December 2012

Autism and Violin lessons

December 21, 2012 02:15

I am diagnosed with Aspergers Syndrome, and though it is at the high functioning end of the autism spectrum, that doesn't mean it doesn't affect me. 

I'm writing this blog to spread the awareness of some things that come with teaching students with autism and to receive feedback from teachers of autistic students or even autistic students themselves.

I am sure that it takes a world of patience to teach even a "normal" student. Teaching one with special needs requires a universe of patience.

1) Stubbornness
During my violin lessons, I sometimes refuse to play a piece at the speed it's supposed to be at. Though I know I could pull it off quite well, I am afraid my teacher would think it's funny if I made a mistake. I'm also afraid that my teacher would think I'm not good enough. 
I've recently learned how to play double stops. And I'm not very confident because of the intonations. Every time I come to a double stop in a piece, I would stop there and stare at it like it's poison. Slowly, I've been weaning myself off the habit. It take a lot of deep breaths, but it works.

2) Shyness
Sometimes, when I refuse to play a piece fast, it's because I'm shy to play for my teacher. As childish as that sounds, it's something that I've failed to overcome over the years. My right hand would just refuse to move the bow.

3) Pre lesson anxiety
Before my lessons, I'm always hit by anxiety attacks of varying degrees of severity. It could range from the regular sweaty palms to a mixture of freezing feet and hands, and a stomach ache. Of course these symptoms disappear once my teacher arrives, but it isn't something I would like to live my life with. 

4) Pessimism 
I'm currently learning vibrato. And my teacher is having a hard time teaching me too. Every time we start I would repeat the word "cannot" over and over. She would in turn, have to remind me more than a couple of times to keep quiet and just focus on doing the vibrato motion. This pessimistic streak carries on even until the end part of the lesson when we go through my theory homework. Every lesson, I would tell her that I found it difficult, though of course it wasn't very. Though I would get at least 95% of my answers correct, I would still tell her the same thing the next lesson.

It takes a lot of patience and reassurance to get me to cooperate. But at the end of the day, I'm sure it was worth it to my teacher to watch me progress so fast. 

What are your views?

12 replies

What's your story?

December 9, 2012 00:57

I had begun learning the violin around 9 months ago, 24th of February, to be exact. 
I remember when I first asked my mum for violin lessons. I was around 6 years of age, when I was still hyper and bouncing off the walls. I asked her, "mummy, I want violin lessons!" 
Her reply came, "Sure, if you can step into the music school and request for a brochure, I will be too glad to send you for lessons."
Autistic as I am, I didn't have the nerve to go into the music school. 
I started learning the piano, being jealous of my brother. At the age of 11, my teacher lost her patience with me(and to be honest, I lost patience with the piano too) and I stopped lessons. 
Thing is, that even after I stopped lessons, the world of music never left me. I had tried to pick up lessons again, but the new teacher didn't have the training required to teach autistic children who, like me, can be unwittingly stubborn. 
Then came December, 2011. I had played a few pieces on the piano for my favourite teacher who was unfortunately leaving the school to care for her 2 young children. 
I was devastated. I ALWAYS form very strong emotional connections to my teachers. I decided I want to play an instrument that is portable unlike the piano.
Come February this year, during the Chinese New Year(where kids like me receive red packets of cash), I realised I had enough to buy the most inexpensive violin in the shop(the "plywood" ones, of course). 
I asked my mum again. "mummy, I want to learn the violin". 
"Why?" she asked.
I replied, "Well, first, I want a portable instrument. Second, the violin has more "class" than other instruments."
"OK", she said.
Sure enough, the next day, she got me the cheapest violin she could find, not believing that I'll last long enough to upgrade to a "professional" violin. In other words, she thinks I'll give up after a month.
I tried to self learn, then decided I needed a teacher to teach me the basics. 
"I'll just have lessons to learn the basics, mummy"
After a few weeks of lessons, I had already started watching all sorts of documentaries and videos on YouTube. 
I discovered that "the basics" were endless and that even if I were a prodigy, there would be still endless things for me to learn about music and the violin. 
Now, 9 months later, I am proud to say that I have gotten my first "professional" violin, and that all my ambitions are pointed towards the world of music. 
I am 17 this year, and being diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome, though it doesn't define me, it isn't the easiest thing to cope with, having to convince people that it doesn't define me.
Expressing myself is something I've always found difficulty doing, and now that I have music, it has become so much easier.
When I grow up, I want to have benefit concerts and donate huge sums of money to help people like me.

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