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#925123 - 10/04/04 11:44 AM Help, ADHD student!  
Joined: Oct 2004
Posts: 2
pianistang Offline
Junior Member
pianistang  Offline
Junior Member

Joined: Oct 2004
Posts: 2
Help! (sorry, this is kinda long)I have a few kids with ADHD. One of them came from a different teacher to me about a year ago. He was with the other teacher for about 5 years and hardly learned a thing!- no notes learning (she wrote the notes in the music), no counting at all, hardly any theory, etc. It is hard for him to change his mindset about anything, let alone sit there for 30 minutes. We try to do ear training, listen to fun music and talk about it, write music out on staff paper, scales, and simple songs. He always insists on playing the same song most of the time- without counting of course. Any suggestions on a good beginner method book or other music activities to do in the lesson? His parents told me that they do not care if he learns a thing, they just want him exposed to music. He likes piano lessons, some of the time. I just don't want him to hate music ever. Help!

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#925124 - 10/04/04 12:29 PM Re: Help, ADHD student!  
Joined: Oct 2004
Posts: 17
thyger Offline
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thyger  Offline
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Joined: Oct 2004
Posts: 17
I taught a kid with autism. He was attention deficit to say the least. That was the least of our problems. He was also the brightest most talented student I ever had. He memorized his pieces before I could. And as a fourth grader could play with an understanding I simply have never seen in a child.

My solution was to treat the kid as a normal kid. When he went into an autistic tantrum I simply railed on him like I would any kid who was misbehaving. I proceeded as though these parents had somehow overreacted, these parents, I swear it was freshman psych rearing its ugly head. They practically wanted this kid to have problems and sure enough he does. Make sure the parents are giving the kid a chance to be normal. Yes maybe there was a real problem, but dammit treat kids as though theyre normal... only as a child do humans have limitless potential. If you hang something bad over a kids head, sure enough they will respond to that.

#925125 - 10/05/04 05:23 AM Re: Help, ADHD student!  
Joined: Sep 2004
Posts: 14
Deutsch Offline
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Deutsch  Offline
Junior Member

Joined: Sep 2004
Posts: 14
I could be that teacher who taught him for 5 years without teaching him anything! Now that you've had him as a student for awhile, I'll bet you understand why he didn't learn anything. Not necessarily the teacher's fault.

I got my ADHD student when another teacher kicked him out for dumping a coke on her during a lesson. He was a neighbor, and I didn't want to say no. My attitude was:
1. I wanted him to like music, even if he didn't make great leaps of progress.
2. ADHD kids in general get very little positive feedback, so I tried to find good things to say. It wasn't always easy.
3. I leveled with him. I told him I got just as much money if he fooled around than if he actually learned, so it was his decision. He was shocked by that at first. But it became my mantra, and eventually, as soon as I began that sentence, he straightened up.
4. We didn't pretend he didn't have a problem. I talked to his mother about timing his medication differently on lesson days. I asked him for suggestions as well.
5. I knew his parents were exhausted, and didn't work with him at all at home. They sent him to the piano and closed the door. He did whatever he wanted. They were happy as long as there was noise coming from the room. So I treated his lessons like practice. We spent months on several short pieces at a time. At lessons, I started with one-line sightreading exercises which got rewarded when he could play the one line perfectly. (Okay, bribing. But it worked.) Often it would take half the lesson, but when he accomplished it, he wanted to do another! He loved it, and that is how I was able to get him to focus on learning notes and counting.
6. He couldn't handle a recital. He played things in fits and starts. Often would switch to another piece right in the middle of the one he was playing! -- Instead we chose one piece to be his "recital" piece, and when he finally learned it well, I recorded it, and burned him a CD for him to play for his parents and grandparents.

I knew from his parents that, although he started and stopped many other activities, he loved piano lessons.

When I moved away, he quit piano, and started another instrument. He did fairly well, I think, because he was already ahead of the pack on some knowledge of music. I don't think he will ever be a musician, but I do think he will be a music lover.

#925126 - 10/05/04 07:49 AM Re: Help, ADHD student!  
Joined: May 2004
Posts: 81
TGG Offline
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TGG  Offline
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Joined: May 2004
Posts: 81
Dear Pianistang,

I reply not as a teacher but as a father of three adopted kids, two of whom have vraying degress of ADHD and one of whom is also mildly autisitic, suffering from Asberger's Syndrom. My 13 year old ADHD child is a successful guitar student and my 15 year old ADHD/Asberger's child is a fairly successful piano student and has been since he was five.

I think Deutsch gave you really good advice. ADHD kids get frustrated trying to focus on the minutia of learning anything that's new and complex. They struggle with music the way they struggle with math. Maybe they struggle with music because they struggle with math. Unlike you and me, when they get frustrated they act frustrated. One of the defining characteristics of ADHD behavior is the lack of any internal checks and balances that keep the rest of us from saying the first thing that comes into our heads. They will consistently say the first thing that comes into their heads. That means the two greatest things you can bring to the lesson experience are an upbeat attitude and a lot of patience.

My fifteen year old, during the pre-teen years especially, would get really crabby during lessons..."I'm an idiot..." "I'll never be able to learn this..." "I'm NOT going to try again..."
He was mirroring what a lot of people at his school and in his neighborhood were telling him. He had a negative self image and the struggle with music fed the bad karma. His teacher, to her lasting credit, would just kind of listen to him fuss, and then she's smile and say "OK, now let's try once more." If that didn't work, she'd say "Ok, let's try a different piece right now." She'd go with the flow and she wouldn't let herself either get engaged in the bad karma or defeated by the fussiness. So you got good advice from Thyger too...treat ADHD kids like you would other students...with perhaps extra doses of patinece and flexibility. If the Hanon is causing the kid to meltdown, blow off the Hanon at this lesson and find something else to look at. If there's nothing else to look at, find something else to listen to. If there's nothing else to listen to, read a Mozart biography out loud. Just don't give up on these kids, because they are surround by people, frequently in their own families, who do. God bless and keep teaching. TGG

#925127 - 10/06/04 10:17 PM Re: Help, ADHD student!  
Joined: Feb 2004
Posts: 335
Rob Mullins Offline
Full Member
Rob Mullins  Offline
Full Member

Joined: Feb 2004
Posts: 335
I went through this this past summer and the only thing that seemed to keep that particular student focused was his dad getting him a casio keyboard with full songs and a drum machine built in. He spaced out a lot while at the piano, but that keyboard would hold his attention for most of a lesson.

Rob Mullins
Recording Artist and Jazz Piano Instructor
#925128 - 10/12/04 10:27 AM Re: Help, ADHD student!  
Joined: Oct 2004
Posts: 12
margrave of brandenburg Offline
Junior Member
margrave of brandenburg  Offline
Junior Member

Joined: Oct 2004
Posts: 12
Hong Kong
hi pianistang,
www.nas.org.uk and www.tonyattwood.com.au
Check out these two sites. They provide a lot of literature for those who want to find out more about Autism. I 'm not a teacher but i hope this may help anyway. I would recommend maybe to be very sensitive to your student's feelings and try not to patronise your student. Also try to discover waht is the big motivator for your kid and also try to find something challenging for him to do. Plan well ahead for this kid's lessons and prepare a lot of different activities b/c it seems like your student gets bored very easily and cannot pay attention to one subject for too long. This is okay as long as they are still learning. How old is the kid? Maybe at this stage, the student isn't really into activities that involve a lot of writing.
But you can still teach him counting and rhythm through a lot of different singing games, movement games, clapping games, stomping games, hopping, jumping. It seems like this may work if your kid likes to move around a lot. You can try engaging him into this type of activity.
To learn notes recognition, perhaps try pictures and flashcards instead of having him writing notes on staff.

good luck and don't give up. let us know how it goes...

margrave of brandenburg

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