TTTV008: Tactics for teaching piano students with ASD & ADHD – Thembi Shears

piano teaching tactics

piano teaching tactics

Have you ever taught a student with special needs or learning difficulties? Do you have a student right now who is on the Autism Spectrum?

In today’s podcast epidsode Thembi Shears shares her fantastic insights into teaching students with ASD or ADHD. Thembi talks about what these terms mean, the difficulties you may encounter, and how to teach these students in the most effective and sensitive way.

As piano teachers we are in the privileged position of getting to teach students one-on-one. Unlike classroom teachers who have to take one approach for lots of different children, we get to adapt our teaching to suit each child.

So when a student with different needs walks in the door, we need a teaching toolbox to draw from to help them learn in a way that suits them. Take a listen to today’s podcast and you’re sure to learn something new that you can implement right away, or keep in the memory bank for the next time a student with ASD or ADHD walks through your door!

In this episode, you’ll learn:

  • What ADHD & ASD mean
  • How this affects students in the context of piano lessons
  • Strategies for effective communication with students with ASD
  • How to give clear instructions
  • How to split up lessons into manageable chunks of time

Thembi’s ADHD Teaching Tips

  • Provide organisational assistance
  • Recognise and praise desired behaviour
  • Provide rewards consistently and often
  • Arrange the environment to facilitate attention
  • Use active responsive instruction
  • Movement, tactile experiences, games etc.
  • Use multiple small periods of practice for rote tasks
  • Foster self esteem

Thembi’s ASD Teaching Tips

  • Social skills
    • Remember that the child has limited understanding of friendships and play
    • Keep your emotional reactions calm and predictable
    • Do not be insulted by inappropriate reactions or a lack of empathy
  • Language / communication
    • Don’t force the student to make eye contact
    • Remember that disruptive behaviour is not usually deliberate misbehaviour
    • Avoid using complicated language, figurative speech or sarcasm e.g. Wait a minute
    • Be as concrete as possible. Avoid vague questions like ‘Why did you do that?’
    • Avoid verbal overload
    • Pause between instructions and check for understanding
    • Do not rely on the student to relay messages home
    • Give concrete rules for acceptable and unacceptable behaviour
  • Repetitive routine
    • Establish a predictable environment
    • Your behaviour, room set-up
    • Prepare students for potential change
    • Lesson time, concerts, group classes
    • Use interests as motivation;
    • Explore sounds, search for repertoire, re-name pieces, create visual cues to spark interest
    • Do not try to stop self-soothing behaviours
  • Sensory overload
    • Discuss with the parents
    • Limit excess noise
    • Own set of stationery
    • Use blinds / curtains
    • No perfume / aftershave / scented candles
    • Be aware of clothing colour

Items mentioned in this podcast:

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Have you taught students with ASD or ADHD?

How did it go? Was there something Thembi mentioned that resonated with you, or a new idea you’re going to try?

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