Johnny’s Story


Johnny was diagnosed with autism at the age of two.

At that stage he had no speech, little awareness of the outside world and very poor motor skills. He loved staring at lines and flapping his hands.

Johnny had speech therapy, play therapy, occupational therapy and just about every other sort of therapy going around. It was slow going. It took two years of speech therapy to get a word but, once he got one, other words followed. He gradually became aware of the world around him and the people in it.

Before he started school, we took him to the Royal Children’s Hospital for cognitive testing. He was assessed as being in the bottom five percent of his age group, meaning they didn’t expect him to finish his schooling.

He started prep at Bulleen Special School.


At the start of grade one, aged 7, Johnny started piano lessons with Daphne. We didn’t have high hopes, to be honest. His hands were scrunched up little balls and he stabbed at the piano keys with one finger. If someone had
told us he would end up doing VCE music, playing Tchaikovsky and Chopin, we simply wouldn’t have believed them.

But Daphne’s expectations were high. After the first week, his hands uncurled and he could play notes with different fingers. After the first year, he was playing two hands together quite competently.

As his skills grew, so did his confidence. He transferred to a mainstream school and he became known as the piano player. We kept waiting for him not to be able to cope with mainstream school any more. He kept coping.

At high school he took up the trombone as well and became a member of the school bands. He was looked after and nurtured by the students and teachers in the music department. In year 10 he did grade 7 piano and got
an A. He discovered a passion for music theory.

He completed VCE and went on to study Science at university.


His piano skills now offer Johnny a valuable social outlet. He attends Celtic sessions once or twice a week and has found a lovely group where he belongs.

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Special needs training for music teachers by Daphne Proietto

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