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#1760049 - 09/26/11 11:28 PM Anyone teach a child with ADD?
pianogirl1978 Offline
Full Member

Registered: 06/06/11
Posts: 104
Loc: Nebraska
Hi there,

I have only taught a few lessons to a 7 year old girl who is VERY easily distracted. She is often looking ahead in the book, playing the piano while I am trying to talk to her. I constantly have to remind her to listen and then she will sigh and say, it's too hard, I can't do it. The parents have not said anyting about her having ADD, and I don't want to ask them and offend them, but at the very first lesson, I noticed her mother hovered over her and was telling her to pay attention and to answer my questions. Her mother has not come to the next few lessons, it has been her father, and he has not said anything about ADHD, but she is very distractible - and sometimes will just stand up from the piano bench, or ask for water in the middle of a lesson, or ask me other random questions. I just can't seem to get her to focus. She can remember songs by hear very well, but teaching her to read music at this point seems like it s going to be very difficult! Any suggestions? Have any of you ever had any experience with this?
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Private Piano Teacher in Lincoln, Nebraska

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#1760079 - 09/27/11 12:00 AM Re: Anyone teach a child with ADD? [Re: pianogirl1978]
Dustin Sanders Offline
Full Member

Registered: 12/11/10
Posts: 479
Loc: US
Originally Posted By: pianogirl1978
Hi there,

I have only taught a few lessons to a 7 year old girl who is VERY easily distracted. She is often looking ahead in the book, playing the piano while I am trying to talk to her. I constantly have to remind her to listen and then she will sigh and say, it's too hard, I can't do it. The parents have not said anyting about her having ADD, and I don't want to ask them and offend them, but at the very first lesson, I noticed her mother hovered over her and was telling her to pay attention and to answer my questions. Her mother has not come to the next few lessons, it has been her father, and he has not said anything about ADHD, but she is very distractible - and sometimes will just stand up from the piano bench, or ask for water in the middle of a lesson, or ask me other random questions. I just can't seem to get her to focus. She can remember songs by hear very well, but teaching her to read music at this point seems like it s going to be very difficult! Any suggestions? Have any of you ever had any experience with this?


In my honest opinion, it's just part of her personality at this age. She is just an easily distracted 7 year old.

I have one student currently who just can't focus. He messes with the bench knobs, he starts to stand up and look inside the piano, he get's off his bench and goes to sit in a chair close to him, he will start talking about the most random things as if it's somehow connected in his mind, he takes absolutely forever to answer even the most simple question, etc etc etc

It's very frustrating, yes. But other than administering a drug to such a child, which I am absolutely against doing, there doesn't seem to be much else you can do.

In summary, what you think will work, will only work for a short while until they become distracted again.

My method is that I have to exert a ton of energy to act all excited about every little thing and switch out books and songs and methods all the time in order to keep his attention and keep him on his toes.
_________________________
An Eclectic Piano Teaching Experience







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#1760101 - 09/27/11 12:25 AM Re: Anyone teach a child with ADD? [Re: pianogirl1978]
AZNpiano Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/07/07
Posts: 5271
Loc: Orange County, CA
What you describe sounds normal to me. Maybe a little on the active end of the spectrum, but not quite ADD or ADHD.

I've taught public-school students (special ed) who actually have ADHD. Holy, smoke, they are hard to teach! I had two of them in the same class. It was mayhem on a daily basis. At any given moment objects may dart across the room.

What I would suggest is to use her active nature to your advantage. Do more station-to-station activities, and don't spend more than 1-4 minutes at each station. You can do the same lessons you do with the "regular" kids, just less of it, and shorter. You can even involve a worksheet, but instead of naming 20 notes, have her name 5, and move on to the next activity. It takes more planning on your part, but it's infinitely easier when it's a one-on-one private lesson than in a classroom setting.

Good luck to you!
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Private Piano Teacher and MTAC Member

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#1760222 - 09/27/11 07:13 AM Re: Anyone teach a child with ADD? [Re: pianogirl1978]
NMKeys Offline
Full Member

Registered: 04/01/10
Posts: 60
Loc: NM
Originally Posted By: pianogirl1978
Hi there,

She can remember songs by hear very well, but teaching her to read music at this point seems like it s going to be very difficult!


This part makes me think she has more of a vision issue than ADHD. True ADHD would have as many issues by ear as by sight. Try experimenting with print size and color. Use a white board with markers for some reading exercises. For starters, use a different color for each scale degree. See if she is more successful this way. Then limit colors to lines at one color and spaces at another. If she is successful with all the colors and less with those closer to the regular black and white, she could be dealing with dyslexia or brain/vision issues. None are the end of the world but may take some extra creativity on your part. Sometimes even the light gray or blue transparencies used for dyslexia can be used for any student to reduce some of the eye strain at the end of the day. I'm at the age where I sometimes need reading glasses and find these transparencies help my evening reading comfort.

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#1760318 - 09/27/11 10:24 AM Re: Anyone teach a child with ADD? [Re: pianogirl1978]
Ann in Kentucky Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/22/08
Posts: 2643
Loc: Kentucky
pianogirl, I have a friend who has a full studio and she routinely asks parents if the child has any problems with focusing in school. It is a fair question. You may find that yes, the child has the same problems in school. It's up the parent whether to follow through with special ed testing, and whether to have the kid take meds.

Many people are completely opposed to meds for ADD. The same ones are probably strongly opposed to meds for depression too. But if meds help your child learn and will keep your child from falling 3 years behind in school work, then it's worth looking into. But that is up to the parent.

Knowing about a learning problelm may help a teacher to have patience with a child who may otherwise be seen only as lazy or in need of discipline. It's good to know what you're dealing with.

In my experience, kids with attention issues really enjoy playing along with CD's. Learning "by ear" comes much more easily that slowing down and learning to read music.


Edited by Ann in Kentucky (09/27/11 11:55 AM)
Edit Reason: grammar
_________________________
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"She played upon her music box
a fancy air by chance,
And straightaway all her polka dots
began a lively dance."
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#1760385 - 09/27/11 12:11 PM Re: Anyone teach a child with ADD? [Re: pianogirl1978]
mikey keys Offline
Full Member

Registered: 06/06/07
Posts: 60
Loc: New York
Pianogirl, I can almost assure you the parents are well aware of the kids actions. I would ask. I think parents that don't say anything are hopeful that in piano lessons maybe the child will not act that way. They may have some important insight into what works best for their child. It might help to ask. Don't put a label like ADD on it when you ask, just ask if the student has trouble focusing sometimes in other areas, and if there is anything that they know would help her focus. I have taught many kids with learning disabilities, and although they are all different, the one thing that they have in common is the reaction to sound. If I put on music and have them play along, I can almost always get there attention. This is a good side activity that you can do. Even if they are only playing one note at a time and playing whole notes or even less in some cases, they will feel connected to the song. Find songs they like to listen to and let them play along. Just the chords, just the melodies, just single notes, it doesn't matter. Make sure this is not reading, or labored reading. If they have any trouble write in the notes, this is not a reading exercise. When they start to love this, you can use this as leverage to get them to focus on reading. You can try adding a stop watch, if she can say the notes out loud and play the song in under 1 minute, then you will work on their song. Or, when they start fooling around you start the stop watch and say, for the amount of time you waste, that time will be taken away from your fun song. Also, find books that have accompaniments, so it can feel like music to them when they are done and you can play along with them. Good luck, I hope this helps.
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#1761466 - 09/29/11 01:54 AM Re: Anyone teach a child with ADD? [Re: pianogirl1978]
LeaC Offline
Full Member

Registered: 09/13/11
Posts: 413
Loc: USA
I have taught many students, both child and adult, with ADD, or ADHD. This is beyond the realm of normal activity, and it absolutely must be addressed!

Here is something that is of the UTMOST importance:

Here is a web site that every teacher needs to learn about:

http://www.optometrists.org/

A person can have 20/20 vision and still have a hidden eye disorder.

It has been dicovered in the last couple of decades that visual disturbances can cause and appear to be learning disabilities. In fact, I was thinking of starting a thread about this. I hasppened to be trained a vision therapists some years ago. Little did I know that this would wind up saving some of my students.

These vision disturbances cannot be seen by the naked eye. In some cases you can observe a slight turning in or out of the eye)s). Even slight misalignments within the eye can cause extreme difficulty in reading. Eye tracking is totally thrown off, and hence, a student who avoids reading music. As my experience increased I found this to be true for almost every single student who avoided the printed page.

Here in my city, I started checking students for this, and then began informing parents about vision therapy. Vision therapists work with people who have been examined and dignosed with a particular disturbance in eye training programs designed to correct the issue. This is practised by Optomitraists, not opthamologists, who mainly use surgery.

I havealso informed the schools at which my students went to and they are excited about this news.

Students who seem to want to play by ear are avoiding reading. They are avoiding reading for the likely reason that they have an un diagnosed eye problem. I have helped numerous people with this, and you will be a hero if you look into this.

Please help spread the word so people, including adults can have a chance to overcome these hidden eye disorders.
_________________________
Working on: Reworking Bartok's Suite Opus 14, Chopin's Polonaise Op.40, The Military (so much fun!)

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#1761470 - 09/29/11 02:08 AM Re: Anyone teach a child with ADD? [Re: pianogirl1978]
LeaC Offline
Full Member

Registered: 09/13/11
Posts: 413
Loc: USA
I once talked about this some years ago in PW.

Yes, you can adapt your lessons for the active child. Yes, she should definitely be diagnosed. Music teachers are often the first to observe this in a student, and are the bearers of bad news to some parents. As a private teacher I am not allowed to diagnose. However, if you consider it to be a "processing" issue, you can speak in general terms. If you can't talk to the parents about this, you will have to do the best you can. I always wonder if parent sknow that these condition scan be identified. IMO, it is not a good idea to wait to see what happens. Early diagnosis is critical to getting her on the right track. A lot of damage can be done if this is a serious problem.

If she has any other activities, sports is a good option to help her burn off the energy.

Approaching parents can be difficult. I've had parents become abusive to both myself and their child at the mere suggestion that their child have an issue with focusing, etc. If couched in terms of a disoreder, I'be had people become very defensive, exclaiming that no onein their family has anything like that with them. Or, the child is beiong abused or bullied by a parent (often teachers) who regard ADHD as a personality problem that the child can just act better and control. The child can't help it. We had a list of area psychologistrs that we used to hand out to parents for testing. (However, if it is a vision issue, then an optomitrist can diagnos that.)


By accepting and teaching people (not just children) with LDI've learned so much.

In my post above I have written a little about what may cause a reluctance to read. I have found that sometimes, all the colors and pictures can be distracting. Often I will blow up the manuscript to a larger size, or use big note music, with nothing else on the page at all. Depends on the person.

Another thing is to try to schedule this girls lessons as early in the day as you can while her attention is better.

It is good to talk to as many people you can about this to get ideas
_________________________
Working on: Reworking Bartok's Suite Opus 14, Chopin's Polonaise Op.40, The Military (so much fun!)

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#1761815 - 09/29/11 04:46 PM Re: Anyone teach a child with ADD? [Re: pianogirl1978]
pianogirl1978 Offline
Full Member

Registered: 06/06/11
Posts: 104
Loc: Nebraska
All great ideas, I am not sure if I am the right teacher for this little girl. I don't know that I have the knowledge to teach a child like this without getting very frustrated. Also, I am just beginning to teach - I have only been doing it about 6 months so I feel like I am learning as I go most of the time! I am not sure how much "station to station" activites I can do with this student as my studio is not very big. I will have to look into getting a white board and see if that will help her just to not be playing at the piano the whole time. But I wonder if a child cannot pay attention for 30 min. at a piano, how successful will they be with their lessons then?
_________________________
Private Piano Teacher in Lincoln, Nebraska

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#1761823 - 09/29/11 04:52 PM Re: Anyone teach a child with ADD? [Re: pianogirl1978]
LeaC Offline
Full Member

Registered: 09/13/11
Posts: 413
Loc: USA
Originally Posted By: pianogirl1978
All great ideas, I am not sure if I am the right teacher for this little girl. I don't know that I have the knowledge to teach a child like this without getting very frustrated. Also, I am just beginning to teach - I have only been doing it about 6 months so I feel like I am learning as I go most of the time! I am not sure how much "station to station" activites I can do with this student as my studio is not very big. I will have to look into getting a white board and see if that will help her just to not be playing at the piano the whole time. But I wonder if a child cannot pay attention for 30 min. at a piano, how successful will they be with their lessons then?


It's said that necessity is the mother of invention!
_________________________
Working on: Reworking Bartok's Suite Opus 14, Chopin's Polonaise Op.40, The Military (so much fun!)

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#1761996 - 09/29/11 11:20 PM Re: Anyone teach a child with ADD? [Re: pianogirl1978]
Dustin Sanders Offline
Full Member

Registered: 12/11/10
Posts: 479
Loc: US
Originally Posted By: pianogirl1978
All great ideas, I am not sure if I am the right teacher for this little girl. I don't know that I have the knowledge to teach a child like this without getting very frustrated. Also, I am just beginning to teach - I have only been doing it about 6 months so I feel like I am learning as I go most of the time! I am not sure how much "station to station" activites I can do with this student as my studio is not very big. I will have to look into getting a white board and see if that will help her just to not be playing at the piano the whole time. But I wonder if a child cannot pay attention for 30 min. at a piano, how successful will they be with their lessons then?


'Station to station' doesn't mean you need to have 4 different tables. Just use the piano bench and have the student pull up a chair next to it. Or just put the fallboard down and have them do stuff.

Also, why would you get frustrated at the child? It's their nature - They can't help it much more than they can help their size or their hair color.

Trying doing jumping jacks with them if they get bored. It provides you exercise and they might find it funny.

If you're only 6 months into teaching, take this as a challenge ... unless you want all your students to make it easy on you?
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An Eclectic Piano Teaching Experience







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#1762014 - 09/29/11 11:52 PM Re: Anyone teach a child with ADD? [Re: Dustin Sanders]
pianogirl1978 Offline
Full Member

Registered: 06/06/11
Posts: 104
Loc: Nebraska
Dustin - I would be frustrated if I feel I can't get the child to learn to play the piano - wouldn't any teacher? And as far as wanting students to be "easy on me", don't we all? Just kidding, but that would be ideal if every student was easier to teach than the student I have right now. I don't want to sound like a lazy teacher, I am just not used to dealing with very distractible children. And also, since no one is here to SEE this child, I don't think any of you would think her behavior is that of a normal 7 year old. I teach a 6, 7, and 8 year old besides her, and I know that their behavior is normal distractible behavior - they get bored, sometimes wanna take a break, etc. But I really feel after having another lesson with her, I need to talk with the parents. I don't think anything is really sinking in.


Edited by pianogirl1978 (09/29/11 11:52 PM)
_________________________
Private Piano Teacher in Lincoln, Nebraska

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#1762050 - 09/30/11 01:32 AM Re: Anyone teach a child with ADD? [Re: pianogirl1978]
Gary D. Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/30/08
Posts: 4644
Loc: South Florida
To all:

Important: we often do not get "all the facts" from parents because *when* they have told other teachers about the problems their children have, doors have been *slammed in their faces*.

Case in point: I have been working with a student for well over a year. My instincts told me that he is dyslexic, and I suspected other serious issues. I was told nothing, but I noticed I get unusual support/cooperation from the father. Working together we have managed to reach a good bit of success. Recently the dyslexia was confirmed, officially, by the father. Once he realized I was not going to give the boy the boot, he opened up to me about other things.

This kid is a true miracle for me. After many false starts he is now reading on a level I never thought was possible. Last week he pushed ME to push him harder, counting, checking notes, other things, and it was all good.

So I am scared of labels: all of them. I have lost count of how many times I have started out with reduced expectations/hopes, because of labels, and ended up shocked at how wrong I was.

I have another student who is on meds for ADHD, and I swear he is mostly one of my best students. Lightning fast brain, very quick learner, funny. A challenge, yes, but also more rewarding because he gets stuff other kids his age miss.

I wonder what kind of labels Einstein would get, today. He would probably get shoved into a class for "low functioning students" because he had a different way of thinking and did not readily give teachers the "respect" and unquestioning trust that they expected.
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Piano Teacher

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#1762212 - 09/30/11 09:25 AM Re: Anyone teach a child with ADD? [Re: pianogirl1978]
Minniemay Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/07/09
Posts: 1702
Loc: CA
Pianogirl: Remember, first and foremost you are not teaching piano, you are teaching a child. Once you get that straight, other things will fall into line. Take things in smaller pieces and make the lessons more game oriented, less sitting on the bench oriented. There is much you can accomplish until she has the maturity to sit for longer periods.
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B.A., Piano, Piano Pegagogy, Music Ed.
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#1763508 - 10/02/11 05:14 PM Re: Anyone teach a child with ADD? [Re: pianogirl1978]
LeaC Offline
Full Member

Registered: 09/13/11
Posts: 413
Loc: USA
It might be true that this child has a pronounced form of ADHD that has not been addressed. It can be frustrating when you seem to be the only person in the childs life dealing with conditions that affect behavior. It seems to me, that the extent of her ADHD (sorry to resort to a label), will determine if you are able to teach her. So, at this point, we do not know (the others posters here), if it is the child, or the teacher with the problem!. In any case, getting angry will not help, and could lead to problems of self-esteem in the student. She's most likely not doing it on purpose, so the teacher has to be the one to accomodate the student instead of the other way around.

This might be a good time to look around for teachers that you can talk to and send their way students that you feel you are unable to teach.

That said, this little girl may be your best teacher yet!
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Working on: Reworking Bartok's Suite Opus 14, Chopin's Polonaise Op.40, The Military (so much fun!)

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