Many piano students who are nonspeaking autistic (or for other neurological reasons), also have dyspraxia. I have dyspraxia (and I’m autistic). Dyspraxia is a neurological motor movement disorder. It is difficult to sustain the arm in playing position, and it is very difficult to play the notes as you want them. Just because you know the note, does not mean you can ‘prove’ that you are note-reading, due to the brain/body disconnect.

Thank you Vikram K. Jaswal, Allison Wayne, and Hudson Golino, for this landmark Eye Tracking study. “Users not only looked at and pointed to letters quickly and accurately even in lengthy responses, but patterns in their response times and visual fixations revealed planning and production processes suggesting that they were conveying their own thoughts.”

figure1

Participants wore eye-tracking glasses that provided a video record of their field of view and their right eye’s movements.

How much more research do we need to make communication accessible to all people? The continued bashing of facilitated communicated (FC) and Rapid Prompting Method (RPM) is ableist, classist, and absolute discrimination. It is a gross misjustice of power from the Ivory tower, heralded by the white men promoting #abatherapy. If we allow autistics to communicate their own thoughts, we will not be able to force them to comply with #aba (this is their panic).

If there is any single researcher who challenges the purposeful authorship of nonspeaking autistics who utilize AACs, please contact me. We will SILENCE those who have silenced us for so many years. Down with the patriarchy.

As educators, we must know that motor movement differences are at the core of productivity. Does your student’s joints collapse, do they have trouble with fingers twitching, arms being hyperextended, posture issues….and on and on? As pedagogues, it is incumbent upon us to find the most appropriate teaching modalities that supports the student in gaining confidence in their productivity.

The Perfect Perch™ -How can a simple plastic device help a person with dyspraxia or motor planning issues? Our current clinical trial includes autistic subjects, as well as cerebral palsy or post-stroke paralysis.

Imagine being nonspeaking, autistic, unable to toilet independently because your hands can’t grip your pants. Imagine sitting in a piano lesson where the teacher puts stickers everywhere, thinking that the student is simply not able to ‘cognitively’ process the lesson, because heck, they’re not showing you the ‘proof’. With this population, the proof is not in the pudding. The proof is in your pedagogy. I have been asked many times, “but why does perfect pitch matter?”. It matters because if you are familiar with my research, you will know that 97% of autistic people have perfect pitch (82% other disabilities, 52% of neurotypicals). With that said, having perfect pitch (you’re born with it) means that we MUST target what *is* intact, in order to activate purposeful motor movements.

If you have questions about this technique, please ask! I have somehow become a leading expert in the science of neuroplasticity, motor movement disorder, hand eye coordination, visual tracking anomalies, and resuntently, a pedagogy scientist. Let’s talk about why nonspeaking people should be considered for piano lessons just like everyone else.

Meet Nico: The Autistic Teen Who Talks with Piano Fingers

This video was directed by Nicolas Joncour, a pianist and university student in France. Nico spells to communicate. He shared his message about nonspeaking autistics and what he wants the world to understand. Click for captions, or full transcript below:

I was born in October 1999 in France, a country that was not ready for me. I resembled my maternal grandpa, and my personality was like my father. I don’t remember much from when I was a baby, but I remember books. I read books in my bedroom. By reading, I learned a lot.  I had musical notes in my head since I was born. I think I have antennas on my head for music!

“GUITAR” was my first word, but I had to wait until my third birthday until I got my first guitar. When my family sings Happy Birthday, it feels like a jackhammer to my head. But the electric candle from the cake had a pleasant happy birthday song, which was more exciting.

In school, when I was 3, the teacher understood that something was different about me about me, even though the family doctor did not notice anything.  I was 9 years old when I realized that I was not like everyone else everyone else around me. I felt different and knew I was autistic. From that age on, people called me out for being autistic.

The Shoah Holocaust Memorial in Paris was of great interest to me. Most people were surprised that I was the one asking to attend. “How could this 10-year-old understand the story?”–they wondered.  

I was 12 when we adopted a dog from the shelter in Fougères and brought her home to Rennes. I chose the name Fourenne for her to combine the names of both towns. She knows that I love her but I can’t play with her–it’s hard.

Today at the university, it is different than my schooldays. This is because I am recognized as a student, just like all my peers. I describe my personality as reliable, you can count on me, honest, and a high defender of justice. But when strangers first see me, they usually think I am stupid, deaf, and can’t understand what they are saying.

I can’t control the sounds that I make. I do try to control it and to make less noise. It is very difficult for me to learn to play the piano, but when I play an instrument, I decide what gesture I want to make. I am in control. I calculate in my brain to successfully move from one key to another. When I do math, I can feel my body. Playing piano gives me the ability to be the master of my spirit.

Henny: Nico,  if science fiction would make it possible for autistic people to use math in their heads to control speech, do you think we should ask people to do math to feel their mouth?

It would be great to realize that, to make it possible. I would like to speak. I love Math. I wish language would be as easy as mathematics.

And do you think that we should push autistic people to use speech?

I want to talk, to speak, but not by way of force or pressure. It would be like forcing my mom to speak with a lot of people and being social in a large crowd.  Mom: “It’s horrible, it’s a torture”.

A really bad key or a wrong note played is like a knife on the brain! It is very painful. But when people see me playing a wrong key, they think I cannot read the notes.

They must understand that I have no capacity to control my gestures and movement. They should have a different opinion, but the problem is, that I can’t force them! Teachers of young autistic children must understand that we are clever, we can learn. Parents should understand that we are real people on the inside.

In ten years from now, my dream is to be the pope! I want to be the pope for people who are oppressed–people who have no education. In ten months from now, I just want to pass my exams.

I want the world to look like you, Henny.

Thank you, Nico!