Walking A Mile In Someone Elses Shoes
Teaching Autistic Students
Date : 27/03/2019
2. Also regarding stress and anxiety, your new autistic learner may not learn anything constructive at all in the first few weeks, as the barrier of experiencing new environment and new people (i.e., you) may be a hurdle that they need to get used to before they are able to begin the process of learning. Be extra patient.3. Autistic children do not always express emotions in ways which non-autistic people do. For instance, I have two students currently who, when stressed with the prospect of being asked to do something that is new and potentially quite tricky, self-soothe by playing glissandos, or playing every note on the piano. This is a form of stimming (self stimulating behaviour) and is a way of dealing with emotions. It is important that students are allowed to express themselves however they choose to do so.4. Autistic children may need frequent breaks during the lessons so they do not become overwhelmed with environment, sensory input, or demands of tasks. For very young children, this may need to be scheduled in with a visual timer app on a phone and a pictorial timetable, so that the child knows they have an upcoming break. The parent/carer, if in the lesson, needs to be on board with this so they do not think the child is simply wasting time.5. A young autistic child (pre-teen certainly) may need to be taught by ear, either fully, or just temporarily, even if they are perfectly capable of reading notation. This may be because the additional barrier of the notation is simply one barrier too many, on top of an already overwhelming environment of sensory overload, task demands, and very possibly tiredness after a day at school.6. An autistic child may be unable to handle you sitting near them at the piano, or playing the piano at the same time as them or near them this is due to sensory overload, either aural or physical. If so, it is worth recording demonstration tracks on a laptop, possibly on a loop, that can be played away from the piano, at a quieter volume that the child is comfortable with.7. An autistic child may enjoy repetition much more than you do! And they may wish to return to continually pieces that they know well, particularly in the beginning, sometimes repeating them continually throughout the lesson. As their teacher, you need to allow this, as this is your student enjoying the learning process. Mix their repetition with occasional new tasks, rather than barring old pieces completely.8. Some autistic children are extremely demand avoidant, and some have a diagnosis, or identification, of PDA (Pathological Demand Avoidance). This avoidance of demand means your student becomes extremely stressed and anxious when faced with demands from you (even ones you believe to be mild and completely reasonable) and you may also get reports from their parents/carers that practising is quite a challenge at times. It is absolutely crucial to understand that demand avoidant children are not being manipulative, difficult, or naughty. Instead, they are faced with extreme anxiety and stress when they feel out of control and under pressure of being told what to do . These children need an abundance of positive reinforcement as their confidence is often on the floor, and lots of choice to prevent them feeling backed up against the wall. For example, rather than giving them a piece to practice, play them 3 pieces and ask them to choose which one they would like to learn. Rather than asking them to play the right hand first, ask them whether they want to try the piece first, with which hand (or both) or whether they want to listen to you demonstrate it again. Choice, choice, choice.9. An autistic child may not be able to sit well on a piano stool, or perhaps not at all at first. It may be that you start off with the piano stool completely out of the way and your student stands to play, gradually introducing the stool as lessons slowly progress. Equally, your student may feel uncomfortable at the piano without their coat on, or a hat. If so, this is probably a sensory necessity or a comfort, and needs to be respected, even if it looks unusual to you.10. If your autistic student comes into the lesson when your studio is empty, and that changes due to a timetable change, let the parents know as soon as practicable. Your student may be completely thrown by the presence of someone unknown (another student, and potentially their parent and/or sibling also) coming and going as they get to their lesson, and this might cause significant distress and anxiety.To create an autism friendly learning environment, we as teachers need to be looking at our teaching through the lens of autism, rather than simply trying to make our autistic students fit in with our usual practices. We need to step into the shoes of our autistic students and walk around in them for a bit, then adapt our teaching accordingly to be as constructive, positive, and supportive as we possibly can.And in doing this, we can help to create a society with a truly inclusive music education system. *I have based this on autistic children as the majority of my students are children, but most of what I have written could easily be applied to adults as well.
This resource was uploaded by: Lynne