I started taking piano lessons at five years of age. I had a piano teacher who challenged me to work hard and overcome obstacles, such as being blind and autistic. Before my teacher worked with me, he had never taught a blind person how to play the piano. He was skilled in finding creative ways to teach me in a way that I could learn. Because I am blind, I learned to play by ear. He would record the lessons on a cassette tape, I would have to listen to it, and memorize the songs. As he was recording the music, he would announce the fingering on each note on the piano. I learned to play the piano by audio recordings and tactile learning. I had to practice the piano for an hour everyday of the week. At the end of each piano lesson cycle, I would have a recital where I would play a piece at different venues. There were times when I did a great job and there were also times when I did a poor job. I learned that playing the piano takes time, effort, and lots of memorization.
When an autistic person learns how to play an instrument, their teachers should create ways for them to learn based on their individual needs. If the person learns visually, they may benefit from learning how to read the music. If the person learns auditorily, they may benefit from listening to recordings of songs and memorization. Different people learn in different ways. I learned how to play the piano through auditory and tactile techniques.
Sometimes, teaching a person how to play an instrument can be very stressful. Sometimes it takes longer than predicted for certain people to learn an instrument. It can be hard for autistic people to play a song on an instrument if they’re not getting it right away. Students on the spectrum may have a meltdown or become very frustrated when experiencing difficulty learning a song. There are many different factors that could result in sensory overload which can exacerbate meltdowns. Working through meltdowns requires a lot of time and work from both the student and teacher.
I believe that anyone who has a love for music is more than capable of learning how to play an instrument. Playing an instrument takes a lot of practice. I want to encourage people, especially those on the spectrum, that you can confidently start learning how to play an instrument. There are many options for how to learn an instrument; you can watch YouTube videos on your electronic device, watch other people play their instruments, or teach yourself how to play an instrument anyway that you see fit.
If music is your passion and if music is what you love, I encourage you to learn how to play an instrument. Playing instruments gives you pleasure and it also helps you express any emotion, especially when you’re going through a hard time. Playing musical instruments is just one ways that people can enjoy life and have fun. Music also gives opportunities to advocate for ourselves and others on the spectrum through performances. If you love music, try to play an instrument so you can use your musical gifts to serve others.
I play the piano because I believe that music can be healing for individuals. I personally know that music is the universal language. It brings people together and speaks for them if they don’t have the words to express their emotions. I encourage you to take part in learning how to play a musical instrument so together, we can fill the air with the sweetness of music and its beautiful sound.