Skip to main content

GUEST POST: Autism Refresher Part 1

Students on the Autism Spectrum in your Classroom
As the new school year gets underway, a quick refresher on autism spectrum disorder will help us better serve this growing population. First, a few facts about autism:
·         The latest estimates are that autism affects one in 88 children.
·         The term Autism describes a “spectrum” of issues characterized by difficulties or differences with communication and social understanding, as well as repetitive behaviors or intense interests.
·         Autism can look very differently from person to person. Autism Speaks has a saying –
Rhoda Bernard

“If you’ve met one person with autism, you’ve met one person with autism.”

It can be difficult to develop teaching strategies for individuals with autism because no one approach or method works with all individuals on the autism spectrum. Teachers should pay attention to students’ strengths and use them to help students succeed, as well as to fill in gaps in their knowledge. For example, an autistic child with a very strong aural memory will learn easily with auditory modeling. A student with autism who has perfect pitch will play new melodies easily by ear, but may need help developing music reading skills.

At the Boston Conservatory Program for Students on the Autism Spectrum, which I direct (www.bostonconservatory.edu/autism), Master’s students in Music Education receive ongoing training and support in behavioral teaching approaches, using visual tools, and developing structures and schedules for their young students on the autism spectrum.

A quick and dirty introduction to some of the main principles of each of these -
Behavioral Teaching Approaches:
·         Having skills broken down into small, discrete steps – the smaller, the better.
·         Repetition and practice – which we know so well as musicians.
·         Skills introduced in a logical, step-wise sequence – this is extremely important for autistic students, who crave logical connections as they learn.
·         Prompting and systematic prompt fading – start with larger prompts and gradually reduce them over time.
·         Specific programming to promote generalization – transfer of skills to other contexts. Help students practice and prepare to use their newly acquired skills in a new context.

Using Visual Tools:
·         Visual aids of every kind you can think of will help students on the autism spectrum to understand concretely some of the abstract aspects of music.
·         Write out the letter names of notes onto post-its and put them on the keys of the piano.
·         Use flashcards to drill and teach note names, rhythmic values, key signatures, and other important information.

Developing Structures and Schedules:
·         Post an agenda for the class, listing all of the activities in order.
·         Either cross off, erase, or put a check mark after each item as you complete it.
·         Reassure students that it is all right if you aren’t able to address every item on the agenda during a class session.

The Boston Conservatory Program for Students on the Autism Spectrum holds an annual conference, Teaching Music to Students on the Autism Spectrum, every May. It will be held on May 9 and 10, 2014. See www.bostonconservatory.edu/autism for more information about the program.

The Boston Conservatory is presenting an autism-friendly performance of Oklahoma on Sunday, October 20 at 2 p.m. http://www.bostonconservatory.edu/oklahoma-autism

For more information about me, see http://www.bostonconservatory.edu/bio/rhoda-bernard
Until next time,
Rhoda

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

D, Popsicle Stick and Paper Plate Kalimba!

Back to the Orffabet! Today's letter is D, the shape of the popsicle prongs on a homemade Kalimba!

Lisa Lehmberg of the University of Massachusetts, has agreed to share this portion of her book chapter. Hurray, Lisa! Let's make a Kalimba out of popsicle sticks, paper plates, and some scrap wood!
You'll need: two small, sturdy paper platesone wood block (3cm x 7cm* x 1cm) To convert to inches click here.  This block is inside the plates and keeps them from collapsing.7 cm* piece of thin plywood five flat popsicle sticks7 cm* strip of flimsy wood moldingbrads or small screws (optional)paper gluewood glue*the length is determined by the size of the paper plates. These measurements are for the structural stability of the instrument, NOT the intonation. Just eyeball or loosely measure the wood.
Glue a block of wood to a paper plate near its edge. Glue another paper plate (plates facing each other) to the original plate and the wood block. Spread glue on both the rims of the…

Liquid Ass

So we've had another school shooting. By the time I post this, we will have had a few more. The NRA and President Bone Spurs would like us to arm teachers. Shooting another human being is not natural. Killing is not natural. Self-defense only feels natural when hand to hand combat is involved. Guns, even in the heat of  battle, are abstract. Perhaps the primary reason the United States has a volunteer army instead of a drafted one is that drafted soldiers are far less likely to actually fire at the enemy when the time comes. The kill instinct has to be trained into a soldier. It isn't natural, and it takes its toll on the soul. Plus, you'll probably miss and shoot an innocent student and die anyway.

So I offer a humble alternative. Well, maybe two, but one of them is actually entertaining.

1. ALICE training. Click on this. It's helpful.
2. Liquid Ass


Developed as a joke product, Liquid Ass makes an excellent deterrent to the progress of a shooter. Shooters expect thei…

"P", The Bucket Routine for older students

Today's Orffabet letter is P, for the shape of buckets and sticks when they are in storage in our guest teacher's classroom.

The following post and series of videos is for Upper Elementary, Middle School, or High School Students.  This is a rare opportunity for you to learn a routine without having to go to a workshop or Orff level.  You will learn the routine as your students would.

John is a teacher in the Worcester Public Schools.  He has taught this routine to Upper Elementary students as an after school program.  John's students worked on the routine for an hour or so every day for 6 weeks.  To see John in an earlier post, click here.

The "students" in this video are Orff Level I students in the Worcester Public Schools class of 2010.  They learned the routine in a 90 minute session with Level III students who already knew it.  Here is the routine after those 90 minutes.

This routine, inspired by African dance and Orff body percussion, is well outside the …