Reviews

Book Review – Uniquely Human: A Different Way of Seeing Autism, by Barry M. Prizant, PhD

I recently finished reading the book Uniquely Human: A Different Way of Seeing Autism, written by Dr. Barry M. Prizant. It took me only a few days to “read” (I listened to the audiobook version) the whole thing, because I was enjoying it so much.

My motivation for searching out this book arose from a desire to better understand my current piano students who have autism. This was the book I settled on after searching on Amazon.com for a book on the topic that had excellent reviews.

This book did not disappoint.

The author, Dr. Barry Prizant, has decades of experience working with individuals with autism and is a leading expert in the field. He is a scholar, researcher, consultant, and an adjunct faculty at Brown University.

As Dr. Prizant explains in the book, autism therapy typically tends to focus on behavioral therapy — which means, getting rid of behaviors such as difficulties interacting socially, sensory challenges, and repetitive behavior patterns. Dr. Prizant points the way to a different approach instead. His book promotes the seeking of understanding individuals and what might be underlying their behaviors.

Rather than seeking to eliminate so-called “autistic behaviors”, Dr. Prizant advocates asking “why”. WHY is the person behaving this way? How can I better understand what might be causing the individual’s behavior, and how can I change MY behavior to help him or her?

“Most of the behaviors commonly labeled ‘autistic behaviors’ aren’t actually deficits at all. They’re strategies the person uses to feel better regulated emotionally.” –Barry M. Prizant

For example: For many individuals with autism, social situations can feel like a big mystery and be a cause anxiety. It can seem impossible, perhaps, to predict what others might do in social situations. And there are so many unwritten rules to follow.

Stress and anxiety can play out in various ways. The kinds of behaviors mentioned earlier are often coping mechanisms for staying emotionally regulated. It’s not unlike how many of us might tap our fingers or feet when we are impatient. If those behaviors can be recognized as signs of emotional deregulation, action can be taken to help the person regulate themselves — rather than attempting to “discipline” the person into “behaving better”.

“To help children with autism, we don’t need to change them or fix them. We need to work to understand them, and then change what we do.” –Barry M. Prizant

I appreciated that this book did not focus on surface-level tactics, and instead got at the underlying understanding of what autism is. One thing I learned immediately from my students with autism is that there is no one-size-fits-all approach. My students with autism are quite different from each other. We all know there is no one-size-fits-all approach to students who do not have autism; so why would there be one for students who do? No two individuals have the same strengths or struggles. Before we can brainstorm strategies for working with a person with autism, we must understand the person and their unique strengths and struggles.

This book is full of perspectives (such as the one shared above), stories, and examples that will be helpful to parents, caregivers, teachers, or anyone with persons with autism in their lives. My eyes have been opened to better understand what autism is and what life is like for those who are daily impacted by autism. After reading the book, I feel more inspired and equipped to ask myself and my students “why” more often, in order to understand them more and find ways to be a better teacher for them. I highly recommend this book.

Learn more about this book on Amazon.com here, or see the audiobook version here.

Offer: Interested in trying out an Audible subscription? I love mine! I read far more books in a year thanks to Audible. Use my affiliate link to get your first month free.

General

Happy 2019!

Happy New Year, friends! I hope you’ve been enjoying the holidays.

The new year always causes for me a time of reflection — refection upon the previous year as well as upon what the next year might hold.

As far as my blogging goes, I certainly published fewer blog posts in the last couple of years than I did in previous years. I don’t necessarily see this as a bad thing — I think the blogosphere and the online community is different now than it once was. Currently, I’m finding myself more active on Instagram than my blog. I would love to invite you to follow me there for those kinds of smaller, quick, fun updates and stay right where you are for the longer-form content here on the blog.

I’ve been thinking about how my teaching has changed over the years as well. (I began teaching piano around this time of year back in 2005.) There have been a number of important influences that have helped me improve my teaching, and I can see that my students are seeing the benefits. What will the next year hold? Ever more improvements, I hope!

Thanks so much for being a follower of my blog, and I wish you all a happy and healthy 2019.

P.S.: Anybody in Charlotte, NC? I’ll be in your area tomorrow (Friday) for a piano teacher presentation! Email or facebook me if you are interested in the details. :)

Reviews

Review: “Pianist” Magazine

A few months ago, one of my adult students introduced me to a wonderful UK-based magazine called Pianist. As a piano teacher, I couldn’t be more pleased that my student found this magazine.

My student Patsy and I, holding a few issues of Pianist magazine. This lovely lady lights up my life! 

I reached out to folks behind Pianist magazine to request a few back issues so I could write this review. They generously agreed. I’m excited to share with you more about this magazine today!

My student has been so enjoying reading the articles in these magazines and learning pieces included in the issues. 

Continue reading “Review: “Pianist” Magazine”
Practice

Practice Strategy: Video Game Start-Overs

Have you ever had the following problem?

Every time you get to a certain spot in a piece, you make the same error. It could be, for example, an incorrect fingering, an incorrect rhythm (like adding a pause or rushing through a rhythm), or an incorrect pitch.

Every time it happens, you recognize the error has happened. In fact, you probably knew in advance that it was going to happen. Right after it happens, you try again — starting at where you made the error, but making the correction this time — and continue the piece. 

The deeper problem here is the fact that this entire process repeats itself every time you play the piece. The trouble spot persists, even though you already know how to play the passage correctly.

I’ve encountered this problem in my own practice, and have observed it in my students, too. 

How do we combat this problem? How can we solve those stubborn “trouble spots” for once and for all? 

Continue reading “Practice Strategy: Video Game Start-Overs”
Teaching Piano

Wanting To Play The Part: Motivation and Turning Points for Students

When I was a kid, I participated in a play called “Tea For Felicity.”

I was a shy, introverted kid. I wasn’t exactly “actress material”.

However, I did want to be part of this play.

I auditioned, and somehow won the part of Felicity’s best friend.

My mother sewed me a Colonial era gown, complete with gathered sleeves and a white bonnet. I practiced and memorized my lines. I attended rehearsals, and helped paint the sets. 

There was one problem. 

I didn’t speak loudly enough onstage for my lines to be easily heard easily from the audience’s perspective. The play director asked me to speak out more. My mother coached me at home, letting me know I still wasn’t speaking loud enough. When I tried, I could deliver a louder rendition upon being asked. But the next time I read a line, I reverted to my normal volume. 

Continue reading “Wanting To Play The Part: Motivation and Turning Points for Students”
Piano Teacher Institute

Announcement: Upcoming Session of my “Excellence Piano Teaching” Course [Fall 2018]

Hello friends!

I’m excited to share that I am preparing to offer another session of my 6-week online course Excellence in Piano Teaching soon! The dates will be October 8 through November 18. 

Have you always wanted to take a piano pedagogy college course, but haven’t had the opportunity? Or are you looking for a refresher of the pedagogy instruction you received during college, to put new energy into your teaching? 

If this sounds at all interesting, please make sure you subscribe to the separate email list here. That way, I can email you more about the course over upcoming days. 

Thanks for reading! 

Studio Business

Lessons Learned From Relocating & Rebuilding a Piano Studio Business

Nearly a year ago, while attending the 2017 Indiana Music Teachers Association state conference I had the opportunity to chat with friend and fellow blogger Daniel Patterson (of GrowYourMusicStudio.com). We were talking about studio marketing, and I shared with him a story about what I had learned from rebuilding my studio from scratch after relocating to Ohio back in 2011. He was intrigued by my story, and invited me to participate in a recorded video conference sharing my experience.

Here is that video!

Studio Business Advice with Joy Morin

Today’s short video is a “case study” of two teachers…They both lived in the same town. They both started their studios at the same time.But after a year or two, one was making more money in their teaching studio.Why?That is the topic of today’s video with my friend, Joy Morin (of the Color in My Piano blog). Click below to watch this 9 minute video:

Posted by Grow Your Music Studio on Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Here’s a few points you’ll gain from the video:

  • 0:40 How I marketed my studio, because I couldn’t rely only on word-of-mouth being in an unfamiliar area. 
  • 2:30 Why I’m glad I trusted my instinct when it came to setting my tuition rates. The big lesson learned: It may not be wise to assume that having low tuition rates will result in gaining new students more quickly. 
  • 5:00 What it was like in those early months, waiting for my studio to grow. I did the marketing I could, but I needed to be patient until my studio grew to my benchmark goals. 

Your turn: What was helpful from Daniel’s and my conversation? What lessons have you recently learned from experience as a studio owner? 

Feel free to visit Daniel’s facebook page to watch more of his video conversations. 

General

Freebie: Lesson Attendance Sheet Updated for 2018-19

I have just finished updating one of the studio business forms from the Printables page for the 2018-19 school year.  It is called the Record of Lesson Attendance & Payment PDF.  I do not currently use this form myself anymore, but I still receive requests from teachers are using it so I am happy to update it again this year!

In case you haven’t seen this, here is how the form works: Write your students’ names in the first column.  Each week, write the lesson date (in a month / date format) in the column for that week.  This is how you can track attendance.  The small circles in each cell are where you can write checkmarks indicating tuition payments.  Whether you charge by-the-week or by-the-month, you can place a checkmark by each paid lesson date.

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Download it below or on the Printables > Studio Business page.

  Record of Lesson Attendance & Payment (2018-19) (199.8 KiB, 27,006 hits)

P.S.: Here is a link to where I explain my current system for tracking payments received.

Reviews

Book Review: The Art of Gathering, by Priya Parker

Upon reading the title of this book, you might be wondering why this book is being reviewed on a piano teaching blog. That’s a great question! The reason boils down to this: this book applies to piano teachers as much as anyone else, and to me it was SO good that I wanted to share it with you here. :)

Gathering is universal — yet taken for granted — and can be so meaningful when done well. I feel confident that upon reading this book, you will, like me, find multiple ways to apply it within both your personal life and professional life.

In her book, author Priya Parker draws upon her expertise as host, event facilitator, conflict resoluter, and consultant to present a number of principles for gathering. The first principle she discusses is the most important: knowing the purpose of your gathering. From there, Parker discusses how your purpose will help you determine who to invite (and exclude) from your gathering, what venue to choose, and how to make the event transformative and memorable for those in attendance.

In this book, you’ll learn how to greet attendees, open gatherings, end them, “prime” attendees for the event before the date, and ensure the gathering is unique, effective, and fun for all in attendance.

The Art of Gathering is chock-full of fascinating stories from Parker’s experience exemplifying her gathering dos and don’ts. I found myself relaying many of the stories from the book to my husband. In turn, he kept asking if I was done reading the book so he could start reading it. :)

Parker’s advice was inspiring to me as I considered the variety of gatherings types in my own life — from my recitals, my studio “Piano Parties”, music camps, MTNA chapter general meetings, board meetings, gatherings with my family, dinners with friends, etc. I feel better equipped with things I can do to help gatherings be memorable and enjoyable for all involved. This book arrived in my life at an especially relevant time, as I am serving on the conference planning committee for the OhioMTA‘s 2019 state conference and also midst preparations for my upcoming second annual Piano Teacher Retreat at my home.

I “read” this book by listening to the audiobook using the Audible app (an Amazon company). I love Audible, because it enables me to read many more books in a year than I would without it. However, as much as I love audiobooks, I must tell you The Art of Gathering is so good you might want to consider buying a hardcopy (Amazon link) to mark up and reference again.

I recommend The Art of Gathering to anyone interested in learning how to facilitate gatherings to make them matter.

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Interested in a trial subscription for Audible.com? Here’s a special link for a trial that will give you two free audiobooks.

Special shoutout to Seth Godin for recommending this book on his blog