Melinda's Studio, Autism (& Special Needs)
Melinda teaches autistic individuals, many of whom also have one/some of the following conditions: ADHD, high anxiety, sensory issues, APD, OCD, motor weakness, learning delays, intellectual disability, (etc). Understandably, all students are very different and require different teaching approaches and varying levels of support and resources. Her young students attend mainstream and specialist schools. Some of Melinda's students are diagnosed 'high functioning' who have good academic and speech skills, but struggle with elements of language and social skills. Melinda also teaches students, whose parents' describe them as 'lower function" and they require additional learning resources, and communication aids. Melinda also has a number of students who are minimally or non-verbal.
Students have access to learning and behavioural resources, should they require them, such as PECS, visual schedules and finish flags. Sometimes a written order of the lesson content can be useful for students to see, and timers can help to keep us on track.
Melinda is aware that some students might have light, sound and
temperature sensitivities, and these are adjusted accordingly.
The studio is small, cosy and very comfortable, and is intentionally uncluttered, to minimise distraction.
Showing kids a photo of the studio before the Initial Meeting can
help to reduce anxiety on the first visit.
Here are some questions frequently asked by parents.
Are you a music therapist?
I am a music teacher and not a music therapist. There is definitely some cross over in what I do, and there are definitely therapeutic benefits experienced from these lessons, however music therapy is different to music teaching.
What ages do you teach?
Minimum age 4 years, to adults. Note that not all 4 year olds are ready to start lessons, but this will be evaluated during the Initial Meeting.
Do you teach children who are non-verbal?
Yes, I have non-verbal piano and singing students. Parents need to advise me of the most effective means for communication, ie: signing, PECs, AAC, etc. I have a large collection of music and song-related PECs.
Can you teach piano to a student with moderate intellectual disability?
I have taught many students with ID. Please discuss your child's needs and musical interests with me, so that we can design suitable program, based on their preferred method of learning - and then see how it goes!
My child has ADHD. Will music lessons work for him/her?
Many of my students have ADHD. Lessons incorporate a range of musical activities and tasks, which is a fun way to mix things up, all while learning and reinforcing many musical concepts.
My son loves playing piano but is put off by having to read music. Is there a way around this?
Yes! Most of my students learn to play by ear initially, which is an important skill for musicians. This is an effective way of learning, as it helps students to focus on the sound before trying to decode written notation. Students learn to read music when they are ready, and at their own pace.
My daughter has severe literacy problems / speech impairments. Will this get in the way of learning to sing?
No! In fact, learning singing helps develop speech and literacy. As singing involves producing words to a melody (pitch and rhythm), we work on reading words, how the words sound, the articulation and diction - but all this hard work is disguised when we are learning and singing our favourite songs.
My child has a very short attention span. Will this be a problem?
Some of my students have short attention spans, and general problems with executive function (memory, organising and planning). The study of music, particularly the mix of piano and singing, can be effective for helping to develop these areas. I plan lessons so that there are many varying and reinforcing activities to keep students engaged.
My child has PDA, but is interested in music lessons. Have you had experience with PDA (Pathological Demand Avoidance)?
Yes. If the child is interested to learn to sing or play, let's find a way to make this work by letting the child 'take the lead'. If behaviours are problematic, we can discuss and have some strategies ready. Ultimately, however, the child needs to want to learn. I have done some training with Dr Ross Greene, and am happy to support kids (and their parent) with PDA.
Do parents sit in on the lesson?
Parents are welcome to sit in on lessons, however, most of my students have lessons without a parent in the studio. Sometimes a child will commence lessons with a parent present, and once the parent determines that the child is comfortable, they no longer remain in the studio. I find that most students do better on their own, but some students need to have a parent present if there are behavioural or communication issues.
For students whose parents drop them off, I require parents to come into the lesson for the last 5 minutes to find out what we have been learning, and what needs to be done for home practice.
If parents prefer to remain in the lesson, only one parent can be present. It is, however, essential that parents refrain from repeating instructions, commenting or intervening (unless absolutely necessary). No siblings or friends permitted in lessons, as this is distracting.