The Perfect Perch – US Patent 9775734 Hand support method and device for somatosensory input to the palm

I am very excited about the U.S. Patent which was issued for the Perfect Perch device. It is U.S. Patent Patent No. 9,775,734 B1, named “A Hand Support Method And Device For Somatosensory Input To The Palm”.

If you have a piano student who has a documented diagnosis of dyspraxia, please contact me for clinical trial recruitment. Please make sure to read all the information at first.

Perfect Perch hand support device for piano students with dyspraxia [Photo credit: ]

Perfect Perch hand support device for piano students with dyspraxia  

The Irony of Susceptibility to Manipulations: Grooming Neurotypicals for Social Ineptitude

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The stereotypes of autistic people perpetuate a myth that they are socially inept. Yet non-autistics, also known as neurotypicals, portray ineptitudes on the basis of their susceptibility to body language, communication, and perceptual manipulations. How we learn these signals opens the debate for nature versus nurture, and the acquisition of social skill aptitude. Who is more socially equipped? The one who is capable of surrounding himself with pretentious body language, or the one who is mindful of her full spectrum of awareness? A neurotypical who communicates with learned body gestures is currently considered evolved, while the acquisition of those skills are a direct result of the inability to survive otherwise. The autistic who remains authentic in order to adapt to the current environment is potentially most equipped to function in society.

The cycle of life requires attracting a mate, reproduction, and adaptations for exploitation to those who threaten survival. In a typical preparation for a possible sexual encounter, high muscle tone became evident, the stomach is automatically pulled in, the chest protrudes, the body assumes an erect posture, bagging around the face and eyes decreases, and the person appears to become more youthful overall (Scheflen, 1972). While some courtship signals are studied and deliberate, others are emitted entirely unconsciously. An atypical sexual encounter will lack all of these elements, but might still yield a reproduction component.

The social behaviors of the neurotypical population do not distract the laser focus of the autistic person’s communication. On a primal level, an autistic person’s empathy is unfiltered and unmarred by the layers of social manipulation to attract a mate with nonverbal gestures. Autistic people tend to be practical fixers and not huggers. In a crisis, the autistic person will approach with a novel corrective system for creating balance in the environment, while the neurotypical will approach with tears, and offer warm hugs. Neurotypicals who nurture their social skills ultimately attract a mate, and their survival is guaranteed by laws of evolution. In contrast, autistic individuals are born with high social aptitude, but are otherwise perceived as disabled and socially inept. Evolutionary adaptation is contingent on multiple realms of survival, and the ability to attract a mate in a conventional manner is not the only way to advance a species.

Some might argue that mindful social behavior may decrease reproduction of the autistic subgroup. Without any social reciprocity that is congruent with their communication style, there are few social distractions. As a result, innumerable hours are available to devote to inanimate subjects which do not demand communicative reciprocity. The expert-level skillsets achieved meet the 10,000-hour mark with each area of interest explored in isolation. Autistics who spend less time pursuing a mate have more time to devote to their special interests and nurture their innovative streak. Thus the autistic subgroup may be recognized as the evolved species adapted for a post hunter-gatherer society and more technology-oriented world where novel skillsets are highly desired for survival. In essence, we see autism on the rise not by way of autistics reproducing. Rather, the procreation of mates with high-empath and high-analytic traits result in more autistic offspring. Inevitably, autistics are in every community and in every family we know. Since autism is a conglomerate of high-empath/high-analytic traits, the attraction of like-minded mates for ad hoc reproduction circumvent any social requisites.

An encounter between unlike partners such as a neurotypical and an autistic person may turn into a highly volatile situation when communication differences abound. The neurotypical will approach with a handshake, firm eye contact, and rudimentary chit chat. Those are learned social skills to gauge the frequencies emitted by the other person, otherwise known as reading the person on the other side of the encounter. The autistic person will avoid the handshake, make no eye contact, and will read the frequencies directly from the sound spectrums. Without applying any superficial filters to measure the situation, the autistic person will already be aware of the other person’s intention to evaluate them, which will both annoy and frustrate them because of the delay in the heart of the conversation. The autistic person will try to correct the situation with a novel approach, and offer a direct observation, such as, “You seem to be in a hurry today because you put your hair in a ponytail. Am I bothering you?” A classic reaction from a neurotypical is to respond with, “Do you realize that you are being very rude? Look at me when you’re talking. You didn’t even shake my hand. Wow—what is wrong with you?!” The neurotypical, aghast at being found out, will project their humiliation onto the autistic person, and blame them for lacking social skills. These predatory practices persist when autistics are forced into social skills trainings and therapies designed to teach them how to conform into social norms which are based purely on nurtured fallacies.

Animal adaptations for exploitation “go back deep in evolutionary time. Capuchin meat thieves do not choose their victims randomly. Capuchin monkeys selectively target muggable victims—those whom they can menace, by virtue of their higher rank” (Buss et al., 2008). The higher order of predatory practices is dependent on who sees themselves as more higher ranking. Neurotypicals who are susceptible to perceptual and gestural manipulations consider themselves as the higher ranking order of the species, and target the ones who are immune to these manipulations.

The autistic person who sees right through these layers of perception is potentially existing on the planes of actuality. Autistic people are not susceptible to optical illusions (Chouinard et al., 2016) and are less likely to catch a contagious yawn from a peer (Senju et al., 2007). Both of these may be understood as markers of a specific disorder, or analyzed as higher order traits. Optical illusions tap into the manipulability of the typically-wired brain of the individual who is accustomed to nurturing their behavior and perceptions around an imagined norm. Catching a yawn from a friend is an imitation of a social gesture when you take a clue that fatigue is a behavior that should be practiced at the given moment. Psychologists pathologize this behavior as a disability, while autistics recognize their altered state as a strong ability to coexist in both friendly and hostile environments. In the worst case, an autistic person who expresses their ability to “see the energies” or “hear the frequencies” of others, may find themselves institutionalized or drugged into submission. Neurotypicals remain equipped to survive only when they nurture their social behaviors, while autistics can survive in both worlds using multiple skillsets.

A preference for gestures as a sign of higher ranking in social aptitude prevails. Early Cartesian influences are seen in emerging psychological perspectives which disregard the role of human gestures in physical, social and evolutionary mechanisms of human behavior (Hevern, 2008, p. 217). Body language is generally observed in the meeting of a potential mate, and is evidenced in specific gestures accompanying “I,” “me,” “we” and “us” pronouns matched by small movements of the head, eyes, hands, fingers or even the shoulders (Davis May, 1970). An excited mate would gather her hands inward to demonstrate “we” and display her wrists as a sign of submissiveness for the word “us.” Neurotypicals have relied on these gestures for so long, that the lines between what they have nurtured for reproduction and what they have been equipped with by nature has blurred. The nurtured skillsets may rob them of the ability to see more clearly what is available to them in the unmanipulated planes.

Autistics who alter their habitual performance find that their ability to read people with their innate tools are dulled. Without these skillsets, they are vulnerable and blind in a world that is full of manically gesturing people who seem to know what they are doing. The chaos is unbearable and the amount of time spent recovering from faking for a single encounter makes the attempt not worth the effort. Therefore autistics are not vulnerable to nurturing their social skills to manipulative levels. Neurotypicals are entrained from infancy to return their mother’s loving gaze, to coo in delight from their mother’s nonsensical babble, and to clap their hands to imitate adults. Autistic infants have been found to fixate on geometric shapes instead of facial features (Pierce et al., 2011), look away from extended parental gaze, have hyperlexia and communicate in full sentences without the expected babbling (Rapin et al., 1983). These early signs of inability to groom for social ineptness makes the autistic person prepared for a high-tech/low-manipulation world that seeks out their novel abilities.

The lack of acknowledgement that autistics are performing at a higher level stems from an initial dichotomy in perception of the other. The social condition is such that the majority creates the norm, and the hierarchy of control begins with those who put themselves there first. To elevate oneself onto the pedestal of that social order requires a significant amount of manipulation of others, a skill which autistics neither have the interest nor the desire to get involved with. Autistics will achieve civil rights when they go against the expectations of gathering in large numbers to advocate for their cause. By staying true to their neurology, the advancement of their acceptance will be promulgated by the cave-dwelling, keyboard-pecking, and truth-telling traits of this meta-species.


*Identity-First over person-first language—read disclaimer here.


  1. Buss, D. M., & Duntley, J. D. (2008). Adaptations for exploitation. Group dynamics: Theory, research, and practice, 12(1), 53.
  2. Chouinard, P. A., Unwin, K. L., Landry, O., & Sperandio, I. (2016). Susceptibility to optical illusions varies as a function of the autism-spectrum quotient but not in ways predicted by local–global biases. Journal of autism and developmental disorders, 46(6), 2224-2239.
  3. Davis May, F. (1970) The Way We Speak ‘Body Language’ New York Times. May 31, 1970
  4. Hevern, V. W. (2008). Why narrative psychology can’t afford to ignore the body. Journal of Social, Evolutionary, and Cultural Psychology, 2(4), 217.
  5. Pierce, K., Conant, D., Hazin, R., Stoner, R., & Desmond, J. (2011). Preference for geometric patterns early in life as a risk factor for autism. Archives of general psychiatry, 68(1), 101-109.
  6. Rapin, I., Allen, D., & Kirk, U. (1983). Developmental language disorders: Nosologic considerations. Neuropsychology of language, reading, and spelling, 155-184.
  7. Senju, A., Maeda, M., Kikuchi, Y., Hasegawa, T., Tojo, Y., & Osanai, H. (2007). Absence of contagious yawning in children with autism spectrum disorder. Biology letters, 3(6), 706-708.

Northern California Autism Symposium, CalState Chico 2017

The 2017 first annual Northern California Autism Symposium was hosted by the California State University, Chico. The keynote address was delivered by  John Elder Robison who spoke about his childhood and adult journey. Robison described how he dropped out of school at 15, joined a rock-n-roll band, and suddenly found himself a member of a tribe of weirdos where nobody questioned his differences. That desire to connect both empowered him and debilitated him, as he rose to fame with electrical engineering abilities. The idea that he was a dropout, loser, and a fraud and would soon be found out just gnawed at him and pushed him to walk away from one promising career after another.

It wasn’t until after he was diagnosed as autistic when he was 40 and later learned that he was admired as the one of the best engineers Milton-Bradley Games ever had on their team, years after he quit that position. The lesson he learned was that skill alone will never compensate for the social inability to recognize that one is a valuable resource to a team. In parenting his son, John spoke about the encouragement he offered to pursue his special interests, even if it meant dropping out of school to chase his dream. While this approach may be unconventional, the current narrowing of the school system also starves unconventional learners of their ability to nurture their hungry and creative brains. If autistic people insist on becoming experts on their areas of passion, their special interest is misunderstood as a manifestation of a disability. We need to collaborate with autistic adults to help change how we see these strengths and how we nurture them in a closed system, or the brightest will drop out to find the scenic routes to success.

Kaegan – Nonverbal perfect pitch piano matching test

Kaegan (21) is able to demonstrate perfect pitch during his 3rd piano lesson, thanks to the piano matching test. Did you know that 97% of autistic people have perfect pitch? (Kupferstein & Walsh, 2015). One obvious clue that it was time to test him came when Kaegan was singing the notes just from reading it, even before he heard it played from the piano. Please read about the nonverbal paradigm research study and the Rancer Method book for teaching music to gifted students, titled Perfect Pitch in the Key of Autism.


Kupferstein, H., & Walsh, B. J. (2015). Non-Verbal Paradigm for Assessing Individuals for Absolute Pitch. World Futures72(7-8), 390-405.

ACCES-VR Communication Support – New Adjunct Service

Henny at Carlucci's office

Henny Kupferstein at Senator Carlucci’s office (top), and the definition of the new adjunct service per ACCES-VR (bottom)

Starting in January 2018, Acces-VR adult vocational rehabilitation department through State Ed will offer a new adjunct service “Coaching and Communication Supports for Post-Secondary Education and Employment” (Case Service Code 792x). Previously considered a soft-skill and widely overlooked as a disability-related need, this initiative was sparked by a proposal written for Kevin Smith, Deputy Commissioner in 2014 by Henny Kupferstein, M.A. & Rebecca Botta-Zalucki, MSW. Eventually, the proposal was drafted as Assembly Bill A05141 and Senate Bill No. S04256. The proposal earned letters of support from ASHA  on behalf of Speech TherapistsNYSACRA and NYSRA, NYSILC and NYAIL for Communication support in Vocational Rehabilitation Communication Support services, and NYSARC, Inc. 

  1. Per the original proposal, only a specialized practitioner who has a Masters level training in social pragmatic language disorders is eligible to apply to deliver the Communication Support service for Acces-VR consumers.
  2. The pay rate is competitive at $80 per unit.
  3. Request for Proposal (RFPs) are due October 18, 2017.
  4. Decisions will be made by January 2018.

Click here to download application

****The good folks at NYSRA are happy to help with your RFP, so please do contact Pat Dowse (, 518-928-2360) directly. Please contact me if you would like to participate in a free support webinar for completing your RFP, scheduled for Tuesday October 3rd and Saturday October 7th.****

Applying to Deliver Communication Support for Acces-VR

Please read the entire document carefully if you are interested in applying to be a provider or ACCES-VR Core Rehabilitation Services.  There are several new services including the Pre-Employment Transition Services for Students.  In addition, we have made adjustments to the definitions of certain services to better meet the needs of our consumers.

It is required that all non-profits must be pre-qualified by the application deadline in order to receive an award.    In addition, all vendors must meet the vendor responsibility requirements necessary for all NYS contracts.

All vendors first need to be a part of the NY Grant Gateway before applying. Visit (“Getting Started”) for how-to videos and online registration. Proposals received from applicants that have not Registered and are not Prequalified in the Grants Gateway on the proposal due date cannot be evaluated. Such proposals will be disqualified from further consideration. Pre Qualification questions should be addressed to

Purpose of Funding

Provision of specific rehabilitation services from community rehabilitation programs and other service providers. These services include assessment, employment preparation, job placement, supported employment, assistive technology, pre-employment transition services, driver rehabilitation services and related adjunct services.

Eligible Applicants

Eligible applicants are not-for-profit organizations, community rehabilitation programs and independent living centers, Boards of Cooperative Educational Services (BOCES), and for-profit organizations who have experience providing vocational services, job placement, supported employment and/or other support services to individuals with disabilities, including youth with disabilities, to enable participants to achieve competitive integrated employment. Please review the Description of Services section of this RFP for organization capacity requirements prior to applying. Organizations which are current ACCES-VR CRS providers and who wish to continue to provide services, must apply to this RFP.

Bidders’ Conference

A Bidders’ Video/Audio Conference will be held on September 13th, 2017 to provide potential applicants with the details of the application process and allow an opportunity for questions and clarification on the RFP process.

Questions & Answers

All questions must be sent by E-Mail to no later than September 15th, 2017. A complete list of all Questions and Answers will be posted to ACCES procurement page no later than September 27th, 2017.

Non-Mandatory Notice of Intent

The Notice of Intent (NOI) is not a requirement for submitting a complete application by the application date; however, NYSED strongly encourages all prospective applicants to submit an NOI to ensure a timely and thorough review and rating process. A non-profit applicant’s NOI will also help to facilitate timely review of their prequalification materials. The notice of intent is a simple email notice stating your organization’s (use the legal name) intent to submit an application for this grant. Please also include your organization’s NYS Vendor ID. The due date is September 29, 2017. Please send the NOI to

New Prequalification Requirement

The State of New York has implemented a statewide prequalification process (described on the Grants Reform website) designed to facilitate prompt contracting for not-for-profit vendors. All not-for-profit vendors are required to pre-qualify by the grant application deadline. This includes all currently funded not-for-profit institutions that have already received an award and are in the middle of the program cycle. The prequalification must be completed by all not-for-profit institutions by the application deadline in order to receive an award under this RFP. Please review the additional information regarding this requirement in the Prequalification for Individual Applications section below.

Date Due

Submit an electronic copy (Word or pdf) of the application by email to (link sends e-mail) by the October 18, 2017 deadline. The subject line of the email should read as follows: RFP #GC18-004 and the legal name of provider organization or individual.

NYSED will deem the vendor to be “non-responsive” if required forms are not submitted. Only vendors that submit the Basic Information Form (Attachment 1) will be eligible for an award. Only vendors that submit the appropriate CRS Service Forms (Attachments 1-A through 1-H) and Capacity Summary (Attachment 2) will be eligible for an award for the service(s) applied for. These Attachments are posted with the RFP in separate files. Please thoroughly review submission instructions in Section 2. Vendor submissions of any of the above forms will not be accepted after the due date of October 18, 2017.

Executive Function Brainfarts of Adult Professional Autistic Women

As I was getting dressed this morning, I found myself running around my bedroom naked like a crazyhead. I was looking for my bra, only to realize I had already put it on. Undefeated, I continued to silently talk myself down from the emotional ledge my mind puts me on when I become aware of executive function fails. There may be a pink blush spreading across my cheeks. That is the private showings of shame which I have the power to talk myself out of. “You are smart. You are beautiful. You are accomplished. Einstein couldn’t tie his own shoelaces. Now get yourself together, because that conference presentation won’t wait for you.”

Neurotypicals often joke about feeling stupid when they are searching for their eyeglasses, only to find them perched atop their heads. It’s usually me fumbling in my purse, patting the small front pocket where I keep my phone, just to “check” if my phone is there because opening the zipper to check with my eyes if the phone was inside, would require my brain to compute an inaccessible level of sensory-integrated instruction. All the while, the pocket-patting is making me feel muscle memory of what the purse always feels like with the phone in there, so it’s not registering the “lack of phone”, causing the frantic patting to increase. It takes more than an agonizing minute to realize that I already put the phone into my purse. “You are gifted. Your hair is stunning today. Mozart had no friends and died penniless and alone. Now get it together and go to that concert hall to perform.”

I sat at a panel with leading experts in my field at a lavish San Francisco hotel. The event was historic, especially for its inclusion of autistic scholars in the lineup. While I was able to hold my own throughout the intellectual discourse, I needed several days to recover from the sensory assault on my system. A week later, I went through my camera roll to find a photograph of a slide from a presentation I attended. I wanted to check the citation of the study which the presenter had referenced. That’s when I saw the photograph of myself wearing two different colored sandals. Staring at my phone, my eyes filled with angry tears. Did I really spend an en entire weekend with colleagues who thought it best not to say anything?

Granted, I wear the same brand and own several pairs in different colors. In California, anything goes and eccentricity is the norm. I wondered if I pushed myself too hard or if I had became a successful product of my environment’s overlooking acceptance powers. Has society really grown this much, or have people just become more silent of their intolerance? After Nikola Tesla’s wireless electricity project was shut down and he was silenced by the government about the Hindenburg airship disaster, Tesla said, “Our virtues and our failings are inseparable, like force and matter. When they separate, man is no more”. I yam what I yam.

Teaching autistic piano students to self-talk and regulate the mind-body disconnect

How does the autism mind-body disconnect interfere with piano lessons?

In this video, the student is in his 20th week of instruction. He is playing his assigned piece which he has practiced and knows well. Suddenly, his body fails to comply and he appears to “fail” at the task. In my work, teaching the students about the science of movement is key to help them organize their chaotic bodies and take control of sensory dysregulation, dyspraxia, dystonia, and other motor movement issues. It is critical to help the students learn self awareness. I strive to build their self esteem as they advance in their music education but their hands cannot prove that they know how to play the material placed on front of them. Remind them that you will keep teaching, if they will stick with the plan of “talking” to their bodies. Make a “deal” and watch them flourish.

Why ABA Piano Students Struggle to Believe in Themselves, Despite Musical Gifts

I teach piano to non-verbal and autistic students every day. Most have perfect pitch and a very high degree of musical aptitude. Along with their diagnosis comes a trail of baggage from earlier teacher-student relationships. Students as young as five may display behaviors that can be interpreted as aggressive and harmful to themselves and others, behaviors that make them seem like they aren’t paying attention, or behaviors that make them appear as if they don’t understand the instructions of the task at hand. I experience ignorance and intolerance of sensory accommodations from ABA therapists and behaviorally-trained educators observing my piano lessons videos. Their focus is on the ABA-type treatment interventions. It is the majority and sadly not unusual.

VIDEO: Why ABA Piano Students Struggle to Believe in Themselves, Despite Musical Gifts

The distinct differences in the success of my students are directly linked to their early exposure to esteem-building teacher-student relationships, and whether ABA was a big part of their early intervention. It becomes apparent when a student has been exposed to ABA for more than 10% of their lifetime (e.g. 6 months for a five-year-old child). They become prompt dependent for minor tasks. They lose track of their inner awareness and become unable to take clues from their inside-body to self regulate. Dysregulations turn into complete brain-fry. These system shutdowns are neurological and not in their control anymore.

When a student is in a verbal loop, repeating the same word over and over, and their body is shaking, it becomes time to physically redirect the body into a different setting. I will advise the parent to turn their child on the piano bench so their back is to the piano. The loop instantly stops because he is now in a different environmental state. The student will automatically turn his body back to the piano, completely regulated, and ready to resume. It is a shame that we allow people to grow up with a mindset that they have to allow others to tell them how to function, how to be, what to work for, and when to take a break. We owe it to our students to teach them how to prevent overwhelm without physically prompting them into an environmental redirect. See this article for strategies: Teaching piano student to stim as overwhelm prevention  

Recommended reading:

Kupferstein, H. (2018) Evidence of Increased PTSD Symptoms in Autistics Exposed to Applied Behavior Analysis. Advances in Autism, 1(1), 19-29. DOI :10.1108/AIA-08-2017-0016 [PDF]

Kupferstein, H., & Walsh, B. J. (2016). Non-Verbal Paradigm for Assessing Individuals for Absolute Pitch. World Futures72(7-8), 390-405. [PDF]

“Can perfect pitch be a problem when teaching note-reading to piano students?” Interview with Dima Tahboub

In this interview with Dima Tahboub of, we discuss how the Rancer Method builds neurological pathways to have magnify the gift of perfect pitch. Instead of the gift being a problem, there are surprising byproducts of the neuroplastic changes and visual motor cohesion, changes in eye tracking, and explosions in speech and vocalization.

Henny Kupferstein is the co-author of Perfect Pitch in the Key of Autism, the book on the Rancer Method designed to teach note-reading for gifted students.

Stop Banning Autistic Stimming Because of Fidget Spinners

Are the new fidget spinners driving you crazy? Autistic stimming and fidget toys differ in purpose. An informed perspective offers an attitude shift for educators who want to become aware of the differences.

Fidgets are marketing as a toy to keep the fingers busy, specifically for a kid who has focusing issues. Focusing issues are consistent with a diagnosis of Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) or ADHD. Focus-seeking fidgeting is a very different purpose than the need to stim in order to prevent sensory overwhelm. The two should not be confused. During sensory overload, an autistic person’s body will uncontrollably move in ways that will try to reboot their brain back to its original functional state. When you react to their reactions to their sensory world, you are irresponsibly causing more harm with your judgement.

Imagine you have a tuning wrench because you are piano technician. The wrench serves a very specific function, and you need your wrench to help keep pianos in tune for your educated clients. Piano teacher, Lili Koblentz in Colts Neck, New Jersey offers this analogy: Your friends see that you have a wrench. They think it is “cool” that you get to carry a tool with you everywhere. They want a wrench too, even though they don’t really need to tighten things as much as you do. Suddenly, you can find wrenches everywhere. Some are cheap, some are expensive, some are bright flashy colors, and some are more subdued colors. Your friends carry them everywhere and are constantly showing them off, and aren’t using them for their intended purpose.

Suddenly, no one is allowed to bring wrenches to class with them, because they are distracting people and keeping them from doing their work. You tell people that you need yours to do your work, because if the nuts and bolts around you are too loose, you won’t be able to do your work. You are told that your tool is just a toy, that you just need to focus on what you are doing and it’ll be easy to complete your work. Besides, when you had your wrench, you were such a distraction to everyone else—it was rude of you to keep your friends from learning.

You are now left with an angry client base, and hundreds of pianos that yowl like dying puppies and feverish kittens every time they are played. You can’t focus on your work because you’re too busy worrying about your livelihood and people’s judgement of your craft, and you aren’t allowed to fix anything because your tool is a toy to everyone else.

Discriminating against a person who legitimately needs a tool to function in their highest capacity is a human rights violation. Autistic people are gifted in many ways. Research showed that 97% of autistic people have perfect pitch1, and sure enough, all of my piano students have it. I would want them to be as skilled in their trade as the piano tuner wants to be. I need to make sure they have all their tools when I am hired to teach them. Therefore, I recognize that the autistic body must constantly be in motion in order to concentrate best. Please rethink your attitudes before you judge a child or adult who reaches for a tool that makes them be more attentive to what you are teaching them.

  1. Next, please read: Teaching piano student to stim as overwhelm prevention
  2. Also, please make use of stimming resources page with directions for use.


Kupferstein, H., & Walsh, B. J. (2016). Non-Verbal Paradigm for Assessing Individuals for Absolute Pitch. World Futures, 72(7-8), 390-405.

An Unorthodox Life: Radio interview with NPR KQED, April 25, 2017

This 30-minute episode aired through KQED to NPR two years in a row. Three years later, people still write to me about smilier stories and sharing good wishes.

Direct link: An Unorthodox Life: Radio interview with NPR KQED, April 25, 2017 (click the red play button)


An Unorthodox Life


33 min

 (Deborah Svoboda/KQED)

Henny Kupferstein grew up in the Belz sect of ultra-orthodox, Hasidic Jews in Borough Park, Brooklyn. From early childhood, she felt like a misfit. After getting married to a virtual stranger at age 18, Henny began secretly rebelling against the confines of her sect. When she was 34, a startling diagnosis would lead her on a dramatic path away from the Belz and everyone she knew, including her four children.

You can read about Henny’s work with autistic kids and her book, Perfect Pitch in the Key of Autismon her website.

Music for this episode was composed by Nicholas DePrey, Chris Colin, Seth Samuel, and Henny Kupferstein.

Henny Kupferstein, age 18, with her paternal grandparents on her engagement day.
Henny Kupferstein, age 18, with her paternal grandparents on the day of her engagement. (Henny Kupferstein/KQED)
Henny Kupferstein concealed by her veil on her wedding day.
Henny Kupferstein concealed by her veil on her wedding day. (Henny Kupferstein/KQED)
Henny and her husband on their wedding day.
Henny and her husband on their wedding day. (Henny Kupferstein/KQED)
Henny Kupferstein and her four children in front of the New York Aquarium seven years ago, on the last day that she saw them. Her children were 12, 10, 5 and 15 months at the time.
Henny Kupferstein and her four children in front of the New York Aquarium seven years ago, on the last day that she saw them. Her children were 12, 10, 5 and 15 months at the time. (Henny Kupferstein/KQED)
Henny Kupferstein holding a picture of her and her four children in front of the New York Aquarium on the last day she saw them. (Deborah Svoboda/KQED)

Teaching piano student to stim as overwhelm prevention

me showing off my stim toys while student learned to use his sensory need as a overwhelm-preventative instead of a crash-erase.

Me showing off my stim toys while student learned to use his sensory need as a overwhelm-preventative instead of a crash-erase.

Two nonverbal preteens played the piano yesterday. They are my tough fighters, but also spell using RPM (Rapid Prompting Method) letterboards. They frequently type their complaints about their brain-body disconnect and how embarrassing it is that they can’t show through their fingers that they know the music.

Me: “Who else sees your body like this? In what other situation?” WHEN IM OVERWHELMED

“Do you know the difference between physical, emotional, and sensory overwhelm?” NO

And then the Henny-lecture began:

“Play one line, and then go back to the sink and play with the water. That’s what your body needs in order to erase the overwhelm. I don’t want you to wait until your body crashes and then you look like a person who is embaressed of yourself. Go back to the sink to prevent overwhelm. Do we have a deal?” YES

Perfect Pitch in the Key of Autism A Guide for Educators, Parents and the Musically Gifted

READ: Perfect Pitch in the Key of Autism
A Guide for Educators, Parents and the Musically Gifted

He then played three lines instead of 1, went to the sink. Returned. Played two more lines. Sink. Returned. Thanked me….

I teach awareness of self, so they can make choices. With other autism interventions (such as ABA), they are conditioned to be so prompt dependent, they they lose touch with internal functions. They forget to read their own body signals. In my work teaching piano to nonverbal and autistic students, I undo that damage. Each time they stim, I announce like a translator “you just did that with your fingers near your eyes because you wanted to erase the work of reading treble and bass clef together for the first time”.

As an autistic person, I live inside their sensory experience and can read them instantly. By offering these nuggets, they can learn to connect what they do with why they do it. Eventually, they can reach for those stims as preventative tools. For a list of stimming ideas, see my resources page.

Mah Nishtanah – Four Questions by the Autistic Son: Written from the perspective of a boy with Asperger’s Syndrome

Article by Henny Kupferstein. Published in: Spirit Magazine, and Inyan – Hamodia’s Weekly Magazine – Passover Edition, Spring 2011

Published in: Spirit Magazine, and Inyan – Hamodia’s Weekly Magazine – Passover Edition, Spring 2011

“Mommy, everybody is looking. I don’t want to say this out loud, can I go in the kitchen?”

“Tatte Layben, I… Ma! If Zeidy is here by the seder, then I think I should say Zeide Layben”.

“Zeide Layben… Ma! Zeidy is alive, and everybody can see that. Why do I have to announce it?”

“Zeide, ich vil bei dir fregen di fir kashes…

Mah Nishatana Halayla Hazeh… Why is this night different from all other nights? On all the other nights I can eat my rice cake that I eat every night, this time. But tonight, and on this night only… (Ma! We eat matzah the entire Pesach, why do I have to say on this night only?!)…more than any other night, why do we have to eat potato? You know it’s soft and mushy and I hate the way it feels in my mouth? And then when I do swallow it, I can’t drink again until after the next Kos, after saying mah nishtanah?

Why is this night different from all other nights? On all the other nights I can sit with my comfortable shabbos shirt, the one that is made to look like a shirt but is really a t-shirt, the one that has no seams or labels? Why on this night do I have to wear this itchy glittery shirt that I made with the O.T. by therapy? My fingers got all sticky from the glue and I had glitter on my eyelids for three days and three nights. And also, I think there are some rabbonim who hold that glue is chometz! And people might not know that glitter is made of very small, 1 mm pieces of paper, glass or plastic painted in metallic, neon and iridescent colors to reflect light in a sparkling spectrum. Glitter was invented by Henry Ruschmann. This is really very interesting! Which reminds me of the next question…

Why is this night different from all other nights? On all the other nights I keep my salad dry without dressing because I hate dressing and nobody forces me anymore. But tonight, and on this night only, and also tomorrow night at the second seder because we are in galus and in chutz l’aretz, not like the people who in Eretz Yisroel have only one seder each year. In America, we have two, and also if an American goes to Israel for Yom Tov, they must have two sedarim. That’s why I don’t want to go to Israel on Yom Tov because it would make me feel all mixed up inside and my brain would feel all funny and I would see everything in jumping zig-zags and I would get very upset and I would have to make that noise with my mouth because it feels better afterwards. I would much rather have two seders over here, as long as I can stay in the kitchen. And, also, if I can have my romaine lettuce dry, without being forced to dip it in the charoses, which is very old apples and are already brown, and brown is my worst color.

Why is this night different from all other nights? On all the other nights I can sit on my special chair by the wall in the kitchen, where nobody can touch me or breathe near my plate, but tonight, and also tomorrow night, we have to eat reclined, and that means I would be touching Ari’s chair. If I touch Ari’s chair, I will touch Ari’s right leg and I know he will kick me. Last year in Bubby’s house he kicked me after the third kos, and when I was third grade, I was leaning on cousin Chaim from Lakewood who was 14 then, and he almost kicked me but I hated touching him because I was worried that I would get too close to his beard. His beard looked like it would be prickly and it would make me feel like I need to run to my room and bang my head for a long long long time. And then my therapist will get upset that I didn’t do the brushing exercise.

Ma! When is this over? Can I stop saying Mah Nishtana and drink some grape juice now?”

Please do not reprint or photocopy without permission. 

Why I Teach Solfege—Why Build a House With a Hammer?

“Why do we build a house with a hammer?”

“Why do we build a house with a hammer?”

Today, I taught a very bright student and we used solfege to transpose to her favorite key. When we were done, and she approved of her work, she smiled and clapped her hands with sheer delight. I knew the feeling of pure joy, when it all comes together musically. I told her, “People ask me all the time why I teach solfege. So, tell me, why do we learn solfege?”  She responded: “Why do we build a house with a hammer?”

How clever. If we needed to build a house without a hammer, we would have to forage for just the right rock to fit the special nail for your bedroom walls. Then, we would have to go to an entirely different quarry and look for a differently angled rock which would work best for the bathroom wall nails. Lastly, for the kitchen cabinets, we would excavate the nails from someone else’s house, and re-use them for our kitchen cabinets, while the other person’s kitchen would fall apart.

A hammer is a universal tool that works once, and for everyone. Solfege, when taught correctly, is a marvelous party trick. It becomes a universal tool which empowers the musician along every step of their education. From basic note-reading and sight-singing, interval guesstimation and ear training, solfege pushes musicianship skills to infinite heights. Don’t deny your students this gift just because you were introduced to solfege the wrong way. Consider the Rancer Method, an evidence-based approach for gifted and special-needs learners.

“Oh God, I HATE doing solfege. I'm about as skilled at it as I am at massaging an electric eel” —Jason Madore, vocalist, Minneapolis, MN

“Oh God, I HATE doing solfege. I’m about as skilled at it as I am at massaging an electric eel” —Jason Madore, vocalist, Minneapolis, MN

Addressing Note-Reading Problems with ABA Conditioned Prompt-Dependent Piano Students


Addressing Note-Reading Problems with ABA Conditioned Prompt-Dependent Piano Students

I just finished teaching a 6-year-old who has been resisting note-reading. Before finishing the first level, I moved back to the beginning of 2nds and 3rds for review rather than pushing past the songs at the end of the level.

It’s very important to recognize the real reason why this student is not looking in the book. In this case, I recognized that ABA (Applied Behavior Analysis) conditioning has made him become completely prompt-dependent and has no idea that he can actually read and execute the task independently with his own (brilliant) mind. Instead, he sits and waits for mom, or me, to say “is it going up or down?” or “how much? Seconds or thirds?” and he just guesses without actually looking at the notes. When prompted to look at the book, he gazes but doesn’t actually look for the purpose of reading, but rather just to follow directions. He does the same thing with his after-school math tutors.

Today, we had a breakthrough. I told the mother than I have experience in undoing this damage and that my technique requires that we overwrite the prompt dependency with vocal reflections of whenever he does execute any tasks independently, regardless of how small. The more feedback he receives, the more he will begin to recognize, “Oh, that’s how it feels when I’m doing it correctly. Let me do more of that.” For example, the first feedback he got was “aha! You knew that the treble clef was the right hand. Look how you put that right hand straight on to C position without anyone’s help.” He was pleasantly surprised at the recognition of his own accomplishments. Next, I repeated the same acknowledgement for the left hand: “Look! You knew that the bass clef was coming up in this measure, and you prepared your left hand in the C position. Awesome reading!”.

For the actual note-reading of the melody, he required constant prompting, but I refused to give anything away, nothing more than, “You tell me. You know how to read. You just played an E. You know if it’s going up or down, and you know if it’s seconds or thirds.” He responded with guessing, to which I then said “Use your fingers” and he promptly played the correct note. Immediately, I said, “Excellent reading”. In summary, the only two prompts should be “Excellent reading” for each and every note played, or “Fix it / clean it up”. Nothing more. Please share your feedback on this approach.

Teaching V7 Chords Using Solfege for Perfect Pitch Students

First, captivate the ear-based learner who craves sound. Keep pushing the ear a bit more. Now, reinforce the sound with the note clusters on the page. You must validate the fact that V7 inversions are missing a note, because their ear will ‘go crazy’ and point out the value of chord inversions. Once you have integrated the eyes with the ears, tie it all up as ‘visual shapes’ and ‘sound shapes’. Finally, wrap up with theory work (chord labeling, etc.). Always give constant reminders of their gift, each week.


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