. The piano also calms them down, which can be a huge plus point for many parents.
Tantrums during piano lessons can be especially frustrating when lessons are costly and time is restricted. Perhaps, the biggest mistake most teachers and parents can make is to allow the tantrums to go on in hopes that the child will eventually calm down. For more experienced piano teachers, they know allowing such behavior can only reinforces it and will produce even more tantrums in the long run.
The following are some tips that you can use to prevent tantrums and redirect your autistic children when they are distracted, as well as to ensure that their behavior does not become common practice (to the extent that the parents and you may have to stop the lessons altogether).
-Every week, you need to schedule the piano lessons at the same time. Put the classes on the student’s visual calendar, so that he can be mentally prepared in advance. Autism students do better when their class is stringently scheduled.
-It is advisable to choose a time in the child’s day that he is most alert, but not edgy when it comes to active play, such as running or walking around outside.
-Ensure your student is not thirsty or hungry during the piano lesson. From what my friend told me, the thirst or hunger can result in the worst tantrum-throwing, particularly for non-verbal individuals.
-You may want to give a reward with your autistic student. Rewards can be candies, tickles, hugs, or even two minutes of their favorite DVD.
-It is recommended that you utilize visual reward schedules and agree to several minutes of break time. You can have a 10-minute interval during the lesson. During the interval, consider allowing the student to play a number of songs or fill a box with stickers until he reaches his reward box.
As soon as tantrums start, do not give in. Whatever you decide to do, avoid giving any rewards to the autistic student that is throwing his tantrum. It is best to figure out what prompted the tantrum and try to resolve it as soon as possible. Playing a soothing musical piece tends to help students with autism to calm down while throwing a tantrum.
Have you dealt with an autistic child?