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Thread: How best to encourage quirky, music-loving son, who has Asperger's Syndrome?

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    Question How best to encourage quirky, music-loving son, who has Asperger's Syndrome?

    Our almost 7-year-old son, who has Asperger's Syndrome, has always been drawn to music. He enjoys thumping away on our old piano (he loves jazz and sometimes improvises quite well), so we arranged some very short (15 minute), informal piano lessons for him a couple of years ago. His teacher was lovely, but extremely soft, and he simply spent the entire time fiddling and improvising rather than listening to a word she said. So we/he gave up.

    When we last saw our son's consultant paediatrician, she asked whether he had any aptitude for music and we said that we weren't sure. She told us that the piano was "entirely the wrong instrument" for a child like him and suggested the trumpet or percussion instead. It suddenly dawned on us that he had good rhythm and liked to drum on anything and everything around the house, so would probably love percussion lessons. He's now been playing since September, has a drum kit at home, and is getting on really well. (Or at least, we think he is. He has lessons at school and we get very little feedback from his teacher.) He isn't studying for an exam and I'm not sure whether this is the best route or not. He still loves improvising/doing his own thing and it's hard (with no face-to-face contact with the teacher and rather cursory notes in his lesson notebook) to know whether he's following direction or not.

    I do still wonder whether he's sufficiently extended, musically, though. I'm not a pushy parent (believe me, this isn't a child one could push!), but I do want to encourage him in the activities he enjoys and for which he seems to have an aptitude. (He's a bright boy, but faces a lot of challenges, socially and academically, at school.) To me (a tolerably-but-by-no-means-extraordinarily musical person), there's something strange about the way in which he relates to music. He seems to have a very good memory for it (only needs to hear a tune once to "get" it) and an odd ability to recall every note and nuance of introductions, interludes etc, rather than just melodies. He's drawn towards conducting (can't resist whenever there's music on), but that could just be because he's a little tyrant!

    He's always (since he began speaking) had an uncanny ability to recall words/sentences/entire passages of audiobooks, so I wonder whether it's somehow related to that. But I don't quite know what, if anything, we should be doing with him or/encouraging him to do. I'd really value some advice.

    Thanks,
    HelenaHandbasket

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    Quote Originally Posted by HelenaHandbasket View Post
    I'm not a pushy parent
    I hope you're not.

    Remember, kids this age need to be left alone to explore thing for themselves. By merely 'suggesting' things to him, you could completely destroy his appetite for learning. Let him suggest those things to you, not the other way around.

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    Senior Member emiellucifuge's Avatar
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    I dont know your son so please judge for yourself whether my thoughts are accurate:

    It seems to me any pressure on him would have a negative effect on his enthusiasm. It also wouldnt make sense to push him into the more theoretically rigorous areas of music such as conducting (which by the way requires tremendous social skills). Though I suppose if he enjoyed conducting you could buy him a baton, some scores and have him conduct an empty room - though Im not sure what musical value this would provide.

    The best thing you can do I think is to give him the opportunity to try out a multitude of musical instruments. Also think outside of the (orchestra) box. Think what would appeal to him given his character.
    While all instruments require physicality to some degree, a physical person would enjoy the less precise percussion instruments such as drums, timpani and cymbals (if you can bare the noise!).
    String instruments will require a little more coordination, technique and precision, and generally require rigorous training to get even the simplest pleasant-sound which might be frustrating.
    Now I think of it.. try a brass instrument. Theyre generally fun and the learning curve doesnt begin quite as steeply as with the strings. Some woodwings, especially those with reeds can be physically painful at first on the mouth so I dont reccomend it.

    Outside of the orchestra, guitars are very popular with young people due to the versatility and their repertoire ranges from classical to pop, each with very specific techniques. Fairly easy to learn popular tunes, learning classical guitar is more of a challenge.
    The Bass guitar has a less versatile repertoire but has a very big range of different sounds. This might appeal to your son the most. Easy to start on, mess around on, improvise and all that.

    Hope this helps.
    "Beware of listening to this impostor; you are undone if you once forget that the fruits of the earth belong to us all, and the earth itself to nobody." - Rousseau

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    Senior Member Meaghan's Avatar
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    My little brother has Asperger's and plays trumpet. He also used to take piano lessons, but didn't get much out of it since he had a fairly traditional teacher, and traditional music teachers aren't always the most effective with kids with focus issues. If your son's talents are in improvisation or playing by ear, he might benefit from working with a jazz musician or other non-classical musician. Is he interested in trying other instruments, or is he content with percussion? If you decide to shop around, you could also look for teachers who have stated experience in working with children with Asperger's. These will probably be fairly easy to find if you live in a large metropolitan area and fairly difficult if you don't. He's also young, so I don't think it's a big deal if you/he don't figure out his perfect instrument and approach to music right away. My brother (who is now 16) didn't start playing trumpet until he was 11, and he's doing quite well. I don't think he would have been able to study it seriously when he was younger anyway, and serious lessons would only have frustrated him. It may be different with your son; I don't know.

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    Moderator mamascarlatti's Avatar
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    Suzuki method might be a good one to use with your child as it is based on extensive listening and playing by ear particularly at the early stages. It is also child centred and there are no formal exams, although children can play "graduation pieces" to mark their progress.
    Natalie

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    Quote Originally Posted by HelenaHandbasket View Post
    When we last saw our son's consultant paediatrician, she asked whether he had any aptitude for music and we said that we weren't sure. She told us that the piano was "entirely the wrong instrument" for a child like him and suggested the trumpet or percussion instead. It suddenly dawned on us that he had good rhythm and liked to drum on anything and everything around the house, so would probably love percussion lessons. He's now been playing since September, has a drum kit at home, and is getting on really well. (Or at least, we think he is. He has lessons at school and we get very little feedback from his teacher.) He isn't studying for an exam and I'm not sure whether this is the best route or not. He still loves improvising/doing his own thing and it's hard (with no face-to-face contact with the teacher and rather cursory notes in his lesson notebook) to know whether he's following direction or not.
    Is this "consultant paediatrician" a child psychologist? If not, why not consult one? A professional child psychologist may be able to correctly evaluate the child and offer you the help you need.

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    Senior Member Romantic Geek's Avatar
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    I don't think a person who has Aespergers is any less capable of being a musician. In fact, my cousin who has the syndrome likes to plunk away at the piano at my house when he's there. The last time (Thanksgiving) he was just playing a one line melody in C major and was able to modulate - correctly - to G major. I think he's got a fantastic musical capability. But he's also 12 now...and of course the older you get, the harder it is to learn music.

    I suggest doing some of the methods - Suzuki may work. Maybe the Kodaly.

    But like the comment above, don't be a pushy parent. A lot of the students I'm working with now are having trouble adjusting to accept responsibility and make decisions on their own - but it's not their fault entirely. Our society has made it ok for helicopter parents and it's reducing the need for independence with young adults. The most successful people later in life are the ones who earn their bread and butter.
    B.M. Music Theory - University of Connecticut
    M.M. Music Theory - College-Conservatory of Music at the University of Cincinnati (in process)
    My Soundclick Page - feel free to browse my compositions I post up there

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