I try very hard to have a non-distracting learning environment when I teach clarinet.  Each lesson day, I become an “investigator” and try to “sniff out” distractions and eliminate them. I make sure that all trash is thrown out, newspapers are in recycling, toys are put away, and books are on the shelves.   Since my students are on the autism spectrum, making my living room /office / music studio non-distracting is challenging, especially when I’ve changed things around.

My little musicians can sniff out change like little hounds.  They become little investigators, solving the mystery of why and how things are different.  They miss nothing.  They don’t rest until the mystery is solved.  Sometimes they are nostalgic, and reminisce about the good old days when that green notebook with the scribbling in the front cover was on the coffee table.

During our spring break, I made some changes in my living room.

I replaced an old desk and a pile of junk with bookcases.  I hung curtains over the bookcases to hide the clutter minimize distractions. I painted my small desk, which was drying in the garage on lesson day. The clutter supplies that were organized in my desk were hidden behind some folding screens.

Voila! Distractions, be gone!

I was satisfied. The room was conducive to learning the wonders of music and the magic of the clarinet.

Foiled again!

My students investigated the changes right away. B exclaimed, “Whoa, look what I missed! Where’s the desk?  Where’s that table?  What’s behind there?”  When D arrived, he said something like, “Hmmmm…. what do we have here? It’s blue.”  Each boy investigated the mystery of the hidden items behind all of the curtains and the folding screens before his lesson.

Just to show off his investigative prowess, D also discovered that my cordless phone was not where it belonged and proceeded to put it in its place. I shook my head in wonder that he knew my house well enough to do that.

I patiently let each boy investigate.  They needed to get past the distractions so they could learn.

B only took a couple of minutes. I explained that I was reorganizing because my living room was now also my office / music studio.  He was satisfied with that and said, “Let’s get this show on the road.”

D needed 10 minutes–a third of the lesson time!  I was watching the clock, but D would not be rushed.

Both boys had great lessons.  I was proud of both of them.

This just reminds me that I can’t pull anything past my little guys.  They are on me like white on rice.  And that’s okay.  I think that their attention serves, and will serve, them well. I know that once they do what they need to do, i.e., investigate, and feel secure in new surroundings, that they will work really hard for me.

It also reminds me that clutter can run, but it can’t hide. 🙂

2 responses to this post.

  1. In our house, it’s BB who puts the clutter there – books and playing cards arranged around his chair ‘just so’. Every day he goes to school and I tidy up. Every day he comes home and puts his treasures back on the floor. Maybe I should give up and hoover round them?


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