A few of my private piano students have autism, and one of them had his lesson today. This guy has come far in the past few years, from struggling to make any sense of the music at all (much less be able to sit still), to actually reading the notes on the page, and memorizing a heck of a lot of music. Meeting with him is one of the high points of my week. Today he wanted to show me he had figured out how to play “The Twelve Days of Christmas.” So of course, I wanted him to go for it.
It’s impossible to make too many sweeping generalizations of kids who struggle with autism. It can manifest itself in various ways, and while the two autistic kids I teach have some similarities in their behavior, they have many more differences. But having been around many autistic kids the past several years, one thing I have noticed as a common thread – once an idea has been put into motion, they’re not going to change their minds easily. They’ll see it through to the end. Even if that means playing twelve verses of a song, all exactly the same way, very slowly. You see where this is going, right?
So a few verses into the song, which took a while, I said, “Hey that’s great – why don’t we jump ahead to the 12th verse?” And he said, without looking up, “No.”
A few more verses in (long enough to get to the Five Golden Rings part): “This is so awesome. Wanna jump ahead to the 12th verse?” “No.”
A little farther (which at this speed, seemed about a half hour later): “I think I lost count – we’re on the 12th verse now, right? (see what I tried to do there?)” “No.”
We eventually got to the end. We struggled a long time to get to the end of that song. And I don’t just mean today. Those twelve verses today represented a few years of struggle, growth and achievement. I guess you probably shouldn’t skip any of that stuff.