The Story of Mary and Jewels

Who is Simply Music Gateway For?

Simply Music Gateway is an online streaming piano program designed so that it can be administered by anyone. Simply create an online account and get instant access to the videos and guide materials needed to teach this breakthrough piano method.

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Parents

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Music Therapists

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Pre-K Teachers

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Music Teachers

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Occupational Therapists

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Profile of Parents

Parents of children with special needs have much in common. They are working 24/7 to make sure their children receive adequate health care, education and love. They are much more tired than the average parent and spend more time alone and isolated from typical mainstream community life. Parents learn to appreciate simple pleasures and get much joy from their child’s every step towards overcoming challenges and achieving goals. For the most part, parents will try a new concept or idea if they feel it will help in any way. Introducing the Simply Music Gateway program to families who have children with special needs, gives parents an opportunity to work within a structured musical teaching system that explores creative potential while enhancing their child’s capacity for learning.

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What is the Simply Music Gateway Program?

The Simply Music Gateway (SMG) Program gives all children the opportunity and ability to play the piano and experience music making before they actually acquire the necessary skills to do so. The curriculum could take one or two years to complete, giving the student the necessary skills and confidence to continue onward with the Simply Music Piano program. The SMG Program acknowledges the fact that not all children learn in the same way. All minds accept and process information differently. For mainstream learners the differences fall within a sufficiently similar range of developmental processes that will meet with successful results in a chosen program. For children on the Autism Spectrum, or those with any kind of processing disorders, there is difficulty in sequencing, outlining or comprehending the steps needed to learn and assimilate information. SMG addresses these challenges in a step-by-step approach that is easily understood.

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How does it work?

This program is able to isolate the different sensory stimuli within the lessons. Visual processing, fine motor development and auditory processing are separated within the steps, and only combined when the student becomes comfortable and familiar with each track. The use of improvisation makes it possible to try new skills while not having to learn specific notes or patterns. The experience of playing music without the burden of cognitive information makes learning fun and motivates the student to move forward.

When the Simply Music Gateway Program is completed, the student will be ready to move into the Simply Music Piano Program and continue learning at his or her own pace.

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What music is used in the program?

The SMG Program uses pieces of music taken directly from the Simply Music Piano program. The songs are modified to the needs of the student, allowing the music to quickly become familiar and be incorporated in the learning process. The student then begins to progress naturally into the subsequent Simply Music Piano program appropriate to their development.

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What is your role as a parent in the Simply Music Gateway program?

The SMG Program offers a structured curriculum that is easy to follow and understand. Helping your child with directions and guiding them in the exploration of new skills encourages independence, creativity, singing and language, providing a bonding experience that is both fun and rewarding.

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Why is music important for any child?

Music can stimulate a child’s early brain development. In the August 3, 2004 conference of the International Foundation of Music Research in San Antonio, Texas, Susan Sze, PhD., stated that external stimuli such as music can aid in the development of the brain’s neural pathways and can assist in the development of social and language development, especially for children with autism and other cognitive issues.

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Professional Profile: Music Therapists

Music Therapy is the clinical and evidence-based use of music interventions to accomplish individualized goals within a therapeutic relationship by a credentialed professional who has completed an approved music therapy program. The Music Therapist uses music within a therapeutic relationship to address physical, emotional, cognitive, and social needs of individuals. After assessing the strengths and needs of each client, the qualified music therapist provides the indicated treatment including creating, singing, moving, and/or listening to music. Through musical involvement in the therapeutic context, clients’ abilities are strengthened and transferred to other areas of their lives. Music therapy also provides avenues for communication that can be helpful to those who find it difficult to express themselves in words. Research in music therapy supports its effectiveness in many areas such as: overall physical rehabilitation and facilitating movement, increasing people’s motivation to become engaged in their treatment, providing emotional support for clients and their families, and providing an outlet for expression of feelings.

Music therapists have drawn a line between music education and music therapy, and it has only been in the past few years that therapists are acknowledging the use of music teaching as a viable therapeutic tool. When the field was less well-known, music therapists felt they had a responsibility to define themselves and promote the value of music as a therapeutic intervention for various different populations. As Music Therapy Degree programs have flourished, and more institutions have added music therapists to their medical teams, therapists are now beginning to look for ways to incorporate adaptive teaching models into their work. At the same time there has been more interest from parents who wish to have their children take music lessons, and an expectation that there are teachers who will be able to address issues resulting from any developmental or cognitive problem.

Music Therapists have just begun to embrace the notion of Adaptive Teaching Models that address the same therapeutic goals. Using concepts from interactive improvisation, an important music therapy activity, students can still find freedom of expression while working on focus, attention, confidence building, and fine motor development. Learning an instrument allows greater participation in mainstream school and community activities while encouraging cognitive growth.

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What is the Simply Music Gateway Program?

The Simply Music Gateway (SMG) Program has been designed as a one to two year-long curriculum that takes entry-level pieces from the Simply Music Piano program and breaks the information down to its smallest tasks in order for any individual to assimilate the information. It is especially geared for children or adults on the Autism Spectrum, or those having processing or cognitive disorders. Fine motor issues are dealt with so that freedom of hand and finger movement can be attained in order to achieve flexibility on the keyboard.

Improvisation, a key component of the music therapy process is used for learning specific skill sets and promoting freedom of expression. Self-confidence and motivation emerge out of the ability to play an instrument, and the relationship between teacher/therapist and student encourages singing and verbal interaction as well.

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How does it work?

Each lesson within the SMG Program addresses one task only. The student will go forward only when they have successfully been able to do the assignment at hand. Improvisation is used immediately, so the student can experience playing the instrument without having to learn it first. The difference in adaptive teaching improvisation and music therapy improvisation is that certain structures are used within the music for learning, such as only white notes or only black notes, or incorporating certain patterns on the keyboard. Improvisation is also used to provide opportunities for fine motor development, as opposed to improvisation in a music therapy session where there is no specific direction for finger play. Freedom of expression is always available, however, there are goals having to do with learning that becomes part of the experience.

Processing problems are taken into account by teaching visually first, then slowly adding other sensory modes or cognitive information. The curriculum is designed to unfold over one year, however, depending on the student, it can take shorter or longer than the time suggested. When the Simply Music Gateway Program is completed, the student will be ready to move into the Simply Music Piano Program and continue learning at his or her own pace.

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What music is used in the program?

Numerous pieces from various musical genres that are a part of the Simply Music Piano program are used in the SMG Program. They provide the structures for improvisations, while children are becoming familiar with the songs. The music lends itself to modifications for the student with special needs, and can be played at an easier or more advanced level. The songs are melodic, engaging and fun to play, and are a welcome addition to any music therapy session.

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What is the Music Therapist’s role in the Simply Music Gateway Program?

Since the SMG Program has been created to help children and adults with Developmental Disabilities learn an instrument, music therapists are actually in the best position to teach this population. They already have the knowledge and sensitivity necessary to engage with someone who may not be able to communicate or process information. They are trained musicians and have the background in dealing with populations different from the norm. Music therapists understand the value of playing an instrument and participating in musical activities, and can easily appreciate their student or client developing this skill. Accepting the SMG Program as part of a music therapy session for the appropriate client does not make the therapist a teacher. It simply expands the possibilities within the session for the client’s social/emotional growth, freedom of expression, and improved cognitive function.

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Why is music teaching important in the field of Music Therapy?

Music therapists working in the special education departments of school systems throughout the country are under tremendous budget constraints. Students whose lives would be enhanced by interactive musical experiences are not getting what they need. Mainstream music teachers do not know how to incorporate children with special needs into their classroom, so this population is losing out on an important part of their education.

Schools are much more open at this time of financial concern to music therapists who are able to use adaptive teaching methods with their students, even if only for part of the session. Music Therapists are best qualified for this work because of their specific training. The more adaptive teaching is embraced by the Music Therapy Community, the more the field will grow in opportunity and acceptance. It will also lead to more research studies having to do with the impact of music on students with special needs.

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Professional Profile: PreK Teachers

Pre-Kindergarten (Pre-K) teachers instruct children under the age of five years old in public and private schools. Pre-K teachers use creative methods of learning, such as music, art and hands-on training to educate students and prepare them for kindergarten. Pre-K teachers use an approved curriculum to develop both academic and social skills in their students in subjects like reading and social studies. This may include one-on-one and group instruction. Teachers may use activities like games and songs to help children develop skills in areas such as language and math.

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What is the Simply Music Gateway Program?

The Simply Music Gateway (SMG) Program is a step by step, structured music-learning curriculum that incorporates concepts from special education to make learning music available for all children. Improvisation is used, offering children the possibility for music making before acquiring the necessary skills to actually play the piano. The SMG Program can be used for the Pre K population because of the way the information is organized and presented. It offers the teacher of early-childhood students an optional activity to use within the classroom or individually, if possible. The curriculum works well for children with fine motor issues, thus making it appropriate for a 3 or 4 year-old who is just learning to hold a pencil or marker for drawing or writing. The SMG Program introduces music learning at an early age, which, as research has shown, develops focus and attention, self-confidence and greater self-expression.

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How does it work?

The SMG Program teaches visually first, letting all children become familiar with the keyboard before any cognitive information is introduced. Fingers are isolated and worked on individually to enhance fine motor coordination before the child can begin playing songs. Patterns are identified and used within improvisations in order to play the piano while working on specific skills. Songs are modified and adapted to simple levels of understanding so that even the Pre K population can assimilate the information easily. When the Simply Music Gateway Program is completed, the student will be ready to move into the Simply Music Piano Program and continue learning at his or her own pace.

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What music is used in the program?

Numerous pieces from various musical genres that are a part of the Simply Music Piano program are used in the SMG Program. Songs are modified and right and left hands are separated before anything is played with hands together. Children become familiar with the music, so that after the SMG curriculum is completed they can continue on within the Simply Music Piano Program.

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What is the role of the Early Childhood Educator in the Simply Music Gateway Program?

With the availability of this program, Early Childhood educators now have the opportunity to incorporate actual music learning in the Pre-K classroom. The SMG Program is easy to follow and provides material and tutorials that make teaching music to young children possible. Bringing a new music educational component into the Nursery School environment for typical children will encourage cognitive development later on.

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Why is music education important in the field of early Childhood Education?

New research shows that music has a positive influence on young children’s cognitive skills such as spatial reasoning and memory. Research also shows that providing children with a rich and stimulating environment involving all the senses, including the auditory sense, can support children’s healthy growth and development. The Nemours Foundation in a 2008 report also showed that children are better able to focus and control their bodies and play better with others as their confidence and self-esteem is enhanced.

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Professional Profile: Music Teachers/Simply Music Piano Teachers

Music Teachers are faced with having to accommodate the rising number of students who have some form of autism, learning disability such as dyslexia, ADD or ADHD. In addition, the Music Teacher today might be presented with a child who has a hearing loss, blindness or cerebral palsy, and these can pose unique challenges in the music learning environment.

More parents of children with special needs are realizing the positive effects that learning an instrument can have and as a result, are looking for teachers who can help them. For these children, music learning will become a form of therapy. It will help with the social interaction of a child with Asperger’s Syndrome or become a physical therapy for a child with a muscular disability or poor fine motor development. For a child with Down Syndrome, music will help develop language, math and rhythmic skills that help with everyday living. For an ADHD student, music will become reinforcement for learning to focus and to behave appropriately.

The Music Teacher will have to use methods that work to overcome challenges in order to be successful with children who have special needs. Goals will be achieved if the steps in the learning process are broken down into smaller and simpler tasks.

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What is the Simply Music Gateway Program?

The Simply Music Gateway (SMG) Program is a one to two year-long piano teaching curriculum, created to provide music teachers with a step-by-step method that enables children with special needs to learn the piano. Fine motor issues are taken into account and worked on through particular songs that also function as exercises to strengthen muscles and improve finger isolation and coordination. Structured improvisation is used to practice specific skills, which gives the student a feeling of being able to play before they actually acquire the skills to do so. This encourages freedom of expression, self-confidence and motivation to continue the program.

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How does it work?

The SMG Program is divided into Skill Sets that are broken down into smaller teaching segments. Each skill set deals with one task at a time and is designed not to overwhelm the student who has any type of processing disorder. Improvisation is used as an introductory experience for exploring the keyboard and experiencing the feeling of making music. It is also used as a way to work on a specific skill (without having to deal with the burden of cognitive information), such as only playing white notes, only playing black notes, alternating black and white, or practicing the use of a specific finger. Accompaniment for the teacher is provided so that anything the child plays sounds appropriate within the chord structure provided.

When the Simply Music Gateway Program is completed, the student will be ready to move into the Simply Music Piano Program and continue learning at his or her own pace.

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What music is used in the program?

Numerous pieces from various musical genres that are a part of the Simply Music Piano program are used in the SMG Program. The songs are broken down into right and left hand skill sets and then put together later when hands are more coordinated. Parts of songs are used for improvisation so that they become familiar to the student. When components are added, the familiarity of the music helps the learning process. The songs are melodic and rhythmic and are easy to sing. Also included are simplified pieces from the classical repertoire, such as Bach’s Minuet in G and Beethoven’s Für Elise.

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What is the role of the Music Teacher in the Simply Music Gateway Program?

The SMG Program provides the Music Teacher with an opportunity to expand his or her teaching experience by perceiving information in a new way. Using this method allows the Music Teacher to understand all the necessary smaller steps contained in one larger step. The Music Teacher is already skilled in teaching piano and only needs to follow the modifications used in the SMG Program to discover a new opportunity to teach children with special needs.

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Why is Adaptive Teaching important for children with special needs?

Adaptive Teaching gives all children the opportunity and ability to “play” the piano at whatever level they can. For children with developmental delays and communication disorders, learning to play an instrument creates a self-awareness that they did not have before. it also provides a vehicle for social interaction with family, school and the greater community. With patience and kindness in accepting a different pace for learning, the Music Teacher can provide new windows of opportunity for children with Special Needs. The realization that music plays an important role in speech and language development, focus and attention and improved cognitive skills will influence school systems to incorporate more music into special education.

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Professional Profile: Occupational Therapists

The goal of the occupational therapist is to help their patients function, perform daily activities and to promote their general well-being. Occupational Therapy, often abbreviated as OT, can deal with a patient’s emotional, physical, psychological, oral, motor, or perceptual skills. The Occupational Therapist often deals with any of an unlimited number of ages, occupations, illnesses, addictions and disabilities. The rise in Autism Spectrum Disorders over the past ten years has also been met with the need for more Occupational Therapists trained to work with the special needs population. Occupational Therapy can help children with autism or developmental delays improve balance, learn body awareness, improve social interactions through play and enhance communication skills. Occupational Therapy can also help a child learn basic life skills and assist in learning to adapt to new situations or transition between different activities, which can be a struggle for many children with autism. Children will also learn about how to delay gratification, to identify and regulate emotional responses and to focus on the task at hand.

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What is the Simply Music Gateway Program?

The Simply Music Gateway (SMG) Program is Simply Music’s offering for children and adults who want to learn an instrument but who need to be taught differently from the present conventional model available today. This program recognizes that individuals with Processing Disorders, Developmental Delays, Autism or Cognitive Issues need to be approached through making music first, then taking apart the steps in order to learn.

The SMG curriculum is divided into skill sets and specific tasks that only deal with one concept at a time, and one sensory modality at a time. Structured improvisation is used to work on specific skills while motivating the student to participate in music making from the very beginning. When the year-long curriculum is complete (it can take shorter or longer than a year, depending on the student’s ability), he or she is ready to continue with the Simply Music Piano program, which moves towards more advanced levels of learning.

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How does it work?

Reaching children with Sensory Processing issues requires the isolation of different sensory stimuli such as visual processing, fine motor and physical development in the hands and auditory training. Each stimulus must be separated as an individual component, or learning track, prior to it being integrated. When the child is no longer overstimulated by one sensory element, another can be introduced and ultimately integrated. This process of introduction and integration continues until all sensory elements and motor skills necessary for playing the piano begin to work together and the student begins incorporating a simultaneous learning process.

Children on the Autism Spectrum are very strong visually as a compensation for a lack of cognitive processing ability and perception. That is why the improvisation used in the SMG Program is so important. The student can experience what it’s like to play the piano without learning the skills first and become more confident and motivated to learn new material.

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What music is used in the program?

Numerous pieces from various musical genres that are a part of the Simply Music Piano program are used in the SMG Program. The songs are modified and adapted for the simplest of tasks. Each song presents a different skill set and is worked on first with the right hand, then with the left. Parts of songs are used for improvisations to help the student become more familiar with the music and work on a particular skill.

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Why is music important in the field of Occupational Therapy?

Music is a modality present in Occupational Therapy, yet little educational material about music exists within the field. The potential effects of music in the areas of pain/discomfort, movement, emotion, cognition, self-expression/communication, relationships/groups, culture/society, community, and personal meaning/motivation, are being discussed in terms of enhancing the work of Occupational Therapists. Teaching the piano, however, has not been explored for many of the issues listed above. The SMG Program provides Occupational Therapists with a new therapeutic vehicle that will enhance the lives of the clients they serve.

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What is the Occupational Therapist’s role in the Simply Music Gateway Program?

One of the very important aspects of Occupational Therapy for children with special needs, is the work done for fine motor development. The SMG Program provides the therapist with activities that address the Four Essential Bases for Fine Motor Skills, while at the same time teaches a child to play an instrument, encourages social interaction and promotes self-confidence. See below:

Postural Control Base: Sitting at a keyboard requires the child to use the bigger shoulder muscles while the trunk stabilizes the arms so the fingers are free to move. The requirement of this postural control while playing will transfer to other activities and can help develop better writing skills, for example.

Tactile Perception Base: Children with Processing Disorders may not be getting good feedback from their fingers. The actual nerves may be working perfectly, however, the brain is not processing information from the hands appropriately. Playing the keyboard and doing finger exercises while making music becomes a good way to begin to connect the brain to the fingers and improve sensory awareness.

Bilateral Coordination: The ability to use 2 sides of the body at the same time is most helpful for using utensils, cutting, folding or tying. Learning piano naturally improves left-right coordination in the most enjoyable way. Playing with both hands and improving keyboard skills will transfer to these everyday activities.

Hand Function: Muscles of the hand need to work together in order to control pencils and small objects. Continuing with the Gateway Program and working on the skill sets as they progress will help develop hand muscles and improve overall coordination.

Addendum for Simply Music Piano

Addendum for Simply Music Piano Teachers

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The Simply Music Gateway (SMG) Program is specifically designed for those students who need the strategies used in the early Foundation Level pieces, to be modified and adapted to suit processing disorders, sensory integration dysfunction, cognitive disabilities, ADHD or Autism Spectrum Disorder.

Clearly, there are similarities between the Simply Music Piano curriculum and the SMG curriculum. For example, both programs are playing-based, both programs use pieces from the Simply Music Piano curriculum, both programs break down pieces into smaller components, both programs first learn the right hand and left hand separately before bringing both hands together, etc..

Having said that, it is essential to note that there are also significant differences between both programs. The Simply Music Piano teacher will quickly discover that certain things that are not addressed within the Simply Music Piano curriculum, or are even consciously avoided within the program, are introduced and, in fact, an essential part of the SMG curriculum.

The rationale for this is quite straightforward. The requirements of children with special needs and learning differences can be entirely different than those of more ‘typical’ learners. Although the SMG Program is designed to support these children, provide them with a foundation of musicianship and develop the fundamental skill sets necessary to transition into the Simply Music Piano program, it is crucial to understand that SMG is an entirely different curriculum.

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Unlike the more ‘typical’ learner who can easily and quickly understand the concepts, abstractions, approaches and learning strategies of the Simply Music Piano curriculum, children with special needs require a different approach. Information needs to be far more concrete, broken into significantly smaller steps, and made as easy as possible to absorb. Fine motor issues are often prevalent and need to always be taken into account. Visual symbols can be difficult to decode, shapes and patterns are not easily recognized, and eye/hand coordination is weak or even non-existent. As such, the symbols, diagrams, concepts, abstractions, as well as many of the learning strategies that are used in the Simply Music Piano curriculum, are not used in the SMG Program. It is a unique, stand-alone curriculum that utilizes an entirely different approach.

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