Special Needs and Autistic Students

special needs piano lessons napervilleLearning music can be a life-changing experience for a child with a learning disability, though some say it “cannot be done”.  Nevertheless, two of the most gifted and talented pianists that ever graced the world of music are blind: Ray Charles and Stevie Wonder. You don’t need your eyes to play music, and all too often this is forgotten by the old-school music teachers of the world.   For learning disabled people, sometimes a combination of certain types Music Theory and ear training can open up the awesome ability to play anything they want.

Studying Music and Autism

Nowadays, at least 1 in every 150 children is recognized as autistic. Certain kids with autism, when trained properly in aural skills, learn new music as fast or faster than “normal” (neurotypical) kids. The right kind of musical training can instill a respect for the idea of disciplined study in an autistic person. Weekly structured creative assignments, such as composing a Waltz specifically in 3/4 time and in D minor, help develop creativity with a sense of purpose. Exercises where student is to imitate a small passage of music that teacher plays by ear encourage the autistic student to hone his or her attention. Memorization and repeated performance of songs enhances the brain’s capacity for storing both larger forms and smaller nuances and details.

What is Comping?

Ever had an uncle or aunt that couldn’t read a note but could play any Holiday or folk song that existed? This is a skill known as comping or faking. When you are taught early on to play what you hear, just like an ape or a parrot, it develops a much needed skill in understanding music. Comping is not the same is reading music, but it can help a great deal when one is trying to understand or memorize music. All students enrolled at Kimberly Steele Studio learn how to “comp”. It’s part of the big picture. Learning disabled students are usually very good at picking up this basic skill.  The goal of Kimberly Steele Studio is to use intuitive processes to help students of all abilities to understand the structures that make up music.


Every student needs to move at his or her own pace.  This is probably the number one most common mistake among music teachers: going too slowly or pushing the student too fast.  If a student has a learning disability, our biggest goal needs to be figuring out what pace of learning is ideal for that student.

Working with Parents

When teachers work with learning disabled students, it is absolutely crucial that parents and teachers communicate at every single lesson.  Not only do we have to understand what the learning disabled student’s strengths and weaknesses are, parents are often needed to help the learning disabled student at home with their weekly assignments.


Though the Kimberly Steele Studio is a very fun and colorful place, it can often be overstimulating, especially for children with limited attention spans.  If you are still very interested in the Kimberly Steele Studio approach to music education, please call (630) 561-6456 to schedule a free interview lesson with one of our available instructors.

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply