About Occupational Piano
Sessions can focus on body positioning, core stability, fine motor skills, gross motor skills, coordination and timing, visual motor skills, executive functioning skills, social skills, self-regulation, imitation, attention to task, body awareness, and auditory processing. Lessons can focus on listening skills, note reading, key identification, rhythm, musicality, playing technique, practice routine, musical games, improvisation, and music performance and memorization.
How Students Progress
Evaluations are completed over the phone and also during the first session/lesson to develop rapport with the student, assess the student’s current skills, and determine the student’s goals. The first few lessons/sessions are about developing primary skills and establishing a relationship with the student. These lessons are focused on playing musical games, developing coordination and timing, and participating in self-regulation activities. Rhythm, timing, and body awareness are introduced slowly and repeated during consecutive lessons until the student is ready to apply rhythm to note values. Additional piano skills are introduced through adapted materials. The student is often only introduced to a piano or lesson book after he or she is identifying keys, reading line and space notes, and showing a solid understanding of basic rhythm and note values.
Why Occupational Therapy?
Occupational therapists (OTs) help individuals across the lifespan perform every day activities (occupations) they would like to or need to participate in to achieve a high quality of life. Individuals most often work with occupational therapists to recover from an injury, improve their social or cognitive skills, manage school or work responsibilities, adjust to physical or cognitive changes, and learn or re-learn daily occupations. OTs help individuals participate in occupations most frequently by changing the environment, modifying or adapting activities, and/or teaching occupational skills and coping strategies.
For children with special needs, we focus on developing primary skills, like self-regulation, which impact how the child learns and practices complex skills, like playing individual piano keys. We implement sensory integration principles to help each child reach his or her most focused, purposeful, and attentive state before introducing specific piano skills. In this way, the child practices gross motor, visual motor, fine motor, and self-regulation skills that are easily generalized to other areas of his or her life.
Playing the piano is an effective way to improve quality of life. Studies have shown that learning to play the piano improves fine motor coordination and life skills such as listening, concentration, core stability, self-regulation, and memory. There are also studies suggesting that learning an instrument increases spatial reasoning performance, linguistic skills, and math and reading scores. Spending the time to sit at the piano and play at any level is beneficial for emotional regulation and mental acuity.
For children with special needs, achieving functional outcomes by using the piano is very effective. In lessons, we work on all of the above skills in a way where the student feels accepted and has fun. Whether they learn to play the piano in their home or in the Occupational Piano studio, they are practicing their skills outside of a clinic and are able to participate in an extracurricular activity like their peers. Not only does this provide consistency and normalcy for the students, but they can participate in music without comparing themselves to their peers and learn at their own rate.