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Teaching ADHD and other special needs students
Looking for discussion on teaching approaches, parent involvement, etc. What additional education will help the teacher?
Topic Rating: 0 Topic Rating: 0 Topic Rating: 0 Topic Rating: 0 Topic Rating: 0 Topic Rating: 0 (0 votes) 

Advanced member
February 11, 2017 - 11:23 pm
Member Since: January 23, 2012
Forum Posts: 73
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Interesting opportunity may be offered to me. Background: Small town, a few private teachers who may retire soon. I've been volunteering to help with a strings class of 12 5th graders, put together by a couple local teachers, after our public school cut their strings program. One kid has ADHD, trying to play the cello (!) Another has emotional problems causing him to literally fall into a heap over his cello with every wrong note and give up -- I'm not qualified to diagnose but there are severe problems there.

One of the other teachers suggested I should start teaching beginner violin students. It has broken my heart watching these special needs kids try again and again, and give up and fall behind the others. I'd love to teach them privately. My own instrument is violin and I play in our local symphony but I'm not a professional musician.  I do have experience in my career (now retired) working with developmentally disabled and emotionally challenged children. Remembering my own patient teachers in my childhood, I'd love to give back in some way. But I want to be truly qualified.

HERES MY OVERALL QUESTION: What additional education would help me *legitimately* teach beginning students? We have a good local community college -- classes on early childhood education? Are there specific music-teaching resources for teachers of special needs kids? Anyone on this forum with specific experience?



February 12, 2017 - 12:42 pm
Member Since: December 14, 2016
Forum Posts: 27
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Perhaps try checking into the college to see if they'd let you take some special ed teaching/special ed psychology classes?  I believe my college has courses specifically on teaching autistic or attention-deficit students, so maybe your local college would offer some of those as well?  Worth checking into!  Of course, these courses would not be music-ed specific, but might give you a baseline for understanding how to work with these students according to their psychological needs, and then from there conform those standards to music teaching. You might even look online for some scholarly articles concerning such -- they're hard to find, but once in awhile you can find a free scholarly journal to view.  I think that your idea to privately tutor these kids is a spectacular idea, and I tip my hat to you. Best of luck! 


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February 12, 2017 - 8:35 pm
Member Since: January 23, 2012
Forum Posts: 73
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Thanks, TangledUp, for the encouragement. 

What grabbed my heart first, with all this, was watching this little, eager, bull-in-a-china-shop 5th grade boy with ADHD  trying to manage a cello in the class.  His mom chose the cello for him because it was the only instrument sitting around the house that nobody was playing.

Just watching him, I lost count of all the details he has to contend with, from getting it up 2 flights of stairs to the class, getting it out of the soft case, the bow, the rosin, the book, fiddling with the spike on the bottom, the music stand, learning the notes, learning to count, finger positions, posture, bowing, other kids in the class, noise, chattering, teacher talking, pictures on the walls, writing on the white board -- such a ton of visual and auditory stimulation in addition to the tasks before him! Even I am overwhelmed in there sometimes, i can barely imagine what he goes through. 

I take him out in the hall for part of the class just so he can have some moments of success, he always says "Thank you, this is so much better" when we're out there.  He wants to make music so badly.  Last class, in his eagerness to get out to the hall, he banged his cello into the door and broke it for the 3rd time. Big crack in the back, and the neck loose. He felt terrible.  I think a kid like this would do so much better with a more compact, less complex instrument like a trumpet or cornet or ukelele.

Anyone's thoughts on suggesting a more appropriate instrument?


Fort Lauderdale
February 13, 2017 - 8:46 pm
Member Since: September 26, 2010
Forum Posts: 16250

I suppose that every instrument has it's advantage and disadvantage.
Perhaps the drums. However, the parents might not agree on that one.

The recorder seems to work well too for many.

As for your question on additional education to better teach beginning violin, I see a lot of positive ideas coming from Suzuki teachers. I am not trained in Suzuki but have had many friends and colleagues who have been. While I believe a teacher should be well rounded, Suzuki teachers have many games and tricks that can be helpful with beginning string students and help add fun into the equation.
Perhaps check your local Suzuki organization for teacher classes.

"The richest person is not the one who has the most,
but the one who needs the least."

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