This summer I am testing the Piano for Special Needs program on a diverse assembly of children with different challenges, at different ages.

Today I will describe the success we've had with 2 cerebral palsy students.  Both are girls age 9 or 10.  Katy is in a wheel-chair, completely dependent upon others; Emile wears supports on her shins, but can walk a bit.  Her left hand is non-functional.

Each lesson begins with hand exercises in an attempt to develop strength and control. 

    First, I give them a cylinder to hold and shape the hand into a circle formed by the thumb touching the finger         tips.  This is not so easy!  The hands have their own shapes in mind.
    Then I ask them to just think about moving a digit, say the thumb.  Not to move, just to think.  Think, think.              Okay, now move the thumb the smallest amount.  Many times.  Now a bit more.
    Finally I remove the cylinder so see if the hand can retain the circle shape, and we try digital control again.

Katy's wrist straightened and she was able to rest her arm on her lap with the wrist in a "natural" position.  She was so proud of her new ability to "sit like a southern lady."  We are coordinating with her swim coach and Katy will think about the circle hands during her swim lessons as she grasps the ladder. 

Emile also made remarkable progress.  Her right hand functions, only her left side is weak.  But Emile could not place a left hand digit on a designated key.  After a few exercises, we played "Twinkle Little Star" where the right hand plays the tune except for the C.  She did it!  Emile played the whole song, including the 2 C's which her left index finger played in rhythm, and with a strong tone.

I don't know where this will lead, but I have a whole book that is played with the right hand melody and single notes in the left hand.

These kids can do more than we imagine!