Music is seen in every culture and is often referred to as a universal language of mankind. Music allows us to create connections despite differences in spoken and written language, culture, or life experiences. Learning music is in itself can be a joyful experience, which helps to calm our minds, and enables us to express our thoughts and emotions. For children with special needs, especially those with autism, the piano is often the easiest musical instrument to pick up. Here’s why:
1. The piano is visually clear
The piano is suitable for our children with autism as the instrument itself is presented in a clear and visual manner, making the learning of skills structured, and easy to process.
- Color: The contrast of white and black keys helps learners highlight the difference in the physical keys visually.
- Size: Keys on the piano are of equal size, which help students feel for individual keys. Just as we are able to climb stairs without having to look at every single step, students who learn the piano eventually can “feel” the distance between individual keys, helping them to play complex chords and move their hands quickly.
2. Piano keys are sequential
Children with special needs have a preference for sequences. Sequences give them predictability as they go in a particular order and/or pattern. Sequences help us to remember things easily, even if the sequence is long.
Piano keys are lined up in a linear way which allows autistic children to easily see a pattern. By learning the CDEFGAB sequence, children will be able to label the keys from one end of the piano to the other end effortlessly. The music sequence is a predictable system to learn what comes before and after, and our children with special needs appreciate this simple yet predictable system.
3. Keys can be pressed with just one finger
While playing the piano requires some complex motor skills at a later stage, beginner learners will find that tunes can be played easily with just one finger. Moreover, keys on the piano are of a fixed pitch. Pressing a key will produce a fixed sound, at all times. This allows children with weaker motor skills to pick up the piano more successfully than other instruments that require two hands such as the violin or guitar. By reducing the expectations of an instrument, a child with special needs will be more agreeable to play the piano and find that a tune can be played easily.
4. The range of the piano is wide
As compared to instruments like handbells or xylophones, the musical range of the piano is wide enough for our learners with autism to experience almost all the songs with which they are familiar. This creates a rewarding and instantly gratifying auditory experience, leaving our children in awe and enjoyment of what music can bring them.
5. Music skills are easily transferable to other instruments
Learning music includes learning the theoretical concepts and reasonings needed to understand music sheets. The theoretical knowledge learned with the piano can be easily transferred to other instruments such as the violin or the flute. This includes note reading, note rhythm, time signatures, dynamics, and many more. In fact, when learning the piano, students are reading two melodies concurrently, one for the right hand and another for the left hand. When switching to an instrument that only plays one note at a time, such as the violin, it might even feel easy for our little pianist!
An Autism-Friendly Instrument
The reason we focus on the piano is that it is an autism-friendly instrument. It is easy for children to approach, and does not demand too much from them in order to produce a nice melody. This also means that children as young as 3 years old can start learning the piano, and derive the benefits that learning music brings!
Click here to read the success stories of some of our students!