[Smt-talk] Opportunities for autistic musician?

Karen De Mol Kdemol at dordt.edu
Thu Jan 7 08:36:00 PST 2010

Dear SMT readers:
I would appreciate suggestions to help me guide an autistic student.  Here's our situation:  
We have among us a young man who could be called a high-functioning autistic person.  He graduated from high school last spring, with much special education;  he and his parents are interested in some sort of college work, and this past semester he was allowed to audit Music Theory I, to sing in a choir, and to take piano and voice lessons.  He has a marvelous baritone voice, and does well in the choir and in voice lessons.  In music theory, he did well through rudiments;  his mind could easily handle factual material such as writing scales, identifying intervals, constructing triads, etc.  However, he could not handle material that involves judgement calls, such as writing two-voice counterpoint or choosing simple chord progressions.  Instead, he wrote song arrangements which he was hearing in his head;  because he has perfect pitch, he could write them accurately.  Some are lovely pieces;  in fact, our choir sang one in its Christmas concert.  However, what he hears and writes is how the piece stays;  he could not handle making any compositional changes suggested by a teacher.
He is a personable young man.  We would all so like to help him to use his musical gifts, and to develop them if possible.  However, we can see that continuing music theory in a class setting won't work for him, and certainly general education college courses such as history and philosophy are beyond him.  An actual college degree won't be an option for him.
Can any of you suggest music opportunities for such a person, or means of learning, which we could suggest to help him use and develop his music in a happy and productive adulthood?
with thanks,
Karen A. DeMol
Dordt  College
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