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The following videos were taken during piano lessons and occupational therapy sessions from 2014 through 2017. For all students and clients, the lessons/sessions begin by focusing on the development of internal rhythm and timing, improving imitation and listening skills, coordinating left and right sides of the body, isolating the upper body (fingers, wrists, elbows, and shoulders), and identifying the keys and key patterns. Of course, when modulation or self-regulation difficulties are present, these processing inefficiencies are addressed first to ensure that the student or client is able to attend, acquire, and atain information.

To develop the students’ foundational and fundamental skills, students bounce on the therapy ball, sing, jump on the trampoline, play with hand-over-hand assistance, write the names of each key on the keyboard, move to music, play listening games, play and move to the beat, create pieces with stories and drawings, and use manipulatives on the keyboard.
Playing the piano is difficult. Students learn how to understand note values, play with the correct rhythm, identify keys, play with efficient finger isolation, and read music. Even more difficult, students need to put all of these skills together at the same time. For students who also have trouble with self-regulation, fine motor skills, bilateral coordination, and attention to task, playing the piano is even more daunting. However, many students with special needs connect with music.

Examples of Activities:

Group Timing & Improvisation
Communication: Practicing a Conversation
Technique: Drawing & Playing a Story
Bouncing, Listening, and Singing

Learning and practicing key patterns
Pretend Playing and Moving
Speaking and playing one syllable to one movement
Isolating fingers and name keys

Tapping the Big Beat
Walking to the Beat
After Walking to the Beat, We Play
Rhythm: Walking the Beat for the First Time

Rhythm: Counting and Playing Specific Keys For the First Time
Long-Short Playing
Playing, counting, and pre-reading
After bouncing/jumping and singing, playing and singing Old McDonald

Listening and imitating patterns
Writing Note Names on the Keys
Reading and playing 8th notes, quarter notes, and half notes
Independently bouncing, listening, and singing I’ve Been Working on the Railroad

Switching for “short-long” to “one and one-two” (imitation)
Drumming Beats
Singing and Marching to Old McDonald
Making up a story and playing it

Practicing playing technique “around” the keyboard
Aiming to play one specific key at a time
Technique: Playing & Interpreting a Story
Sight Reading: Saying Keys & Walking

Reading and playing the first piece
Playing Rhythms on and off keyboard
Tapping a Conversation
Timing to Words

Working on Social Skills
Learning High and Low Sounds With A Game
Follow Me In A Group
Rhythms In A Group
Copy My Rhythm


Specific Students:

So many students I see make tremendous progress. I often see a tremendous improvement in language fluidity, coordination and timing, and body awareness. Developing these skills allows these students to explore new movements, gain self-confidence, and show improvement in high-level skill areas. The following examples illustrate progress students make using music and the piano from some of the first lessons/sessions.


Learning Short & Long 2014

Introduction 2015

Coordinating one movement to one word 2015

Old Mcdonald Bouncing 2015

Old Mcdonald Tapping 2015

Old Mcdonald Walking & Singing 2015

Introduction 2016

Old McDonald Walking & Singing 2016

Old Mcdonald Spontaneous Movements 2016


Walking Beats

Having a Conversation with Impulse Control

Working on Flexibility



Pretend Playing 2015

Bouncing on the Ball to Music 2015

Walking a Beat With Key Names 2015

Drumming Beats 2016

Rocking out to Come Together 2016



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