10 steps to starting special needs piano

The videos complimenting this blog can be found at www.hurleypiano.com. I recommend you watch Black Key videos 1-20 before you read this article. I will answer any and all questions therapists, parents and teachers have about this method. So get emailing as soon as...

Two Nursery Rhyme Piano Favorites

By now you are getting the idea that while piano can be taught to special needs kiddos it requires just as much work as any other teaching tool in your clinic or piano studio. So let’s take a look at learning some easy pieces; Twinkle, Twinkle; Brother Jack; Row, Row,...

Piano Blog Making A Trailer

If you use a trailer as a sketch up for a documentary then you can use a blog as a sketch up for your trailer. This blog is my pre trailer sketch, the gathering of ideas and intuitions, the separation of hunches from false starts and good ideas from bad. At a very...
10 steps to starting special needs piano

10 steps to starting special needs piano

The videos complimenting this blog can be found at www.hurleypiano.com. I recommend you watch Black Key videos 1-20 before you read this article. I will answer any and all questions therapists, parents and teachers have about this method. So get emailing as soon as you have a question. The Black Key Exercises are designed to address two principle areas of special needs. The first area is that of fine motor skills, the second is the building of confidence and emotional stability at the keyboard. Simply put, the hand cannot grip and tense if the single finger has to release, relax and move on to play the next key. It is important to practice these exercises every day. Repetition develops familiarity, muscle memory and confidence. I cannot emphasize this enough.

Most special needs kiddos will encounter fine motor skill challenges in some form. Many kiddos will find difficulty in moving all five fingers independently, whether the kiddo has poor muscle definition or very rough motor skills. What I see most of all is the kiddo who’s hands bunch into a tight fist, only opening with the application of furious concentration. After the note is played, the finger then disappears back into a clenched fist. The kiddo gets frustrated, then bored and then gives up. After that the next most popular group is the hand and arm with poor muscle definition. This article will discuss the tight fist scenario first.

So let’s break this cycle by breaking the task down to its simplest form. Ideally the kiddo’s hand will move along the keyboard in a graceful fashion. What we need to do is to begin not by playing multi finger note combinations, but by playing single finger exercises. In short we have to use the keyboard as a therapy tool before we can even begin learning to play piano. We can use the keyboard as a therapy tool to help the kiddo relax the fist, open the hand and articulate each finger independently. It sounds like a tall order, but this method has been tested many times in an OT PT setting and has delivered success.

Let us explain why we start with single finger exercises. What we are looking to change in hand behavior, is the million year old instinct of the hand to grip and close at the slightest excuse. Starting with the right hand thumb at the right hand end of the piano slowly play all the black keys moving from right to left all the way down the piano. Make sure the kiddo leaves a small break between playing each note. Do not play quickly. There is an important reason for this. If the kiddo attempts to play too quickly the entire arm will lock all the way from the back of the neck all the way down to the ball of the hand. But if the kiddo learns to play slowly then all the muscles along the arm from the back of the neck down will learn to flex and relax. Thus the kiddo learns the rhythm of arm movement, a type of movement that is built not around gripping but releasing. With the new rhythm of releasing we build a new regime of relaxation into the kiddo’s neurological pathways. The flex and release sequence is of course reinforced by the tactile sensation of playing a different black key each time, and each reflex is assigned its own unique sound by the keyboard.
The pincer twins.

The sight of a student’s fingers gripping the keyboard, unable to let go is a familiar one, one that holds many students back from making any progress. The breaking of this gripping instinct requires patience. The two most powerful grippers are the thumb and the index finger. I call them the pincer twins. The index finger is so strong many kiddos will do nothing but play piano with the index finger. If this is the case then the first finger to encourage them to practice with is actually the fourth finger, a finger usually associated with weakness. The hand never moves to grip anything with just the fourth and index finger. So when the student is practicing the fourth finger exercises (BK Exercises 7 & 8) the index finger will not feel any impulse to move at all.

The thumb is different from all the other fingers as it has its own muscle system built into the hand and moves in a way that is completely different from all the other fingers. While the fingers will naturally move vertically up and down, the thumb moves horizontally left to right and right to left. This is an important point to remember and one that is very easy to overlook for the following reason. Piano playing requires the thumb to move vertically, a motion that is not natural to the thumb at all. This is an action hard enough for the most dexterous of neuro-typicals to master. Try moving any finger, say your middle finger horizontally. It feels forced right? That is what we are asking the thumb to do when playing the piano; we are asking the thumb to master a motion it was never designed to perform, the up down motion.

So with the bad news out of the way, let us get on with solving the problem. The pincer twins domination of the hand is best handled by practicing Black Keys Exercises 5-10, addressing the third, fourth and fifth fingers in each hand. Over the short term, building muscle memory in the generally considered weaker fingers is the best way to unlock the tight fist. The kiddo will experience conflicting muscle signals as a new set of muscle memories are established. So allow lots of room for failure and second attempts.

The four fingers have their own muscle control in the lower arm. Yet the thumb will also draw on arm muscles to increase its leveraging strength, muscles that can be very reluctant to relax as instinct dictates that once king thumb moves, all other arm locking muscles are called into play. The three areas that will relax after much practice will be the inside elbow of the lower arm, the outside shoulder and the side of the neck. The shoulder and side of the neck will only relax after about eighteen months of practice. Remember that tension in these areas will keep the third, fourth and fifth fingers fairly stiff, so give the kiddo as much as two years if necessary to finally unlock tension in severe cases. I have one student playing Imagine, Dream On and Stairway To Heaven and he is still battling tension in these zones.

Palmaris longus
The palmaris longus is a unique muscle in the lower arm that does not connect to the fingers at all, rather it connects to the ball of the hand. This muscle is the super gripper, enhancing all other gripping instincts and can be one of the most difficult muscles to train to release and relax. After the pincer twins, the palmaris longus is the next biggest obstacle preventing the kiddo from mastering the keyboard. It will be the practicing of all 10 separate exercises that will unlock the palmaris longus, not any one finger exercise in particular.
Some students actually prefer to stand at the piano rather than sit. This really helps students who’s backs may be weak. Many like to slouch along the keyboard while playing. Other students may prefer to have the keyboard down on the floor. The road to unlocking the bunched fist and altering the complex emotions surrounding fear of failure is a long and complex one. In this, the Black Keys keyboard therapy method is a very familiar one and demands all the knowledge the therapist has built up across the ABA therapy spectrum; eternal patience, reward systems, discipline and or stopping the exercises all together and doing something else instead.
Like so many other techniques, this is not a magic bullet, it is not a one stop fix all remedy, rather I see it as a technique that compliments all the other tools at the therapists disposal, one that allows the therapist to take up a keyboard method in a familiar and structured manner that is consistent with all other methods and strategies at the clinic. This technique merely opens the door allowing the kiddo discover the world of the keyboard. In my next blog I will discuss how these techniques can lead the kiddo into playing very, very easy pieces such as Twinkle Twinkle, Brother Jack or May Had A Little Lamb. Please send any comments to info@hurleypiano.com. Thank you so much for reading to the end and I look forward to you reading the next installment.

Two Nursery Rhyme Piano Favorites

By now you are getting the idea that while piano can be taught to special needs kiddos it requires just as much work as any other teaching tool in your clinic or piano studio. So let’s take a look at learning some easy pieces; Twinkle, Twinkle; Brother Jack; Row, Row, Row Your Boat and Mary Had a Little Lamb. Apps and print outs will follow this blog shortly.
You have been using the black keys exercises to keep the kiddo busy at the keyboard without stressing them out with too much new information and you have been watching the confidence build. So why not tap into the pool of nursery rhymes that every kiddo has been humming along to since they were say six months old? So pick any of the following pieces above. Twinkle Twinkle is complex but has the advantage of being the most famous of them all. And as a bonus, it was written by Mozart. Nothing like starting at the top.
You will need to guide the kiddo’s hand here and unless the kiddo is reasonably high functioning do not expect them to remember anything too quickly,. I have one kiddo who learned five pieces in his first five weeks while others are more inclined to remain in the familiarity and the comfort zone of the black keys exercises. There is nothing like the confidence that comes from knowing the kiddo is king of a drill and we all know they do not like to give up that great feeling too easily.

So like everything else in special needs, take your time here. If mom gives you any stick for not playing pieces you can always blame me! However if there is a stepping stone after black keys it is Twinkle Twinkle, even if it is complex. Kiddo will expect you to do a lot of hand holding here and give a lot of guidance. They might look away while you guide their fingers to play the notes, but you can be sure they will be humming the tune to themselves as you do the work for them.

Play each key and let the key go before you play the next one. Remember to play very quietly, while supporting as much of their hand as you can. If you can, try to use your own finger to play the key while letting the kiddo feel the keyboard surface at the same time. This makes sure that you do not apply any pressure on their little fingers. In the end, the kiddo will be the best judge of how much pressure should be applied and they will have built up some experience in muscle memory from having played black keys for a few weeks.

The opening of Twinkle Twinkle, although famous, always takes the kiddos by surprise. The big leap from C up to G followed to the next A is something none of them ever expect. The fingering is even more unexpected, thumb on C followed by fourth finger on G and then pinkie on A before finishing on G with the fourth finger again. The words to this note sequence are:
Twinkle, twinkle little star.

So while the tune and the words are really famous, from a playing point of view they really need a lot of help with this opening. Practice this opening a few times and give kiddo a long runway to get used to the feeling of first thumb then fourth finger. Believe me, I have taught this riff often enough to recognize the look on kiddo’s face. Is there not another way to do this?
The big barrier the kiddo cannot get around? The pincer twins! Pincer twins have nothing to do in the opening sequence of Twinkle Twinkle. Mozart knew what he was doing here. He starts the tune with the thumb and just as kiddo expects pincer twin index finger to follow the opening thumb on C, Mozart calls for the fourth finger on G. This is a really difficult expectation for kiddo to break, that index will always follow thumb on the keyboard. After all index always follows thumb in life; picking up toast, a pencil, a book; thumb and index are always in there working together. Not on the piano though and it will take a while for kiddo to get used to this.

The next words
How I wonder what you are.

These notes are really easy to play as they require only middle finger, index and back to thumb. Kiddo is usually really relieved to get onto this run after the tough opening sequence.
Up above the world so high,
Like a diamond in the sky.

These words require only the fourth, then middle, then index and then thumb. The sequence gets repeated and then the opening tune starts all over again to finish the piece.

Now here is an idea you will enjoy. You have just struggled to take kiddo through the piece using all five fingers? Now stop doing that and let the kiddo learn the piece using only one finger. Play the entire tune with the thumb, then the middle finger, then the fourth and finally the pinkie. Do not let kiddo play the piece with the second finger. Why? Because the second finger is the strongest gripper and the strength does not need any more reinforcing.

What is nice here is that you are now teaching pieces in the same way that you are teaching the Black Keys exercises. And this is good; you are extending the confidence zone from Black Keys Exercises into learning pieces. You can worry about teaching kiddo to use all five fingers after about three months. In the meantime kiddo can start racking up the repertoire of nursery rhymes using the single finger technique. Remember each nursery rhyme will be played four times; once each by the thumb, middle, fourth finger and pinkie. You can even run through the pieces with each of the four fingers in the left hand. So the piece can get played eight times each session.

OK, take a look at the Twinkle Twinkle video and then move on to Brother Jack at the very next lesson. Brother Jack is much simpler, especially the opening which has a very, very simple three note combination, requiring the use of thumb, index and middle fingers.

Brother Jack now goes against everything I have been saying so far. Central to the Brother Jack opening sequence is the use of the pincer twins, the thumb and index fingers. So up until now you have been working through black keys exercises 1-10 and you are already started on Twinkle Twinkle. You have been playing very lightly and letting all the keys go. Now with Brother Jack we will see if our theories have been working. Get kiddo to play the first three notes of Brother Jack, CD and E with the thumb and then the index finger followed by the middle finger. If all goes well, then kiddo’s fingers will not stick to the keyboard but kiddo will start letting the keys go all by himself.
This is a real moment as the instinct will be for the pincer twins to cling to the keyboard and hold all keys down. So, how did you do? If you are still having trouble, email me or post a video of your kiddo’s hand position and we can work through it together. If kiddo is releasing the keys then move on to the next sequence. You will see kiddo make a mental note of how the first three notes are played by the thumb, index finger and then the middle finger, while the following three notes are played by the middle finger, fourth finger and pinkie.
Morning bells are ringing,
Morning bells are ringing
Because ‘Morning bells are ringing’ has a fourth finger and pinkie combination, sometimes this finger sequence will trigger a memory association with Twinkle, Twinkle and kiddo will play out the fourth finger and pinkie sequence from the opening line of Twinkle Twinkle. This can be a fun moment when kiddo realizes what is happening.

A nice reward for all this work is to go back to playing black keys with the fourth finger or as before with Twinkle Twinkle, to push on into playing Brother Jack with each finger separately. First the thumb, then the middle, fourth and finally pinkie. And then repeat the exercise with the left hand.

So between the black keys exercises, Twinkle Twinkle and Brother Jack you now have a full half hour lesson on your hands. How you introduce breaks and rewards will be an important element in the success of this program. I have structured exercises so the keyboard can be introduced in small components without them having to become full piano lessons. This is the way most therapists will approach the keyboard, as a nice reward for doing well in speech or other aspects of OT or PT. Do not forget to post your videos and check out how other kiddos are doing. If you are a therapist and see someone posting a question you can help with, then please jump right in with your insights. I look forward to hearing from you all.

Piano Blog Making A Trailer

If you use a trailer as a sketch up for a documentary then you can use a blog as a sketch up for your trailer. This blog is my pre trailer sketch, the gathering of ideas and intuitions, the separation of hunches from false starts and good ideas from bad. At a very general level the trailer must show students at the keyboard, explaining their day, explaining music, the process of teaching, the atmosphere and feeling of the school as well as the program. But how to structure all of that requires a little research. Googling how to make a trailer recommends the following strategy. The documentary must answer the following questions:
1. Who was involved or affected?
2. What happened?
3. Where did it happen?
4. When did it happen?
5. Why did this happen? What were the root causes?
The story of what was learned will be the story of two young boys, Jadon and Peyton learning various pieces; the Blues, some Bach, some Rachmaninoff; not to mention the scales, drills, and exercises required to keep their hands in shape to play the pieces at all. Both boys are on the autism spectrum, each has some feature of a communications delay in some form. Both script heavily from movies and they both exhibit an ability to quote from movies at the appropriate time. Jadon has a sense of mischief and fun, Peyton has an extraordinary sense of irony if not outright sarcasm. Most noticeable of all, each enjoys very, very strong support from their parents and families.
There is a rock n roll element to this enterprise. Both students are strong personalities, each sharing the mercurial magic of a Robert Plant and a Jimi Hendrix. You have to see these kids to know what I am talking about.
The documentary tells the story that began in April of 2012 when Jadon first signed up for classes. Jadon suffers from severe allergies which serve to compound his autism. Peyton signed on a year later. He had always sat down to play the piano at home and finally his parents decided it was time to do something about his clear interest in music.
The location is the Williams Community School in Austin Texas, one of now many special needs schools across America doing remarkable work and research with special needs kids. Both Jadon and Peyton attend Williams. Williams relaunched under the Williams name after the previous school went under. A group of concerned parents got together to get the school going again. The story of strong parental action is a powerful theme in this documentary. The parents, as much as the teachers, shape the personality of the school. As if it were a testament to their success, right now Williams is looking to move to bigger premises not far from the current location.
The how is how I met Ann Hart, president of the Autism Society of Greater Austin. The ASGA was the first organization I reached out to when my family and I arrived in Austin from Long Island in June 2011. Ann Hart soon recommended me to Suzanne Byrne, program director at the Williams School. I was invited to teach some students at the school. I assume it was a test phase to see what I could do and here we all are eighteen months later now making a documentary about the experience.

What might be missing is what took place on Long Island. There I was running a conventional private piano studio. One day a mother brought her twelve year old daughter to me for piano lessons. Monique was high functioning yet extremely emotionally complex. Her mother explained how Monique had had four different piano teachers over four years and yet could still only play ‘I Love Barbie’. After a year studying with me, Monique completed a Chopin Waltz. It was then I realized that Monique had been dismissed as unreachable and unteachable by her previous teachers and that she, along with many in the special needs community was being held back in life by ignorance, bigotry and superstitious notions about autism. Word began to spread and the autism community began knocking on my door looking for lessons for their kiddos. There was clearly a demand that was not being met.
However, the move to Austin and then taking on students at the Williams school was another matter entirely. Here the documentary is jumping into a success story and is missing the difficult transition to teaching students with a communications delay. The documentary cannot show how I had to start from scratch all over again, how everything that worked on Long Island was simply not going to work at Williams.

Most of all, the documentary will miss the tension and anxiety all special needs students experience when embarking on a new venture. The therapists will provide some perspectives on the early days of the program; how they took some good ideas that I call the Black Keys exercises and gave them shape and how the students benefited from the therapists input and experience. Suzanne Byrne and Lauren Dooley are both very experienced practitioners of ABA and OT. Suzanne Byrne immediately recognized the ABA methods in the teaching technique and knew how to take that framework and build out the program in the context of ABA.
Without the input of the Williams School, this program would not be what it is today. The program took shape at Williams. Methods and exercises evolved over time more as a series of problem solving techniques as the students developed in ability and confidence. The transition from exercises to playing nursery rhymes was not easy. It took a long time for both boys to stop playing with just the index finger. Venturing out to playing with all five fingers was as much about confidence development as it was about the skill development. And suddenly one day they were not playing nursery rhymes anymore but real pieces: George Gershwin’s ‘Summertime’, Aerosmith’s ‘Dream On’, John Lennon’s ‘Imagine’, Led Zepplin’s ‘Stairway to Heaven’, little snippets from Rachmaninoff’s G sharp minor prelude. One parent has said “I just want hear him play Lynard Skynard’s ‘Sweet Home Alabama’.
By the end of the documentary, I hope this wish will come true.
At a more practical level budgets have to be prepared, advice taken, experts consulted and investors found to fund the final documentary. The script is nowhere near completion at this stage. So far the project has moved forward in the form of notes to self, emails to friends and colleagues and lots of chats with people who know more about the process than I do.
The fruits of the notes, chats and advice taking has melded into a practical advice charter that looks like this:

• Determine who your audience is and how you will reach them.
• Get a good camera crew with documentary experience.
• Get a good editor.
• Get a good director.
• Use trailer to raise money.
• Prepare a detailed presentation for investors.
• Be careful not to shoot too much material.
• Make a script to structure the documentary.
• Develop a shot line for each shoot day.
• Get signed releases from all parties.
• Get errors and omissions insurance.
• Get production insurance.
• Finally budget: There is a minimum acceptable budget for production that needs to be watched. This depends on many things; audience, intended venue, distribution, and of course length of finished documentary.
Final note to self: Autism is a story of vulnerability and ferocious defiance. Balancing the demands of each quality is what makes a school successful and the therapists at Williams have struck the balance in unique ways. The documentary brings all the elements together; the belief that special needs kids can learn to play piano, the special program designed to make that happen, the amazing specialists and therapists surrounding the dynamic families supporting their kiddos. Here is a story about two amazing boys for whom, music is now an indispensable part of their lives.

Special Needs Concert at Steinway

Special Needs Concert at Steinway

Steinway Piano Gallery Austin

On June 13 2015 special needs students at Hurley Piano gave a piano recital at Steinway Piano Gallery in Austin Texwas. Students range from speech delay to aspergers, down syndrome, sensory processing disorder, cerebral palsy and dyslexia. It was more of a piano party than a concert. As we saw it, nobody would be expected to sit still and kids would be running around the hall, playing with their friends and having fun.  This is key to running a special needs concert. Make sure that standard rules of decorum do not apply. Not even at Steinway. Twenty balloons (got them from www.Partycity.com) floated above the concert grand piano and as each kid finished their performance, each took a balloon with them as they left the stage.

Top 5 Reasons why Special Needs Music Lessons Are Helpful

Top 5 Reasons why Special Needs Music Lessons Are Helpful

There are many ways in which a piqued interest in music can lead to benefits for a lifetime. On the contrary, if that interest is somehow, suppressed, it could lead to dissatisfaction and annoyance at the subconscious level. And for those without the natural interest, cultivating the same can be extremely helpful.

The same rules apply in case of special needs music lessons. It not just acts like therapy for the children, but also helps build their self-confidence and a sense of fulfillment.

  1. It motivates them without seeming to be like a task.
    It can be quite difficult to find the right kind of activity that would be motivating and enjoyable at the same time. With music, be it vocal or instrumental that difficulty can be overcome in no time.
  2. It is a multi-sensory experience.
    Learning music is a multi-sensory experience and a combination of demonstration and teaching enriches them in the perfect manner.
  3. It involves both hemispheres of the brain.
    In other words, it is a wonderful sensory journey that tends to get their minds exercising.
  4. It can help them bond.
    Learning something enjoyable with children who are just like them instills the much needed sociability skills among the students.
  5. They don’t have to speak!
    In case a kid is shy or doesn’t enjoy talking, then piano lessons for special needs or any other instrumental musical experience lets them enjoy all the benefits of music in general without the need for them to be verbal.
Visual Strategies to Help Special Children Learn the Piano

Visual Strategies to Help Special Children Learn the Piano

Children with special needs learn better when they can relate their lessons to something visually attractive, say bold colors or shapes that they can easily recognize. It might take several weeks for them to be able to grasp a particular idea clearly, but with adequate patience, it can be turned into an enjoyable experience. That is why therapists often work on designing special music-based interventions that are simple and yet the most helpful for the progress of special children.

To begin with, making them develop an interest in the piano has to be systematic. You can start by associating their favorite things to the very idea of learning how to play music. Colors, simple tunes and hand-eye co-ordination exercises can go a long way in helping them to like and retain what they learn.

If you aren’t too sure of which notes to pick, begin with a simple tune called “Brother Jack.” It just has four to five notes which can be picked up by the child if you follow the right teaching process, which is, to color-code every note. As stated earlier, visual strategies work the best. So, when the child begins to see the link between, say, a pink note on the paper and a key labeled in the same shade of pink, he or she would start to build the logical connection. You have to take it one note or one color at a time. Once you see that the kid is able to relate and hit the same colored key without your assistance, you can move on to the next color/note, work on the combinations and ultimately, be patient till they are able to play the whole tune by themselves. Remember, that the key to success here, is your patience with the child’s speed, interest and ability. So, go ahead and introduce the world of melodious tunes to your little one and help him/her become proficient in playing this amazing musical instrument that will build their confidence and self-esteem.

Lillypond: Independent Data Blockchain

Lillypond: A Platform for Independent Data Ownership

By Richard Hurley and Keith Guidry

“Many dedicated people join global non-profit organizations to help, but the market often fails to fund or incentivize building the necessary infrastructure. I have long expected more organizations and startups to build health and safety tools using technology, and I have been surprised by how little of what must be built has even been attempted. There is a real opportunity to build global safety infrastructure, and I have directed Facebook to invest more and more resources into serving this need.”

Building Global Community – Mark Zuckerberg – Thursday, February 16, 2017



Modern hospitals, Primary Care Providers, and Care Providers do not effectively or completely communicate important information among themselves, to the individual, or to those taking care of the individuals in a timely fashion. One study estimated that 80% of serious medical errors involve miscommunication during the hand off between medical providers. This error is compounded by continuous care scenarios stretching over decades of change and uncertainty. Such failures put special needs individuals at greater risk as interaction with internet services become more invasive, more complex and increasingly compromised.

Lillypond seeks to place within ownership of the individual a hyper-secure conduit for peer-to-peer agent automation intended to interdict improper and exploitive interaction on the internet. Designed to intercede between children with autism and increasingly nefarious exploits on vulnerable and unprotected communities, the Lillypond system uses hardware and software technologies to build an adaptable independent intelligent hedge between the child with autism and what blackhat technologists call ‘the wild’. Lillypond intends to provide the individual with autism with an auditable record of smart-contract adaptable notations for interoperation with care services in any facet of modern life for a lifetime of care.

Stated Simply

Recent events demonstrate a lack of responsiveness to privacy demands by large companies dominating parts of the internet. The average internet user (User) faces many difficult challenges in securing personal data and maintaining documented proof of interaction with people and services on the internet. This difficulty is insurmountable for many people challenged by a disability such as autism.

A child with autism must have constant supervision to prevent improper or damaging interaction with internet sites as a child. But when a child with autism reaches adulthood, they are often expected to answer for their own internet usage and to reproduce documents to demonstrate their electronic interaction. When their parents or guardians pass on, the adult with autism is left in an unguarded world actively working to subvert their independence and prey upon their values and assets.

Lillypond is intended to form a historical basis detailing interaction and behavior during periods of internet use. This audit trail and captured data is designed to create a permanent electronic record for a child with autism, creating a pattern of interactions to build a trustworthy record of communications and documents with caregivers,


friends and useful resources. The accumulation of historic records and documents creating this trail serves to protect the child’s interests by codifying communication behavior between the child and the internet world. Such a record secured throughout the years leading to adulthood can be used to present a record of independence for consideration in the young adult’s effort to live a productive future. Securing this record with relevant documents and transactions throughout the individual’s internet use can have added advantage in building an accurate metric for calibrating the level of care and concern a disability will require during adulthood. This must be a private, non- invasive method which can stand as an objective measure of computer/device use behavior as a supervising gateway for family, friends, pen-pals and caregivers while pro-actively interdicting evidence of improper interaction with strangers and websites used for nefarious purpose.

This ability to watch internet communications as they pass to and from the individual’s computer will be carried out by a next-generation set of hardware methods which replace tasks currently done by vulnerable software. A hyper-secure communications ‘sniffer’ allows for the recording of behavior which may be analyzed by an automated artificial intelligence screening process. That process can be refined for the user’s purposes with feedback to the interdicting capabilities of a planned overwatch device called ‘Lillypad’.

As social media is the most obvious current means of interaction between children, young adults and older adults, we view ‘internet use’ as meaning user interaction with search engines, news and entertainment sites. Most communicative interactions are carried out using Facebook or other similar platforms such as Twitter. But there are many ‘social media’ software platforms in existence [1].

As each social media site has specific strengths and vulnerabilities, users have little control beyond broad privacy settings in each program to attempt to manage data use.

Recent news reports and testimony by the CEO of Facebook, Mr. Mark Zuckerberg, indicate that social media is not a safe place for the special needs community at large to use. This increasingly alarming fact admits even fully capable adults are unable to keep their own internet actions safe and auditable. As it is unlikely Facebook or any other large social media operations will focus their privacy and safety efforts toward a small business space such as the autism community, Lillypond intends to take up this task where social media is unable.


Lillypond, as proposed by this white paper, is a first generation article use-case employing a novel hardware defense technology to allow creation of a user’s independent historical basis for an auditable accumulation of pointers to documents encountered during the lifetime of a challenged individual. To accomplish this kind of immutable audit reference, the Lillypond System (System) will begin with the Lillypad Device [Device], a quantum resistant symmetric key engine with Merkle tree assurance across hardware agent technology. The single key nature of the circuitry means no key combinations are available beyond those created invisibly and used within the micro-circuitry, and are not distributed or accessible beyond peer-to-peer defense machines. Merkle Tree assurance [2] (the overarching basis for Blockchain type record keeping and robust automation processes) maintains a continuity of medical records needed in government interaction with parents and guardians (Wardship) for transfer of childhood behavior to adulthood independence metrics for this challenged individual (User). The intended first article Device seeks to equip each User with an indisputable independent record able to sustain a full audit pursuit while functioning as a living document reference system throughout the User’s life.


The importance of this type of record keeping can be seen in Figure 1.

using Merkle tree assurance and hyper-secure agent-based communications. We invite other innovators to create a distributed technology society built around artificial intelligence (AI) and open platform competition using Lillypond’s notation engine smart outputs.

The Challenge

The central problem has to do with medical records. With a child with autism, every aspect of the child’s behavior becomes a potential issue for review by caregivers and medical coverage. For that reason, parents of autistic children have few options beyond ‘parental controls’. Such controls only offer a way to block large sections of internet content while providing nothing in the way of reliable, trustworthy and auditable records demonstrating the child’s historical activity.

These observations from government study show the need for interoperable records is acute and long standing.

“The nation needs an interoperable health system that empowers individuals to use their electronic health information to the fullest extent; enables providers and communities to deliver smarter, safer, and more efficient care; and promotes innovation at all levels.” [3]

“While many stakeholders are committed to achieving this vision, current economic and market conditions create business incentives to exercise control over electronic health information in ways that unreasonably limit its availability and use. Indeed, complaints and other evidence described in this referenced report suggest that some persons and entities are interfering with the exchange or use of electronic health information in ways that frustrate the goals of the HITECH Act (Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act) [4] and undermine broader health care reforms. These concerns likely will become more pronounced as both expectations and the technological capabilities for electronic health information exchange continue to evolve and mature.” [5]


Healthcare management can only evolve if platforms are open to engage with many arbitrary service providers. It is difficult to gain entry to the healthcare marketplace as siloed players such as insurance companies and hospital networks lock in data and prevent new competitors from arriving in the space.

Lillypond intends to provide an open platform for competition while securing individual data

“Most complaints of information blocking are directed at health IT developers. Many of these complaints allege that developers charge fees that make it cost-prohibitive for most customers to send, receive, or export electronic health information stored in EHRs (Electronic Health Records), or to establish interfaces that enable such information to be exchanged with other providers, persons, or entities. Some EHR developers allegedly charge a substantial per-transaction fee each time a user sends, receives, or searches for (or “queries”) a patient’s electronic health information. EHR developers may also charge comparatively high prices to establish certain common types of interfaces—such as connections to local labs and hospitals. Many providers also complain about the costs of extracting data from their EHR systems for their own use or to move to a different EHR technology.” [6]

Obviously, arbitrary interoperation is a difficult thing to achieve. How does Lillypond hope to create such a capability?

The Platform

The Lillypond platform is composed of a communications interdiction device (Lillypad), a first generation hardware obfuscated article designed as a defensive hardware sniffer installed within the data communication stream. Lillypad works in concert with a software obfuscated localized server/client agent (Defense Machine) applied to the User computer running agent based web automation code (Lillypod) capable of manipulating and translating arbitrary data. Obfuscation is the quality of hiding the operations of the host logic by injecting active masking.

Advanced generations of the Defense Machine will evolve into hardware obfuscated server/client defensible machines running within the Lillypond platform using undiscoverable symmetric key technology guaranteeing unbreakable encryption. This Defense Machine method is intended to evolve toward inclusion in major communication device chipsets to achieve maximum defensible hardware lock-down.

Lillypad’s Defense Machine employs automation tools available in standards based WAI-ARIA (Web Accessibility Initiative – Accessible Rich Internet Applications) [7] [8]. This specification allows greater automation control from within local web pages specified for the special needs community. Lillypond seeks to lock these automation capabilities to the local defense device hardware to achieve a hyper-secure independent data process to ensure User privacy with flexible deterministic data use.

This web application becomes a central means of communicating with and controlling existing social media applications. Ownership of that capability is achieved through a personality-privilege-property chain of data notations emanating from the User’s Token. Access to this data is achieved within the Defense Machine structure by smart contracts which have no access beyond the notation chain.

The Token

The basis for Lillypond monetization and automation is the Lili-Token (Hyperledger Fabric Token digest). The token represents a unit of ownership, meaning the User is the record owner being represented by one token which describes the independent history in a digest. Other parties seeking to interact with the User do so by ‘rented’ or ‘leased’ or ‘gifted’ Token components – fractional units created and destroyed per use-case.

This Token digest maintains the fiduciary link to the User historical records represented by the notation structure in the independent record.


The Token is a living document stored in defended storage as chosen by the User. These choices include local storage in the User defense machine or remote storage in cyclically audited peer-to-peer agent vaults between User devices and distributed defensible machines owned by third party financial governance entities.

Value for the monetization is represented by the Lili-Coin (Coin). The Coin represents units of value ascribed to the purposes derived by reference to the independent record data codified by time-frame notations. This time-frame system provides fractional valuation of the independent record usage by data brokers.

This Token-Coin structure is built and maintained by the Lillypond monetization engine representing that independent record’s interests.

Security Issues

LillyPond is built on a complex blockchain-like technology (Merkle Tree) using a unique set of hardware-based security and defense measures. We assume the very possibility of any software-based security to be a lost cause. The National Security Agency (NSA) believes “A sufficiently large quantum computer, if built, would be capable of undermining all widely- deployed public key algorithms used for key establishment and digital signatures.” The NSA go on to say “It is generally accepted that quantum computing techniques are much less effective against symmetric algorithms than against current widely used public key algorithms. While public key cryptography requires changes in the fundamental design to protect against a potential future quantum computer, symmetric key algorithms are believed to be secure provided a sufficiently large key size is used.” [9]

“NSA published the advisory memorandum to move to quantum resistant symmetric key options and to allow additional continued use of older public key options as a way to reduce modernization costs in the near term. In the longer term, NSA is looking to all NSS vendors and operators to implement standards-based, quantum resistant cryptography to protect their data and communications.” [9]

Informed technology industry consensus is centering on a rework of internet architecture to achieve the kind of data security critical to the success of distributed automation in a wild world. Without such changes, the future for internet dreams is unachievable. [10]

The Future

The blockchain community intends to build autonomous automated systems which, along with AI, will allow an independent machine-to-machine economy based on interoperable smart contract notation to emerge. In short, we are at the dawn of a new AI community for our planet. Such frictionless autonomous automated capabilities will allow accelerated granular levels of economic activity to develop as the financial viability of human economic activity is no longer tied to population density. Automating interoperable connections between the individual and User-centric specified governance is the beginning of this vision for the future.

While modern efforts to secure electronic systems and data flows using a combination of cryptography and secure network software are critical, more must be done to prevent adversarial attacks and unauthorized use. This includes tailoring hardware to take on the bulk of security governance. Lillypond intends to use various patented hardware technologies to create electronic host circuits with untouchable parasitic automation.

Through tampering and behavioral engineering, attackers can learn enough about a system or system users to expose weaknesses. Exposed computing weaknesses may be found in hardware or software, or both. Lillypond solves this problem by allowing for a flexible on-the-fly defensibility designed to employ small monitors within the


electronics device interdicting communications to and from a User computer to detect and prevent tampering and adversarial engineering of data handling logic.

The biggest challenge facing any interdiction or interception system is anticipating the unknown. This problem is compounded by the potentially devastating cost of being wrong only once.


Such challenges may be confronted using a restructurable hedge between the internet and the User’s host devices acting in concert with data chaining methods connecting document stores provisioned during the life of the computer use and AI derived data forms providing feedback and guidance to the interdiction processes.

From a system architecture perspective, this means using software and programmable hardware logic strategically and tactically to implement critical functionality. The benefit is that software and programmable logic can be updated on-the-fly to counteract new threats or resolve insufficiencies discovered in the system.

Lillypad is to be built using a novel, programmable-logic obfuscation hardware approach to significantly improve security coverage by adapting to behavior at the interdicting device level and extending it to the system level. Lillypond uses synthesizable programmable logic structures and powerful hardware insertion tools to embed programmable monitors within a Field Programmable Gate Array (FPGA) based integrated circuit within the Lillypad circuitry. The programmable monitors are created to overwatch the host process operations at the micro- circuit level. This overwatch/host fabric may be immediately loaded into an FPGA to take up an adapted interdiction based on feedback from the Lillypond system. Future versions of this reprogrammable/reconfigurable capability may be created in mass-produced micro-electronic products without the use of FPGA properties.

The programs to be loaded into the device monitors are designed and created during the circuit creation phase. New programs can be designed and installed at any point in the device lifecycle (silicon or FPGA), to enhance functionality, improve coverage, or guard against new threats with adaptable counter-measures.

The programs instruct the monitor to look for suspicious behaviors such as:

• Dark web sampled prohibited context
• Abnormal user machine behavior
• Abnormal power cycling and sequencing behavior
• Abnormal performance profiles
• Unauthorized memory accesses including BIOS changes • Killed and interrupted processes

The application of these programmable monitors is nearly unlimited, restricted only by the programmable Finite State Machine (FSM) resources and reconfigurable engine assets provided within the host circuitry. The programmable monitors operate at-speed and can counteract suspected threats with immediate countermeasures when used in conjunction with Lillypond’s security wrappers.

These wrappers enable real-time responses to threats by the following:

• Forcing circuits into a reset state (e.g., communication peripherals, memory controllers) • Blocking read and/or write access to select memories, memory regions, or peripherals • Creating obfuscated bus activity or other masking functions
• Wiping out (erasing) sensitive data stored in select memories

• Creating alerts and pro-actively allowing the system to enter a “safe mode” gracefully 6

The Lillypond System referenced in Figure 2 is a reconfigurable, reprogrammable and obfuscated ethernet packet analyzer (2-1) coupled with controlled document storage (2-1) communicating over a secure peer-to-peer communications channel (2-2) to Audit Trail Custody Resources (2-3) and Objectification Facility (2-4) in conjunction with AI data lakes (2-5) holding resolved behavior.

Lillypad referenced in Figure 3 consists of a Host Processor (Fig3-1) continuously sampling ethernet packets and assembling snapshot views of transactions between the User Computer and the Internet World. The Host Processor is controlled by an obfuscated Hypervisor Fabric (3-2) which provides execution patterns for resolving assertions placed against the snapshot.

A Hardware Obfuscated

Processor (3-3) controls the Hypervisor Fabric and reports on assertions to the Fabric Clock (3-4) which resolves synchronization command

control and emits anchored chain notations to the Defense Channel. 7

These facilities are installed on an FPGA (3-5) to create an integrated circuit “Chip” supported by electronic support circuits (3-6). The device package includes ethernet communication media access control address (MAC address) facilities from the Device to the outgoing Defense Channel (3-7), the User Computer (3-8) and the Internet World (3-9) which carries the incoming Defense Channel.

Lillypad is primarily protected against tampering and other adversarial behavior using unique patented reconfigurable and reprogrammable obfuscated hardware to achieve a reliable and trustworthy source for resolving, recording and executing interdiction protocols against behavior profiles encountered by naive or unskilled users communicating with adversarial or compromising resources on the internet at large. Obfuscation uses segregated tools to inject into a circuit, other circuits that hide the operations of the host circuitry.

There are many advantages to using multiple and distributed programmable monitors. With multiple programmable monitors instantiated within different clock domains, power domains, and functional domains, a full system view can be realized. Moreover, the monitors can be tied together with cross-triggering signals so that more elaborate intra-domain and inter-domain conditions can be analyzed. This provides similar benefits to the hardware/software interactions described above for system-wide obfuscation and protection. Sprinkling multiple programmable monitors throughout the design also provides operational redundancy. When an attacker attempts to manipulate the data streams or logic functionality in one subsystem, the monitors in the other subsystem will be alerted and create bastion actions against the behavior.

The fact that these programmable monitors can be repurposed at any point in time on-the-fly and at clock speeds is crucial. Monitors can be programmed in-system to perform different functions over time. By time-slicing functionality, a wider range of behaviors can be detected with the same resources. To the adversary, this creates the appearance of random countermeasures and ultimately makes efforts to tamper or reverse-engineer the system behavior increasingly difficult toward impossibility.

Obvious concerns are whether the programmable monitors are more vulnerable and whether they in fact provide additional portals of attack. The simple answer is no. There are multiple security features within the Lillypond system. The embedded communication channel is secure and the programming files are encrypted and chained, making it virtually impossible for an attacker to make undetected modifications to a programmable monitor. Cross-triggering between monitors and the handshakes with defense machines provide a reliable and redundant “neighborhood watch” and early warning system.

Additionally, the fact that the programmable fabric is inserted with automated tools on-the-fly ensures that the system is correct by design and construction, reducing the possibility that an implementation flaw will enable a breach. Automation tool segmentation ensures verification/validation compliance. Random repurposing of the structure by retracing the circuitry and rerouting signal paths means any attempt at penetration will be faced with a different circuit in the next moment. Ultimately, the inclusion of this programmable fabric will greatly increase the overall system security, allowing the protection of data property while at the same time protecting the end systems and the data storage.

The use of programmable logic extends beyond anti-tamper and countermeasure applications. Lillypond is developing new applications with programmable fabric to address anti-counterfeit and feature activation control – two key components required to secure supply chains and protect critical assets.

The anti-counterfeit and feature activation solutions are closely related. The anti-counterfeit solution uses a combination of programmable logic and one-time-programmable memory to store unique encrypted codes within


a device. Defended devices are programmed and subsequently authorized through a secure defense channel interface using Lillypond’s software security application.

The combined use of distributed ID code storage and distributed programmable logic structures increases code security, as an adversary must compromise the encryption key, the programmable logic programming protocol, and the programmable bitfile(s) to be momentarily successful. Not only will each device store a unique encrypted ID, but each ID is written and retrieved using a different programming bitfile, meaning the bits of the code will be scrambled in different locations on each device.

The distributed programmable logic structures also provide a measure of obfuscation to thwart efforts to uncover program codes by physical examination of the Device. Lillypad defense machines will use encryption where most appropriate but will also use hardware signal braiding to provide random instantaneous intermittent scrambling of data buses without resorting to programmatic overhead.

Feature activation also uses a combination of non-volatile or one-time-programmable memory in conjunction with programmable logic wrappers. These wrappers are inserted on key control signals such as resets, mode controls, or power controls. The wrappers can be controlled by local software, through a secure distributed defense channel to change host circuit operation on-the-fly at-speed.

The wrappers are inserted using formal automated tools during the hardware build (FPGA configuration) phase. These may also be used for silicon manufacture. The choice of wrapper type is dependent on the security, configuration and authentication requirements of the Device or System.

The activation and deactivation of features can be volatile or non-volatile. If certain tampering or unauthorized activities are detected, features can be permanently disabled. Permanent deactivation uses one-time programmable storage designed into the signal wrappers. Control of power and clock operations may also be used to destroy the chip autonomously or remotely in ultra-sensitive use-cases.

Both the external and internal programming interfaces are secure, and all program bit files are stored in encrypted form.

Key Benefits of Lillypond Technology

• Protect your user history
Lillypond’s use of novel programmable logic structures protect the system and provide assurance that any new and unexpected threats or security flaws can be mitigated through immediate on-the-fly firmware or software upgrade and reconfiguration.

• Protect your communications
Suppliers of consumer products and semiconductor manufacturers can reduce exposure to security threats by gaining assurance that their devices’ critical data are transferred through or stored in the most secure methods.

• Low-cost / low-risk implementation
Patented silicon-proven IP and powerful automated hardware insertion tools along with partner technologies allow Lillypond’s innovative and robust security schemes to be constructed with low cost reproducibility.

• Designed-in safety
Automated insertion and reuse of hardware creation capabilities in concert with software allow AI to leverage Lillypond’s technology with the confidence that complexity does not increase design risk or device vulnerability.



Children with autism must have auditable access to internet services to help them cope with the complexities of medical care and interaction with the outside world as they grow into adulthood. Children and adults with special needs must have seamless healthcare during vulnerable and transitional periods to avoid setbacks and complications throughout life. This interaction must respect and preserve their privacy and appropriate use of personal data. Lillypond intends to provide a unique hardware/software platform to build a trusted independent record structure for individuals within the special needs communities, such as the autism community.


[1] “List of social networking websites”

Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia


[2] “Merkle tree”

Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia


[3] “Connecting Health and Care for the Nation: A shared nationwide interoperability roadmap.”
Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology. (2015) Version 1.0 www.healthit.gov/sites/default/files/hie-interoperability/nationwide-interoperability- roadmap-final-version-1.0.pdf [4] “Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act” (HITECH Act) Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Health_Information_Technology_for_Economic_and_Clinical_Health_Act [5] [6] “Report on Health Information Blocking.”
Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology. (2015). Report to Congress. www.healthit.gov/sites/default/files/reports/info_blocking_040915.pdf [7] “WAI-ARIA (Web Accessibility Initiative – Accessible Rich Internet Applications)”

Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia


[8] “WAI-ARIA: Method To Develop Disable Friendly Websites” by Fazia Fatima, Shipra Rawal, Chinmay Garg3 and P N Barwal International Journal of Information & Computation Technology. ISSN 0974-2239 Volume 4, Number 9 (2014), pp. 925-930 ripublication.com/irph/ijict_spl/ijictv4n9spl_09.pdf [9] “Dual_EC_DRBG (Dual Elliptic Curve Deterministic Random Bit Generator)” Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dual_EC_DRBG [10] “Rearchitecting a defendable Internet”
by Halvar Flake / Thomas Dullien, July 2017, reference slide #12 www.sig-switzerland.ch/wp-content/uploads/2015/07/SIGS_Dec16_Thomas_Dullien_Re- architecting_a_defendable_Internet.pdf

Contact: keith@sawbladeventures.com

This Year Autism and Music 2018

Watching so many of my students develop deeper skills at the keyboard has me thinking about new projects for HurleyPiano. Music and coding go hand in hand so we are currently researching a Kickstarter campaign to promote a coding and music project for the special needs community. Perhaps there is a connection between the pieces played and new code; what is the underlying code behind Riders On the Storm by The Doors or Smoke On the Water by Deep Purple?

I know by now not to predict the outcome as our community of amazing students will do nothing except surprise us all with their ingenuity and creativity. My students have made connections between The Entertainer by Scott Joplin and Fur Elise by Beethoven; between Eine Kleine Nachtmusik by Mozart and Bohemian Rhapsody by Queen. It is impossible to predict what will happen in any lesson.

I want to watch my students turn Vader’s March into code or sketch out correlations between between jazz and baroque. Riders On the Storm and Prelude in C by CPE Bach is a favorite combination in our studio. Or Prelude in C and Putting On the Ritz by Irving Berlin. Just as Mozart never heard his Requiem performed, The Doors never performed Riders On the Storm before a live audience or in concert. Both Mozart and Jim Morrison died shortly after finishing their respective projects.

Watching the students in their lessons it is easy to see how our kiddos on the spectrum are fascinated by deeper underlying patterns and structure to the surface appearance of things. So now the challenge is to help them see patterns in code and unleash their pattern recognition talents on the emerging world of AI and music.

Call it a miracle: how strangers got two special needs families across the border

I left wondering how those who remained would even make it to the next town, much less another 2,200 miles to Tijuana and the US. And yet weeks later, I would reunite with two of those families in a quiet suburb of San Diego, and regard it as a miracle.

Both families have children with special needs that require serious medical attention: Maria Caceres’s son Javier, who is 15, has Down’s syndrome, epilepsy and a heart condition. He suffered seizures twice while I followed them and routinely vomited and passed out on the highway.

Juan Antonio’s six-year-old daughter Lesly has cerebral palsy. She cannot walk or speak and was confined to a rickety stroller. Loud noises and rumbling trucks caused her anxiety and sent her into convulsions; the girl hardly slept and was miserable.


Continue reading here

10 steps to starting special needs piano

The videos complimenting this blog can be found at www.hurleypiano.com. I recommend you watch Black Key videos 1-20 before you read this article. I will answer any and all questions therapists, parents and teachers have about this method. So get emailing as soon as...

Two Nursery Rhyme Piano Favorites

By now you are getting the idea that while piano can be taught to special needs kiddos it requires just as much work as any other teaching tool in your clinic or piano studio. So let’s take a look at learning some easy pieces; Twinkle, Twinkle; Brother Jack; Row, Row,...

Piano Blog Making A Trailer

If you use a trailer as a sketch up for a documentary then you can use a blog as a sketch up for your trailer. This blog is my pre trailer sketch, the gathering of ideas and intuitions, the separation of hunches from false starts and good ideas from bad. At a very...

Special Needs Concert at Steinway

Steinway Piano Gallery Austin On June 13 2015 special needs students at Hurley Piano gave a piano recital at Steinway Piano Gallery in Austin Texwas. Students range from speech delay to aspergers, down syndrome, sensory processing disorder, cerebral palsy and...

Top 5 Reasons why Special Needs Music Lessons Are Helpful

There are many ways in which a piqued interest in music can lead to benefits for a lifetime. On the contrary, if that interest is somehow, suppressed, it could lead to dissatisfaction and annoyance at the subconscious level. And for those without the natural interest,...

Visual Strategies to Help Special Children Learn the Piano

Children with special needs learn better when they can relate their lessons to something visually attractive, say bold colors or shapes that they can easily recognize. It might take several weeks for them to be able to grasp a particular idea clearly, but with...

Chime Candy

Hi Check out my music app for kids with special needs launched yesterday: Chime Candy on the App Store Also available in Google Play Store. Please download, it is free and leave an out of the park five star review! Thanks Richard Hurley...

Lillypond: Independent Data Blockchain

Lillypond: A Platform for Independent Data Ownership By Richard Hurley and Keith Guidry “Many dedicated people join global non-profit organizations to help, but the market often fails to fund or incentivize building the necessary infrastructure. I have long expected...

This Year Autism and Music 2018

Watching so many of my students develop deeper skills at the keyboard has me thinking about new projects for HurleyPiano. Music and coding go hand in hand so we are currently researching a Kickstarter campaign to promote a coding and music project for the special...

Call it a miracle: how strangers got two special needs families across the border

After a treacherous journey, two Honduran families with special needs children make it to California When I left the migrant caravan in early November, it was on a dusty road leading to Veracruz and hope was sinking. Most were exhausted and sick from the journey. The...