Reply To: Recorder class and Autism

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I used to teach in a school that had a big autism program. I had a really good aide – well she was a trained teacher, who worked well with the kids in the room. That can make a big difference. Sometimes the aides or even trained teachers seem to get over-involved or overprotective and that can get in the way of you establishing a relationship with the kid. AI had a teacher like that as well.

So, I don’t know from your post what the parent concerns are – why would she NOT play the recorder? All my autistic kids did fine, although some adjustments were necessary at times and at assessment time, they played for me on their own, generally. (Private appt. with me, aide, and student). You can also have her partner/play with another child – if she has one she works well with.

Something that might be good is to do simple round music. I teach notes in this order: high c and a = so-mi songs, add high d = do=mi -la songs and then you teach songs that can be played in canon which is a great motivator for a lot of kids. This sequence is also easier for kids with low muscle tone, which autistic kids often have. They slowly gain control of more fingers.

I also had harder and easier pieces for kids to play or choose from at assessment time. Differentiate! IT actually makes it a little fun. Or…have them all practice and play one difficult measure and be up front in advance that this is what you will check.

As far as the aide goes – can you look at the child’s IEP? (You should have access) and see if you might be able to enlist the classroom teacher’s help or the head of the autism program in the school’s help – something like that – or try talking to the aide about incorporating her more into the classroom instead of less. Focus on what has worked really well for this kid in the past and every time you see the aide doing something good — positive reinforcement. I Know you shouldn’t have to, but remember that aides often do not have a lot of training.

I also don’t know what the safety issues are. You should not get rid of recorder for one kid. If recorder is really a problem for this kid – and I still do not know what the issue is, maybe this child can play an alternate instrument? I had a kid with compromised motor skills who could not play the recorder. She played an Orff Xylophone. You want the kid to get the note reading, etc. Maybe silent fingering recorder with everyone and then transition to a xylo for class playing? or nice sounding drum accompaniment? For this situation the SPED program funded some special mallets for this kid as well. ORff instruments are pricey, but maybe you could get one, or get an Orff bar. An alternate is the boom whackers. She could have 2 and create an ostinato for the pieces the kids play on recorder.

Let us know how it goes…and look at that IEP!