I’ll never forget the first time a mom gave me the heads up that her son had autism prior to his first guitar lessons. My only reference to this condition was from Dustin Hoffman in Rainman. The boy was 13 and his name was Spencer. I was a little nervous about what this kid was going to be like and how this first lesson would go down.
Spencer showed up to his lesson and crawled up like a ball in the corner. After 15 minutes of this has mom decided to leave with him. Spencer came back last week. He was talking a mile a minute and was excited to show me all the things he’d be practicing over the week on guitar. I was scratching my head. Was this the same kid? Was this Spencer's twin? This was my first exposure to working with kids on the Autism spectrum.
With autism, one of the biggest things that people don't understand is it's like a shaping behavior thing for some of the younger kids. It is so case to case.
I could talk about shaping behavior and dealing with a kid who has all the talent in the world that just can't behave in class, can't sit still for more than one minute.
And then you can talk about the kids that's on the spectrum, who will sit there with their mouth closed and listen to every word you say but does not understand a single word you're saying, you or does, but just you have to reexplain it and you have to just keep delivering the same content over and over. So it is just such a case to case thing...We know that typical kids are all different learners too, but it can be generalized much easier than it can be when we're talking about
Matt Maher is the music director at Coeur Academy in St. Louis. He recently received his master's degree in arts and teaching and he is a former music instructor at my former music studio.
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Intro music: Dusted by Fojimoto Transition music: Levi Simon Outro music:Rain and Revolution by City Breathing