KiddyKeys for Special Needs

Isabel Pryce, at age 5

I’ve written before about how much I enjoy the KiddyKeys curriculum as a Pre-piano course for preschoolers. Little did I know that I would also be successful using it for my precious niece, Isabel, in private piano lessons. Isabel has Down Syndrome and this is her first semester fully integrated into a regular Kindergarten classroom.

I’ll be honest.  When her parents approached me about teaching her I scurried all over the Internet looking for what to do. Everything seemed so vague. Plus, even though the idea of coming up with a plan is exactly what I like to do, I knew I would probably be strapped for time.

I actually sat down with a piano method book and made a plan, found the appropriate CD’s and promised myself that I would follow up on the plan each week.  And then I looked up on the shelf and saw the KiddyKeys Star looking down on me!

I was so relieved!

Two days later we had our first lesson.  It was challenging.  Isabel (age 6) has a strong personality and she will tell you exactly what she wants.  Her favorite word at the time was “NO!”.

The first thing I did was show her  Isabels schedule so she would know what to expect next and especially when it would be time to go.  It gave me control over the activities and not have to spend a lot of time redirecting her.

There are 18 lesson plans per  KiddyKeys semester and I followed the order diligently so that we would have continuity, review and the introduction of new material each week. The goals I set for Isabel were to get to know the piano keyboard, follow directions, keep a steady beat and love music.

For the first 5 weeks Isabel showed absolutely no interest in singing, fingerplays, marches or piano.  She would not even look at me while I sang or introduced the new concept for the week. When it was time to move to the sofa and read our book, she looked away as I read. But instead of coaxing her to participate I just kept having a good time with rhythm and song.

And then everything changed. She started to join me in song, enjoying the finger plays, allowing me to help her with the worksheets, marching with the instruments and playing our games at the piano.

There is very little that I have modified for Isabel. Mainly, not covering all the songs listed on the lesson plan or skipping one of the games. She knows her numbers, colors and letters, so following the KiddyKeys plan was easy.

Isabel’s favorite thing to do at the piano is play “LOUD” sounds, she loves using the chips and keyboard cloth and even played the piano (loud, soft, high, low, short, long, black keys, white keys) at our monthly Nursing Home Recital.

The KiddyKeys curriculum was perfect because I only had to spend a few minutes gathering my materials and reviewing the plan and I did not have to worry about what to do next. This gave me the freedom to tailor the lesson to Isabel’s needs.

Isabel is a KiddyKeys star!