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Autistic children learn to tickle the ivories

When Beth Bauer wanted to teach autistic children like Jason Neurhing how to play the piano, people didn't think she could. But as NBC's Kevin Tibbles reports, she's enjoyed proving them wrong.

When Jason Neurhing's mom wanted him to learn the piano, many didn't think he could do it.

When Beth Bauer wanted to teach children like Jason, people didn't think she could do that either. She's enjoyed proving them wrong.

"It's what teachers are supposed to do," she says.

But very few can.

Jason has autism. Beth has compassion.

"Music has really unlocked a key that may have kept him silent," says Bauer.

When nerve damage in her arm cut short a promising performance career 10 years ago, Bauer started teaching children, about 30 so far, many instructors were reluctant to take.

What does she get out of this?

"I've found a place where I can make a difference," says Bauer. "I like challenges."

Like many children with autism, 7-year-old Spencer Hua had trouble expressing himself with other kids — until they heard him play.

"They see him in a different light, and see him as maybe somebody who can be a friend," says Bauer.

And when Bauer's students perform, they show a genuine sense of accomplishment.

"I react the same way when a student plays 'Mary Had a Little Lamb' as when a student plays a huge Beethoven sonata," says Bauer.

Because when a child with autism gets up in front of a crowd, the result is so much more than just music to her ears.