Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Acoustics- A Music Teacher's Question

A writes:
I am going to be graduating with a music education degree in May and I am hoping to get a job at a middle school teaching beginning band. My question is what could I as a teacher do in that environment to help autistic kids who want to learn instruments, but may get overwhelmed by all of the stimuli going on in the room? What do you think would help you in that situation? Love your blog! Just discovered it yesterday and have been reading it nonstop. It helped me understand some of the autistic students I have had in the past better.

Philip writes:
I am a lover of music. Music plays a mighty role in my life. I am moved by a beautiful song. I am moved by melodies and good lyrics. Music is loved but sometimes it can be too loud. I am very sensitive to sound. Acoustics play a role. I have apprehension when I enter a room with hard floors and walls.  Loud sounds bounce piercing frequencies. They kill my peaceful enjoyment of music.  I feel like a glass man easily shattered by active waves of giant sound. However, I do not want to be this fearful. I toughen up by facing my fears. I am losing my sensitivity to loud places by going to them more often. I can go in church. I can go in a gym and to movies.  To face a hard environment, I am mindful of me wanting to participate. I tell myself that man attains nothing by allowing his surroundings real power to stop him from what he wants to do. I try to withstand the sensory torment by stimming to calm my nerves. In my quest to socialize I make my stims try to blend in.  I cover my stims by whispering to myself my own song to try to calm down. My advice to kids who want to learn an instrument but get overloaded is to master his fear by telling himself peace will be limited if you avoid everything that brings apprehension. To put fear to rest, address the job of meeting his goal. Make a plan to get there. Get help if needed. Learn to adapt.  And when you conquer your fear, and achieve your goal, you will achieve true peace.

You can help your students by asking them if they can tolerate auditoriums. If they can't but still want to learn, may they wear noise-cancelling headphones? You can also try to gradually expose them to the auditorium. I am peaceful in the auditorium after a year of trying little by little. Patient teachers are the best.

Philip's favorite instrument is the piano.  He can't play yet, but maybe in the future...


  1. Philip, Thank you for sharing your love of music and the ways you have learned to enjoy it even though it is a process. It is so encouraging for others as well. Your grandmother, Sue, and I have been friends for a very long time.

  2. Great post! My son sometimes has a hard time in music class for exactly the reasons you describe. He would also stim to help him manage and then he would get disciplined by the teacher for stimming. This is how we found out that the teacher had not been informed of his needs and we immediately worked to bring her up to speed. Things are much better now.

    1. I'm glad you were able to get the teacher to understand his situation. It makes a world of difference. Before Philip could tell us why he used to have a meltdown at church, I used to get so frustrated and upset at him. Once I realized how badly the acoustics affected him, we patiently sat with him in the church library where they broadcast it on a TV. He has since made the initiative to go into the sanctuary and now can fully participate.

    2. Dear Lisa,
      I'm really enjoying this blog and Philips writing very much. I'm a special educator working with natural and alternative methods to work with special children. I recognize the true potential of children with autism and love making people see autistics for who they really are... I also work with mothers and support them. As a mother I would like to hear from you how you helped Philip with his sensory issues. Did he have gut issues? Was he on any diet?What therapies did he receive? What helped him really open up? What advice would you have for a person like me?

  3. I'm an autistic flutist and I love it. I hope you find an instrument that suits you.