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#1293724 - 10/25/09 11:23 PM special behavior kid
chueh Offline
Full Member

Registered: 10/11/08
Posts: 85
Please correct me if I am wrong. I have had this 7 or 8 years old boy who is not normal. I am not sure if he is autistic or ADD type. He is not mentally challenged, but just does not follow what I say.

Our first private lesson ( i teach at a private music school, so I did not get to meet him before hand ) was struggling from the very beginning until the end. He did not even want to sit down in front of the piano. He refused everything. He did not like the piano sound. He covered his ears when I played.

The only answer I got for the first 3 lessons was "no" or "I don't think so." Then, he gradually got familiar with the environment and me. He played a little, yet did not follow the instructions at all. He always looked around and did not pay attention to what I said for 3 or 4 lessons.

Then, he got better, yet still did not focus or pay attention. There was always something in his mind. A little request I made become an insult for him. For example, he always stopped from right to left hand or vice versa. I said "let's not pause here." He offended with anger and said that he did not pause it. His mom would comfort him by saying, "we know that you did not stop."

We can go in a normal pace now, for he is familiar with me and the environment. However, he has concerntration problem; he always looks around. He still does not follow instructions. He has to do everything until his heart's content, and then he would do what I say with a good mood only. He can never follow my request by placing both of his hands on the keyboard. He has his own way of doing things. I let him play around, so he can be happy and learn something I teach. I have had experiences that he would never do anything at all if he gets upset.

I know that he is not going to be the same as other kids, and I don't expect anything from him but just make him enjoy music. However, I am not sure if I do it right or wrong. What's the proper teaching approach for special behavior kids who don't listen or follow instructions? What can I do better to help him?

Thanks

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#1293737 - 10/25/09 11:44 PM Re: special behavior kid [Re: chueh]
Oz Marcus Offline
Full Member

Registered: 06/23/09
Posts: 457
Loc: Melbourne, Australia
Oh dear.... that sounds like torture.
I would not be able to handle that at all.

It might be worth asking the parents what his diagnosis is, and then, once you have an idea of his diagnosis you might be able to find some information that is more specifically geared towards teaching and learning strategies for a child with that particular diagnosis.

Once you know his diagnosis, there may also be a support group or online information resource that can provide you with some suggestions of the best way to proceed.

Good luck!

M
_________________________
Oz Marcus
Currently working on:
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#1293764 - 10/26/09 02:21 AM Re: special behavior kid [Re: Oz Marcus]
keyboardklutz Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/21/07
Posts: 10856
Loc: London, UK (though if it's Aug...
Can you get mom to observe what a good student is like?
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#1293777 - 10/26/09 04:22 AM Re: special behavior kid [Re: keyboardklutz]
kevinb Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/18/09
Posts: 1565
This sounds to me like pretty normal behaviour for an 8-year-old boy. My experience (and I have a child this age myself) is that they need constant, relentless firmness to keep them on track. There's always going to be something more interesting than elementary piano practice for a kid that age, even if it's only irritating the teacher.

If there's a parent present, you need to be equally firm with him/her, and make it clear that no progress can be made without complete concentration and attention to the teacher. Parents also need to know that it's your job as the teacher to direct and sometimes to criticise the student -- and the parent has to accept that, or understand that he's wasting his money.

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#1293874 - 10/26/09 09:29 AM Re: special behavior kid [Re: kevinb]
apple* Offline


Registered: 01/01/03
Posts: 19862
Loc: Kansas
i only teach 'special' people. (a blind student, the mentally ill adults down the road in the 1/2 way house, my brain damaged brother)

can he imitate you? can he understand that music is written in different keys?

one of the most helpful things I did for my brother is teach him two handed arpeggios in walking arpeggiated circle of 5ths. He would follow me as we played around the piano bench.. for instance, i would play a C major 2 handed arpeggio from the bottom to the top.. when i got to the top, he would start at the bottom, i would walk around the bench and start at the bottom and play a G major 2 handed arpeggio.. a (C,G, D, A etc.)

i mention this because this was about the only thing i was able to teach him. He learned the sequence of chords and had great fun. He really didn't understand exactly what i was teaching him, but i was able to hold his interest... and today (40 years later) he still plays with it.
_________________________
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#1293884 - 10/26/09 09:53 AM Re: special behavior kid [Re: apple*]
Little_Blue_Engine Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/30/09
Posts: 1233
Loc: Ohio, US
I think Oz Marcus has it right. If Mom is approachable it would be good to find out what the diagnosis is, or if they've even come up with one yet. If you can learn about his condition you'll know what to expect from him and the best way to go about getting it. That would also give you the ability to judge whether or not the mom's expectatons are realistic. Even with a diagnosis it can be hard, but it would help give you a general idea maybe not of what will work, but of what won't. There's a good chance Mom's attitude and how well she deals with her own child is going to be the determining factor in how much he gets out of the experience.
_________________________
I'll figure it out eventually.
Until then you may want to keep a safe distance.


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#1293890 - 10/26/09 09:59 AM Re: special behavior kid [Re: apple*]
Morodiene Online   content
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/06/07
Posts: 10745
Loc: Boynton Beach, FL
KBK's suggestion is very helpful. Is the father in the picture at all? How would the boy respond if his father was present during the lessons? His mother directly contradicting you is not helpful at all. She needs to support you in front of the child so that the child knows he has to listen to you. What she said undermined your authority. Right now, the child has the authority here. He is dictating what is learned and how he will learn it. How is he doing in school? Have a conference with the parents without the child present and find out if he does have any learning disabilities, how he's doing in school, what is his practice environment at home like, etc. Then let them know what you'd like to see changed. They need to be on the same page as you in this, especially if there is a learning disability. Tell them that right now they're not getting their money's worth by not supporting your stance on things, but tailor the words to be as gentle or firm as you see fit. You are the professional here, and they are paying you to be the authority in piano. That means they have to give deference to you and the child must see this so that he will also give deference to you in the lesson.
_________________________
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#1293989 - 10/26/09 11:44 AM Re: special behavior kid [Re: Morodiene]
PianoKitty Offline
Full Member

Registered: 02/28/09
Posts: 133
Loc: US
I had a student exactly like that this past summer. The mom did not tell me anything about any behavior problems or a medical issue (I even have a spot for that on my sign-up sheet), but once lessons started, I could tell right away that the child had special needs. He acted just like your student - very distracted (much more than "normal" 8-year-olds, rude, unexpected outbursts, refusing to follow any directions, covering his ears when I played, very repetitive behaviors, etc.

After about 2 or 3 lessons, I called the mom (you don't want to discuss anything in front of the child) and described the behavior I was experiencing with her son. I asked her if she had any idea why he was doing those things...perhaps if there was something I was unaware of. Sure enough, THEN she tells me that he is "mildly autistic" and also being tested for Asperger's syndrome. I was highly annoyed that she did not tell me these things ahead of time, so that I could be prepared for it and/or decide if I wanted to take on the challenge. My sign-up sheet asks outright if there is anything like that going on, and she left it blank.

As it happened, I did continue to work with him for the entire summer. But, as a previous poster said, it was torture. At the end of the summer, the mom and I mutually decided that piano was just not for him at this time. I was glad she was on the same page.

I would talk to the mother privately and ask if there is anything you should be aware of. A lot of parents of special needs kids are told by their doctors never to tell any caregiver or teacher about their child's special needs, because they fear being stigmatized by the educational system. That is what the mother told me, about why she did not tell me. She was afraid I would not take him as a student. I don't pretend to know what these parents go through, so I cannot judge. I just know that I really wish this parent would have told me about things in advance, without me having to figure it out for myself and have a conference with her later on.
_________________________
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#1293995 - 10/26/09 11:47 AM Re: special behavior kid [Re: chueh]
Ebony and Ivory Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/14/05
Posts: 1179
Loc: Minnesota
Originally Posted By: chueh
His mom would comfort him by saying, "we know that you did not stop."


THIS is a problem. Can you have mom wait outside the room? Tell her that you like to get to know the kids one-on-one for awhile before you have people sit in. If not, when mom comments say something like "shhh, no comments from the peanut gallery please" in a friendly voice and send a wink her way.

I agree with Morodiene.
Mom undermining you here is only going to get worse, and you will have no authority over this boy at all. Sometimes you just have to correct the child, parent or no parent.

I have a few kids whose mom's will pack/carry their books for them. Then when they are missing something they blame it on mom. I will tell them, right in front of mom, that it is THEIR job to make sure all their stuff gets into the bag, not mom's job. Mom rarely takes the hint, but at least the kid stops blaming them for it smile
_________________________
It is better to be kind than to be right.

Professional private piano teacher since 1994.

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#1294065 - 10/26/09 12:58 PM Re: special behavior kid [Re: Ebony and Ivory]
chueh Offline
Full Member

Registered: 10/11/08
Posts: 85
Thank you all very much for your replies. Everyone's input is precious. After reading all your replies, I think that "I" am the partial problem too. It's my personality that sometimes lets the kids have the chance to misbehave. I am a soft person who cannot discipline kids well. What I end up with is kids usually on top of me.

I really like the idea some of you suggested to ask the mom about the boy's diagnosis. Actually, I had an attempt to do that long time ago, but I hesitated. I was afraid that I would offend the mom; people do not like to be told that their kids have problems. I was so afraid that any the not-so-normal behavior I saw and noticed would make the parents think I discriminate him or something..... Because the parents are extremely PATIENT with their boy. Most of the times, the mom sits in. Sometimes the dad sits in with the mom. They pamper their son. They always comfort him. They always ask the son to do what i ask without any slight tone of commanding. One or twice the boy refused to do what I said after I begged him at least 5 times, the mom commanded him still with a nice and patient tone. Then, the boy said "stop fussing about it!"

As Morodine noticed from my original post "Right now, the child has the authority here. He is dictating what is learned and how he will learn it." Yes, he is the one who runs the entire lesson. However, since the parents are pretty much letting him be the authority, I have not been sure if I should change their family dynamic. This is the biggest dilemma for me with the boy. I feel that since this boy has some kind of problem, the parents are trying to give more and love more, and actually to let him do whatever he wants to kind of compensate his problem.....

However, at the same time, if one wants to really study piano and takes it seriously, playing around is not the answer. It always involves certain discipline and practices, as well as following instructions. I have tried to make the lesson fun, yet he does not participate. He does not imitate at all but lives in his own world.

He never held half notes for 2 beats, so I wanted to write 1 2 for the notes. He did not want me to write them. He wanted to write them himself, so I let him. Then, he wanted to write all the half notes for the entire book. His mom tried stopping him by keeping saying that he could do it after the lesson. He would not listen. He kept doing it for 5 minutes. The mom said, "stop writing it," with a firm voice. He got the idea, but also got very mad at her. He then did not want to play any note for the rest of the lesson.

He started taking the lesson in summer. I thought that he would not come back for the Fall. However, towards the end of summer, he started developing the interest in piano playing. Yes, it was torturous to me, and it seemed to waste their time and money on the lessons. However, I did not say anything to the parents, for I could not be hard-hearted enough to tell them to cut his interest. I could not judge or presume that he would not have a successful piano study based on his conditions. He might be the greatest pianist later in 21th century, who knows?

Every time he looks around and does not follow what I say, I keep telling myself that I only deal with him for 30 minutes, while his parents do for 24/7. They don't complain, so I should be calm and be patient too with him. It is now not as much tortuous as before, yet I am still very puzzled what and how I do to help the condition.........


Edited by chueh (10/26/09 01:07 PM)

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#1294111 - 10/26/09 01:43 PM Re: special behavior kid [Re: chueh]
Morodiene Online   content
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/06/07
Posts: 10745
Loc: Boynton Beach, FL
Originally Posted By: chueh
Thank you all very much for your replies. Everyone's input is precious. After reading all your replies, I think that "I" am the partial problem too. It's my personality that sometimes lets the kids have the chance to misbehave. I am a soft person who cannot discipline kids well. What I end up with is kids usually on top of me.

This is what happens when you don't set boundaries. Children actually appreciate them, even if they're always pushing the limits. I would make up a poster with some basic rules for your studio for all young students to adhere to, and review before each lesson begins.

With children who are tough at staying on task, I have some small stuffed animals that I set up on the piano when they begin their lesson. They have to complete a task to get an animal moved from one side of the piano to another. The goal is to get all the animals to the other side. I have not found a need for a prize if they do this, but that shouldn't be out of the question. I even let the child move the animal themselves, and they take pride in accomplishing that. Some visual way to let them know if they are doing well or not helps.

In addition, I would have set rules for how you will handle misbehavior. I would have the parents wait outside, but let them know what your rules are and what consequences for not doing them will be. They should wait outside should the lesson end prematurely because the child disobeys. The child should also be told the consequences up front and sometimes you'll need to remind them if they're close to breaking a rule. A "three strikes you're out" kind of thing would be fine, but it's up to you to set it at whatever tolerance level you have for misbehavior.

I would also have something to the effect of if the child is sent home early for 3 times, then you will discontinue teaching him. Since you're at a school, the parents and go with another teacher there. Again, the child should be made aware of this. This way the dismissal of the student has to do with the child's behavior and not yours. I'm not entirely convinced he has a learning disability, but it is possible. Even with ADD or something, having those rules and explicit tasks to accomplish can be very helpful to them. Unstructured time is harder for LD children.



Quote:
As Morodine noticed from my original post "Right now, the child has the authority here. He is dictating what is learned and how he will learn it." Yes, he is the one who runs the entire lesson. However, since the parents are pretty much letting him be the authority, I have not been sure if I should change their family dynamic. This is the biggest dilemma for me with the boy. I feel that since this boy has some kind of problem, the parents are trying to give more and love more, and actually to let him do whatever he wants to kind of compensate his problem.....


If the parents don't like your ideas, let them know that children actually like to have rules as it gives them a sense of security and it shows they are being loved. Enforcing the rules does this as well.

Quote:
He never held half notes for 2 beats, so I wanted to write 1 2 for the notes. He did not want me to write them. He wanted to write them himself, so I let him. Then, he wanted to write all the half notes for the entire book. His mom tried stopping him by keeping saying that he could do it after the lesson. He would not listen. He kept doing it for 5 minutes. The mom said, "stop writing it," with a firm voice. He got the idea, but also got very mad at her. He then did not want to play any note for the rest of the lesson.

Here is an example of being task-oriented. You should learn from this to be more specific in your instructions. "Write in the counting for this song." Doing it for the entire book at once doesn't really have the same effect as only doing it for the piece he's learning, which I'm sure you understand. He does not, however, and so if he failed to do as he was told, he would not get the move an animal over or get said prize, have a "strike one" etc.

Quote:
He started taking the lesson in summer. I thought that he would not come back for the Fall. However, towards the end of summer, he started developing the interest in piano playing. Yes, it was torturous to me, and it seemed to waste their time and money on the lessons. However, I did not say anything to the parents, for I could not be hard-hearted enough to tell them to cut his interest. I could not judge or presume that he would not have a successful piano study based on his conditions. He might be the greatest pianist later in 21th century, who knows?

Even if this is not the case, of course something can be gained from him taking piano. In this case, I think there is something you can learn from him as well. I would keep trying with this new tactic. Thinking how how he responds to certain things will help direct you to put things in ways he cannot respond in his usual manner.

Quote:
Every time he looks around and does not follow what I say, I keep telling myself that I only deal with him for 30 minutes, while his parents do for 24/7. They don't complain, so I should be calm and be patient too with him. It is now not as much tortuous as before, yet I am still very puzzled what and how I do to help the condition.........

This is not a good attitude for you to have, but I think it is because you are not being proactive in your teaching style. I'm not saying be mean, but set the rules, remind him of them, and enforce them. The responsibility then rests on his shoulders. If he cannot or will not do this, then it gives you an easy out.


Edited by Morodiene (10/26/09 01:44 PM)
_________________________
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MTNA member
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Petrof 9'2 Concert, Yamaha G3, Roland FP-7, Yamaha MOX6, Kawai MP11

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#1294132 - 10/26/09 02:05 PM Re: special behavior kid [Re: chueh]
Ebony and Ivory Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/14/05
Posts: 1179
Loc: Minnesota
Originally Posted By: chueh
However, since the parents are pretty much letting him be the authority, I have not been sure if I should change their family dynamic. This is the biggest dilemma for me with the boy. I feel that since this boy has some kind of problem, the parents are trying to give more and love more, and actually to let him do whatever he wants to kind of compensate his problem.....


You CANNOT change the family dynamic, nor should you try. What you CAN do is let this boy know that YOU have rules for when he is with you. He will appreciate it. Kids need boundaries and you will be helping him, not hurting him.
There is no reason you can't "love more" and still have rules. As a matter of fact, sometimes tough love is the best love.

I have worked with Special Ed kids for many years, letting them "run the show" is NOT the solution. They can manipulate just like non-SpEd kids can. Kids need rules no matter what kind of kid they are. Yes, you may have to pick your battles, but please pick. smile

Don't mean to sound preachy, sorry if it came off that way. Again, Morodiene has some very good points.
_________________________
It is better to be kind than to be right.

Professional private piano teacher since 1994.

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#1294171 - 10/26/09 03:07 PM Re: special behavior kid [Re: PianoKitty]
kevinb Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/18/09
Posts: 1565
Originally Posted By: PianoKitty
Sure enough, THEN she tells me that he is "mildly autistic" and also being tested for Asperger's syndrome. I was highly annoyed that she did not tell me these things ahead of time, so that I could be prepared for it and/or decide if I wanted to take on the challenge. My sign-up sheet asks outright if there is anything like that going on, and she left it blank.


And quite right, too, in my view. Apart from turning the student away, what can you practically do with this information?

The problem here is that autism covers a vast range of problem severity, from barely detectable to severe disability. Many children are now considered to be autistic for no better reason that we have very sensitive tests for the condition.

If a child has a form of autism that is severe enough to merit special educational provision then, as a teacher, you'll know. You'll know very quickly -- you won't need a parent to write it on a form. If it isn't severe enough to merit special educational provision, then labelling a child `autistic' can only be harmful.

Just my $0.02, as always.

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#1294205 - 10/26/09 04:14 PM Re: special behavior kid [Re: kevinb]
Morodiene Online   content
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/06/07
Posts: 10745
Loc: Boynton Beach, FL
However, if a child as Asperger's syndrome, for instance, then teaching them will be very different than someone with mild autism or a discipline issue. There are certain things a teacher can and must do to help the child deal with the demands of piano study if there is some for of learning disability. Certainly, it may mean referring that student to a teacher more well-equipped to handle this kind of teaching, but isn't that also to the benefit of the student?
_________________________
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#1294246 - 10/26/09 05:09 PM Re: special behavior kid [Re: kevinb]
Monica K. Offline

Platinum Supporter until Dec 31 2012


Registered: 08/10/05
Posts: 17698
Loc: Lexington, Kentucky
Originally Posted By: kevinb
Originally Posted By: PianoKitty
Sure enough, THEN she tells me that he is "mildly autistic" and also being tested for Asperger's syndrome. I was highly annoyed that she did not tell me these things ahead of time, so that I could be prepared for it and/or decide if I wanted to take on the challenge. My sign-up sheet asks outright if there is anything like that going on, and she left it blank.


And quite right, too, in my view. Apart from turning the student away, what can you practically do with this information?

The problem here is that autism covers a vast range of problem severity, from barely detectable to severe disability. Many children are now considered to be autistic for no better reason that we have very sensitive tests for the condition.

If a child has a form of autism that is severe enough to merit special educational provision then, as a teacher, you'll know. You'll know very quickly -- you won't need a parent to write it on a form. If it isn't severe enough to merit special educational provision, then labelling a child `autistic' can only be harmful.

Just my $0.02, as always.





Mine, too. My son has been variously diagnosed as PDD-NOS or Asperger's. My usual policy is to disclose his status if and only if necessary. He's quite variable in his interactions and skills (he's definitely quirky and delayed in some areas, but he was moved up a year ahead in math at school), and it's hard for me to tell in advance of a new situation whether he's going to be just fine and indistinguishable from other kids, or if he's going to need adjustments or accommodations. Because I can't "untell" a diagnosis, and because others can and do stigmatize him once they learn he has a diagnosis I prefer not to disclose it unless the situation demands it.

That being said, if I were the parent here, I probably would've concluded that my 'don't ask, don't tell' policy wasn't working. wink

So, I probably wouldn't ask the parent, "say, does your child have some sort of psychological problem or neurological disorder?", but I might say something like, "Here's some of the difficulties I see your son having during piano lessons [then summarize]. I'm wondering if he shows the same behaviors at home or in school and, if so, if there are any tricks you or his teachers use to help him focus."
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#1294368 - 10/26/09 08:24 PM Re: special behavior kid [Re: Monica K.]
chueh Offline
Full Member

Registered: 10/11/08
Posts: 85
Good and clear advice. Thank you all very much. I learn a lot from this post

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