Autistic children - I need tips on how to teach them PLEASE!

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  1. profile image0
    klarawieckposted 13 years ago

    I was assigned to teach elementary music to three self-contained classes of autistic children. I'm new at this and it seems like they've gone through three music teachers in the last three years because none of them have had the patience to work with them. There are about 5 children per class and although some of them are verbal, others are not.
    I'm in love with my new students. They are wonderful kids! But I have to admit I have no clue what I'm doing. Any tips you can give me would be great. I want to do everything in my power to help them grow and I'm not settling for less.

    1. profile image0
      sandra rinckposted 13 years agoin reply to this

      Use a metronome a lot!  Get out the drums, let them bang around on them until they fall into rhythm. It will probably drive you nuts for a while. But I have no idea really, just something I would try.
      Which you might have already tried, IDK. smile

      1. profile image0
        klarawieckposted 13 years agoin reply to this

        Thanks Sandra. While drums are good for a sense of rhythm it won't spark enough curiosity on them. They will look at it more like a toy. I tried it on the first day and it lasted about 3 minutes. Then they were going crazy with it. LOL Also, children songs that are recorded on CD's will get them hyper and they don't take it seriously. It's just like - "Ok, I'm here just hanging around and singing." I want them to take something with them. I want them to at least be exposed to the same things as any other 3rd or 5th grader.
        Thanks for your comment. I appreciate it.

    2. mimind profile image62
      mimindposted 13 years agoin reply to this

      It depends on the students interests sensory sensativities and cognition levels. I actually have see sing along videos with the words moving used that helped with sight words etc in classes these are kids that respond mostly to tv there are alot of them out there with additional activites props use of questions and answers by picture cards pointing etc and can incorperate discussion groups etc. Color card cues held up for bell chors for such students, a combo of sensory tactile, sounds and lights used to teach leisure coping and help increase tolerance to noises used in music. Just say no to constant musical chairs or sing along groups for non-verbal kids who dont enjoy it my class hates music thanks to our last music teacher doing this every week.Also put the fun stuff in the middle and end make it a reinforcer after doing the slower stuff if the class dosent do first activity then reinforcer dance time etc may not be done that day.

  2. Mighty Mom profile image78
    Mighty Momposted 13 years ago

    Hi Klara,
    Wow. That sounds like a wonderful but daunting challenge.
    I have two very good friends with autistic children.
    Although no doubt you will get excellent advice and support here on HP, I will inquire with both of them and get back to you.
    One of them was in the middle of writing a book for parents of autistic kids when she was diagnosed with breast cancer.I was editing the book for her. I'll take a look and see if there's anything that might shed light.
    What's that saying,"Music soothes the savage beast."?
    I would think that music would be a great way to reach these kids!

    1. profile image0
      klarawieckposted 13 years agoin reply to this

      Thanks Mighty Mom! I had them  singing  and playing bells today. They are so smart! It's incredible what a little patience and love can do. I want to help them. I would truly appreciate your input. smile

  3. Aficionada profile image80
    Aficionadaposted 13 years ago

    If you haven't done so already, check out this list (and see if you can find the accompanying one on things the autistic student wants you to know). … 20Knew.pdf

    Music can have different effects on autistic children, and it would be smart to read up on it before you encounter a meltdown situation.

    A few days ago, there was a letter to Dear Abby about an autistic child, and there was a great deal of excellent information in the comments.  If you haven't seen it online before, go to Yahoo! > News > Entertainment > Dear Abby.  This has been literally within the past week or two at most, and I really encourage you to look it up.  (Some parents wrote comments, and one adult with autism wrote about their experience.)

    1. profile image0
      klarawieckposted 13 years agoin reply to this

      Thanks for sharing. I will read this article and look for the letter.
      I know what you are saying about music being different for them. The classroom teacher said to me that I should play CD's for them to sing and move to the music. But I felt that was dumbing down the lesson. Why would I do that when these kids are smart? They just need to connect and they need someone who has patience to find how to get to them. Anyways, at the end of class they were playing bells and singing the songs with the letters of the music alphabet at the same time. She couldn't believe it! I wouldn't let them touch the instrument until they told me the name - bells, and mallet. So they are learning very well what's part of their grade's curriculum. It's wonderful.

  4. rebekahELLE profile image84
    rebekahELLEposted 13 years ago

    are they mixed age? early elementary or older?

    I've never taught a group of autistic kids, but I have had them in my classes before.

    early ed, you might try some clapping to the beat songs having them follow along by watching you and listening to the music.

    you could use rhythm sticks, passing a bean bag. I think anything that can engage them by watching you first and following along with you. listening for beats and rhythm will help them focus. it's also good for the brain.

    I think music is a great teaching medium and the kids will also show you how much they can handle. I wouldn't play the music too loud and depending on how long the classes are, I would try to mix it up a little, a slower tempo then a faster, mellow, silly.. hope this helps.

    1. profile image0
      klarawieckposted 13 years agoin reply to this

      Thanks Rebekah. I teach all grades - K and 1st as one class, 2nd and 3rd as one class, and 4th and 5th as one class.
      My activities vary according to their age, of course. I found out that it's a bad idea to play recorded music at a medium/loud volume from the get-go. But let me tell you, when I pulled out the bells!!! It was like opening presents on Christmas day! Those faces!!! big_smile They literally lit up!

      I love teaching the mainstream little ones too. That's when you can train them best - they are like little sponges!

  5. alternate poet profile image67
    alternate poetposted 13 years ago

    From my limited contact with truly autistic children and adults I would say that most of the work that I read attempts to move them toward what we consider to be 'normal' and is a waste of time at best and akin to the practice of forcing left handed children to write with ther right hands.

    In your position I would consider empathising with them rather than trying to attract their attention, be more like them rather than taking the approach of trying to make them more like you.

    Taking part in their world is both frustrating and rewarding, follow and enlarge the things that they are naturally interested in and don't get upset when they lose interest randomly, and don't get fixed on getting them to love you; they love you just the same even if they don't show it in pink cuddly stuff.

    1. profile image0
      klarawieckposted 13 years agoin reply to this

      AP - You are right. Good advice there. Thanks.

    2. kephrira profile image60
      kephriraposted 13 years agoin reply to this

      I agree with alternate poet. My advice would be to focus more on making the lessons an engaging and enjoyable experience for them rather than on them learning and taking something away from the lessons.

      If they are severly autistic, and if some of them are non-verbal they must be a group that is towards the severe end of the spectrum,  then however much you might want to bring them out of their shell and help them to develop, the chances that you will manage to do something that noone else in the world ever has is pretty unlikely.

  6. raisingme profile image77
    raisingmeposted 13 years ago

    Go to Rosie O'Donnell's website she has some really great info and resources for autistic children.

    1. profile image0
      klarawieckposted 13 years agoin reply to this

      Will do. Thanks!

  7. rebekahELLE profile image84
    rebekahELLEposted 13 years ago

    that's really beautiful. when you respect children like that, they connect with you. they let you know.  I had a little boy with aspergers a few years ago and I decided to go into his world and try to understand what he needed. he knew I respected and believed in his abilities and we figured out how to communicate with each other. at the end of the year the mother, who is an ESE teacher, said she was amazed at his growth. he was able to enter first grade mainstream. that little boy was like a gift to me. they can give us so much.. you have a great opportunity to work with these kids. smile

    1. profile image0
      klarawieckposted 13 years agoin reply to this

      Hi Rebekah, yes! I think it's a great chance for me to learn something new. And when you realize how smart these kids are, and the whole problem is they can't function or express themselves like other children, then you realize it's truly a blessing. smile

  8. poetvix profile image55
    poetvixposted 13 years ago

    I can think of a few things you might try...
    First, approach it from a math perspective as many autistic children like math better than verbal exercises and written music is mathematical.
    Secondly, expose patters in written music... many like patterns.  Allow them to write their own after exposing them to a few notes using pictures.  Talk to your lifeskills teacher and ask to borrow her copy of BoardMakerPro.  It's a great program and you can make picture cards for almost anything.  If you want to associate a wave w/ the picture be sure the volume is low for some of these children will not like the noise.
    Reduce any and all surpluse visual and auditory stimuli in the room... in this case less really is more.
    Fianlly, allow them to select from many instruments and try each out.  Some will like certain tactile associations w/ things such as a keyboard or harp, others will not.  Let each gravitate to what he/she wants. 
    I hope this helps some.  I work w/ MR and autistic students too though older than your group.  I teach transition skills and do not at all envy you your task.  Have faith in yourself and remember the fact that you love them will guide you.  Best of luck to you in your cause.

  9. schoolgirlforreal profile image77
    schoolgirlforrealposted 13 years ago

    I know autistic kids LOVE animals.....maybe bring in a pet while they listen to music
    IDK an idea

    1. mimind profile image62
      mimindposted 13 years agoin reply to this

      Um all my kids hate animals at least the front ends of them I think its because they have teeth and many of my kids bite or have been bitten by peers. Some do like to touch the rear but often poke and pull one attackeda  horse needless to say horse was retired as it disliked kids from then on. I suggest being carful with animals with allergies etc many schools actually frowen upon it as its a liability.


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