Piano Teacher Hits Right Note With Autistic Students

By Rory Devine
|  Monday, Apr 12, 2010  |  Updated 5:42 AM PDT
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Piano Teacher Hits Right Note With Autistic Students

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Piano Teacher Hits Right Note With Autistic Students

An Australian-based method promises to be a breakthrough in music education.
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From his first lesson, 10-year-old Jaeger Heathman has taken to the piano. Heathman, who has autism, has only had 11 lessons -- but he can already play a handful of songs.

"Dreams, Night Storm, Jackson, Honeydew, Chester, Ode to Joy," he said. "And Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star."

Heathman is learning the instrument through Simply Music, a new method that could be a breakthrough in music education, particularly for autistic children. Instead of learning how to read music, students immediately learn actual songs. There are no boring scales, at least not to start.

"We do get to those things, but later," said Cathy Hirata, Heathman's teacher. "The whole idea here is that you wouldn't teach a child how to read a book before they learn speak. We don't want to teach a child how to read the piano before they understand the mapping of the instrument, or how to play it."

The method works well for all children, Hirata said, including those with autism, who may be very literal, very concept-oriented and who may shut down if given multiple concepts all at once.

For Heathman, who is also ADHD, the Simply Music method has helped him focus and listen.

"After the first lesson, I was blown away," said Jodette Goebel, Jaeger's mother. "I think with the traditional method, he would have a harder time with that. This way definitely works in his case."

Click here for more information about Simply Music or call 888-896-2066.

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