Charlie has now been taking piano lessons for just over six months and his teacher has made some small innovations.
Originally, each of the keys from middle C to an octave above was identified with a velcroed letter, C-D-E-F-G-A-B-C. Three weeks ago, the C on middle C was removed; as of a week ago, the D was. The velcro remains on the keys without the letters; velcro and tiny laminated letters (C-D-E-F-G) are now affixed to the keys an octave below middle C.
The goal is for Charlie ultimately to play without the letters or the velcro: For the first two weeks of no more C, Charlie kept saying “C. C!”, then assented to play. Now with the D gone, too, he has not asked: while details mean a lot to him, I think he is getting this business of each key having a distinct letter assigned to it.
The other small innovation in Charlie’s piano playing has been in the sheet music. The letter names are still printed under each note and a number (from 1-5) above to tell him which finger to use. But while Charlie’s first songs had no more than four large notes printed on a five-line staff, now he is playing some songs from sheets printed with two lines of music, complete with treble clef and time signature; three pages of a song (“Happy Song”) are now on one, all of which Charlie played on his own this afternoon. His eyes were set straightahead on the music with an occasional glance down at his fingers and, only as he played measure after measure, did I realize how I had never heard the tune before. So much had we been concentrating on small groups of notes, or on a single note.
I guess that is another way of saying, we had been not seeing the forest for the trees—-not hearing the melody for the notes.
Just as, in our day to day life in Autismland, I find myself getting stuck on little things: Whether or not Charlie will learn to sight-read words besides nouns.Whether or not the blanket, having been dragged all over the house and trailing bits of fluff and pine needles and thread, ought to be washed. Where the green squishy ball is (well, maybe that’s a bit more than a little thing). Whether or not I’ve dusted and vacuumed. Whether Charlie will not mind having two apples in his lunch (forgot to get something else for his lunchbox).
I know these will get done: He went through all his words fast and well with his therapist this afternoon; he could care less in what condition that blanket is in; he assented to put the squishy ball in its container before we left to pick up Jim at the train; his lunchbox came home containing only empty containers.
And if I just keep stopping, looking at, and listening to Charlie, it seems answers in an unexpected key emerge.