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Does your dyslexic play an instrument?


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If so, which one?

 

Ds is starting his 2nd year of piano, but he is really struggling to even complete the first half of 1st year books. His piano teacher is fantastic, and we are switching to a color-coded piano system written for dyslexics, but I can't help but wonder if long term this is not the instrument for him. He is working on some Suzuki as well. Suggestions for helping a dyslexic learn to read music or play an instrument?

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My DD just started the flute this year, so far so good! Her music teacher recommended smartmusic .com

 

It is $40 a year, but is pretty cool - it's computer based. It highlights the notes and records her playing. If she plays notes wrong, it shows her which one she was supposed to play (on the instrument).

 

I guess for the piano, you could put the laptop on the piano.

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My 15 yo ds was dyslexic - its been competely remediated - plays the guitar rather well.

 

He did do some music lessons with a guitar teacher when he was about 8, but he didn't enjoy them and we quit. Later, at around 12, he showed an interest again and we signed him up for group lessons at our YMCA. These weren't particularly rigorous lessons - more just an introduction and for fun. He really clicked with the instructor who is a young (20ish) musician, and he's stuck with the same instructor for the past almost 4 years. We hired the instructor to come to our house for private lessons about a year ago.

 

For ds it's self-driven. He chooses to play; I don't make him practice or force lessons.

 

So, yes, an instrument is quite possible for a dyslexic.

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I can't answer this from a fun, music perspective LOL, and probably nothing in this post will be helpful, but if possible, would encourage you to find a way to keep moving forward with piano for the therapeutic benefits of both sides of the brain working together. What are the weak spots - learning where the notes are on the keyboard? Reading the notes? Understanding something? Motor issues? Getting a feel for the timing?

 

I might go back to earlier stuff he learned and work more on that, going slower, even if it's near the very beginning of the book. If and when appropriate, figure out a way to work in the metronome; maybe practice pressing a single key to a slow beat on the metronome (sounds a bit like Interactive Metronome) - I realize this isn't usually incorporated until later, but if timing is an issue, that is what I would try - I wish I had done that (one of my boys had the timing in his head but it didn't always translate well into finger movements due to fine motor issues; the other one had no timing/rhythm in his head whatsoever :tongue_smilie:).

 

I'd make sure he can see the notes well - music sits at a weird distance, and we've had situations where someone needed a new distance prescription.

 

Last, I'd make sure that a little practice (minimum 10 minutes?) happens every day. A couple years ago, my boys got fired by the piano teacher for lack of practice. It's my fault because I was too busy to sit with them for those few minutes every day, and they did not have the discipline to sit there and practice alone (even with me yelling from the stove just around the corner). I really, really regret that. I was at the end of my rope apparently (babies 5 and 6 were born close together), but this is one of my parent failures.

 

At least dd11 still plays. She's not dyslexic, but appeared as though she were, once upon a time. It really took two or three years before her playing got much better. Even in the last year, her playing has improved a lot, and she is only now zooming through books.

 

In short, back up and go slow :). If he has strengths, use them to your advantage as much as possible. Here is one free note-practicing site that my kids liked.

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Guitar. Ds started when he was 8yo. The instructor teaches visually, although he has also taught ds TAB and even notes on the staff. However, ds honestly learns just by being shown once, as he is such an incredibly strong visual learner, and he just doesn't use the TAB very often.

 

ds instructor has commented how much ds retains of music...often pulling out riffs from years previous. Also the instructor has remarked that ds is one of only a couple that he teaches who freely improvises and creates his own music.

 

I am a classically trained pianist, and I really thought piano (taught in the classical manner) would be a disaster for ds (note recall and retrieval, symbol confusion etc....), along with holding rhythm...it just seemed too much.

 

So, guitar has been a good choice for him....The different style of teaching and increased freedom, along with TAB (which is a spatial representation), have made music really fun.

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My 15 yo ds was dyslexic - its been competely remediated - plays the guitar rather well.

 

He did do some music lessons with a guitar teacher when he was about 8, but he didn't enjoy them and we quit. Later, at around 12, he showed an interest again and we signed him up for group lessons at our YMCA. These weren't particularly rigorous lessons - more just an introduction and for fun. He really clicked with the instructor who is a young (20ish) musician, and he's stuck with the same instructor for the past almost 4 years. We hired the instructor to come to our house for private lessons about a year ago.

 

For ds it's self-driven. He chooses to play; I don't make him practice or force lessons.

 

So, yes, an instrument is quite possible for a dyslexic.

 

This also ... my DD played piano when she was 4 (before dyslexia diagnosis) and played okay for a year and half then quit. Now at 11 she WANTS to play in the band at school, SHE chose the flute. This makes a huge difference in her motivation!!:D

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Yes, piano. I'm a musical person and already inclined towards wanting it for my children, but for ds I also wanted the "therapy" aspect of piano. I've heard some dyslexics take naturally to music even if reading music doesn't come easy. That wasn't the case for ds. Music has been a struggle for him with everything from placing his hands to keeping a beat to reading music, and more. His piano teacher is a cross between a music teacher, therapist and saint. She's been very patient with him and taught him so much.

 

Like with reading, he struggles but he makes gains. With music, you can hear his progress and he hears it too. Music lessons helped with his auditory training. I use his hard gained knowlege of music to explain some reading concepts, like one vowel sound per syllable and vowels sounds in general. He can read along with our church hymnal where we find the words dividing by syllables. I nearly cried last year around Christmas when I heard him singing along to a song in Latin.

 

Due to a variety of circumstances, we had to cut back on piano this year and it makes me very sad. I doubt that he would have progressed as far with reading without his music training.

 

Weird dyslexic piano tricks--he once sat down and played the "mirror image" of the song. His left had fingers moved down the keyboard where his right hand should have been moving up the keyboard.

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Mine plays piano but he's been playing by ear forever and just started lessons with our choir director who zeroed in on his learning style quickly. He just uses regular teaching books.

 

For mine, it's something innate as far as music goes. He can read notes much more easily than text.

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We gave up. (not technically diagnosed dyslexic btw) She could read the notes and tell you the name, or she could play the note if you said the name. She couldn't get it all to connect (read note, brain tells finger, finger strikes key). She tried bells in band (simpler, removes the fine motor issue), and she could do simple stuff (read note, tell hand not finger, hand strikes bell with mallet). However it got really hard with all the distractions, increasing types of notes and complexity of music, etc.

 

I'm just saying playing music isn't a single-faceted thing. There could be a number of reasons why it's problematic for some kids (fine motor, processing speed, sensory and how they handle everything going on at once, etc.). She also had a lot of issues with typing. If your dc is having problems in typing as well as the instrument, that might give you a lightbulb as to why. She only improved once I put her over to the simpler typing layout of Dvorak. (less fine motor needed, less movement) So in some cases, depending on what the underlying problem is of your dc's specific struggles, it might not improve just because you plow through. Sure I wish she could have sucked it up and slogged through, just to see what would happen. There just wasn't that kind of stamina there, and I couldn't continue to pay for another year of lessons just hoping, when up to that point she was memorizing and circumventing and not really learning.

 

She does opera now. Not does as in singing, haha. She reads the summaries in a few books and listens to them on youtube. Life goes on, and she's still getting music exposure. Not everybody can spit out all the stories for the 50 top operas. :)

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Interesting replies. Mine started on Suzuki Violin about 1.5yrs ago, right after we found out he had CAPD. He was painfully sensitive to sounds when he was a toddler, so I never played music at home and actually forgot about the idea for awhile. When he started, he tried the piano at first and disliked it tremendously. Violin was marginally better although he was not keen. But he now loves after I found a very kind, patient teacher, and after he gained fluency on it. They have a blast together! He sight reads very well, although curiously, he can't name the notes. He plays very well by ear too. He now practices without me telling him, and is even asking me about the piano :D. I'm still considering the costs though ...

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This is interesting to me as well. We are just starting to learn about dyslexia and considering it as a possibility for our DS. I was watching a webinar the other night on a OG site and the instructor said "Please do not ask your dyslexic child to read music." I wasn't too happy to hear that because my son wants to play the cello and I was worried it would be too frustrating for him. After reading the replies here I'm not so sure that's the going to be the case.

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This is interesting to me as well. We are just starting to learn about dyslexia and considering it as a possibility for our DS. I was watching a webinar the other night on a OG site and the instructor said "Please do not ask your dyslexic child to read music." I wasn't too happy to hear that because my son wants to play the cello and I was worried it would be too frustrating for him. After reading the replies here I'm not so sure that's the going to be the case.

There are varying degrees of dyslexia and not all kids present the same issues. Maybe the instructor was just throwing out a blanket statement? My DD is taking Spanish now too and doing very well (getting an A) in the class.

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My family tree is full of dyslexics and musicians...

 

I believe that I am a stealth dyslexic. I am musician...I cannot play piano to save my life. I can read music well. I can sight-sing well. (I am a vocalist.) I can analyze a piece of music better than *most* pianists...there is simply a disconnect between eye and hand somewhere. I think that if I would have learned piano as a child (connected those synapses early!) I would be a mediocre pianist today. (And I would love to be a mediocre pianist!:tongue_smilie:) As it is, I didn't begin piano lessons for piano-sake until I was a teenager. (Though years before piano lessons I played saxophone and sang seriously. Reading the music wasn't/isn't the hang-up. It's more of a muscle memory thing...sort of...) I have to basically memorize a piece in order to play it on the piano. (Whereas, I can pick up a piece and sing it immediately...sing it well shortly thereafter.)

 

 

 

I think you should keep up with the piano, but seriously look into alternative methods. (Suzuki) Find a good teacher who isn't dogmatic about teaching in the traditional method. Piano may not be *his* instrument, but it's *the* instrument. IOW - let him try other instruments after he's gained some fluency on the piano...and make him keep learning new pieces on the piano even if you let him quit lessons.

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This is interesting to me as well. We are just starting to learn about dyslexia and considering it as a possibility for our DS. I was watching a webinar the other night on a OG site and the instructor said "Please do not ask your dyslexic child to read music." I wasn't too happy to hear that because my son wants to play the cello and I was worried it would be too frustrating for him. After reading the replies here I'm not so sure that's the going to be the case.

 

This kind of thing really bugs me. My dyslexic kids do all kinds of things we were told they would never be able to do. I think sometimes when I hear that they can't do this or that, I take it as a personal challenge to prove otherwise. :tongue_smilie: But seriously, every child is different; instead of saying "don't" or "never", why not say, "Your child may struggle with that; if he is frustrated to tears, here are some ways to work around that skill."

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My 14yo dyslexic plays guitar and banjo. She also has a mandolin (that she got for just $35 at the Guitar Center Used Gear Expo!), but she doesn't feel that she has time to practice three instruments right now. She takes voice lessons as well. She practices at least 1 hour/day and often quite a lot more.

 

I thought I should add that it's all her own idea. She bought her first guitar with her own money (2nd-hand), so I said that I'd pay for one semester of group lessons and then we'd see how to proceed from there. She LOVED the instructor, but not having other students in the class. She practiced constantly and always had her music memorized by the end of each week. The two boys in her class generally only touched their guitars at classtime. She has been taking private lessons from the same teacher she started with for 2.5 years now. She added banjo in January. She was going to try adding in the mandolin after she got such a great deal on it, but feels like it's too much to take on right now. She might add mandolin next summer when things are less busy for her. She paid half for her Taylor (2nd guitar), got the banjo for Christmas (her #1 request), got the 12-string for her birthday, and then bought an electric guitar and a mandolin herself at the Used Gear Expo. She is very much into music.

Edited by AngieW in Texas
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Putting on my music teacher hat here.

 

For piano, especially for a slightly older child, you might want to look into Simply Music. Like Suzuki, it starts out on an auditory level rather than a visual one, and lets the child experience success there, and it's more attuned to older beginners. Even if there's not a teacher in your area, there are quite a few good ones who do lessons via Skype or Facetime (much of the SM teacher training is done via SKYPE in most cases, so teachers who aren't familiar with the technology and comfortable with it don't get licensed!) Since there's a video course available as well, it's possible to go back and rewatch/listen to whatever parts of the lessons are helpful to the student, as many times as needed, and then go over it with the tutor.

 

Putting on my visual-spatial LD hat here-

 

Be aware that some forms of LD can really make reading harder for one instrument vs another. In my case, I read text fine, but I scramble visual data if there's too much of it at a time. Reading a single line of music was fine, but I struggled to learn to read on piano, and the best teacher I ever had lost his sight in his teens and essentially taught me to use print music the way he uses brailled music-learn one line at a time, by memory, then integrate them. I eventually went on to get a degree in musicology, which requires being able to read whole scores, so obviously I developed the skills-but it required going a different path and working on it piecewise at a level that someone who doesn't have the same brain wiring I do doesn't need. I hadn't realized just what difference it made until I started teaching and realized just how much I'd had to struggle to do what came easily for a majority of my students. I notice that a lot of the people listing that their child struggled are mentioning guitar, which is largely chordal as it's normally taught, and piano, which requires visually integrating multiple lines. If such instruments don't work well, try something that's single-line based, at least initially, and then consider adding the more complicated instrument visually later. It may make all the difference in the world.

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Putting on my music teacher hat here.

 

For piano, especially for a slightly older child, you might want to look into Simply Music. Like Suzuki, it starts out on an auditory level rather than a visual one, and lets the child experience success there, and it's more attuned to older beginners. Even if there's not a teacher in your area, there are quite a few good ones who do lessons via Skype or Facetime (much of the SM teacher training is done via SKYPE in most cases, so teachers who aren't familiar with the technology and comfortable with it don't get licensed!) Since there's a video course available as well, it's possible to go back and rewatch/listen to whatever parts of the lessons are helpful to the student, as many times as needed, and then go over it with the tutor.

 

Putting on my visual-spatial LD hat here-

 

Be aware that some forms of LD can really make reading harder for one instrument vs another. In my case, I read text fine, but I scramble visual data if there's too much of it at a time. Reading a single line of music was fine, but I struggled to learn to read on piano, and the best teacher I ever had lost his sight in his teens and essentially taught me to use print music the way he uses brailled music-learn one line at a time, by memory, then integrate them. I eventually went on to get a degree in musicology, which requires being able to read whole scores, so obviously I developed the skills-but it required going a different path and working on it piecewise at a level that someone who doesn't have the same brain wiring I do doesn't need. I hadn't realized just what difference it made until I started teaching and realized just how much I'd had to struggle to do what came easily for a majority of my students. I notice that a lot of the people listing that their child struggled are mentioning guitar, which is largely chordal as it's normally taught, and piano, which requires visually integrating multiple lines. If such instruments don't work well, try something that's single-line based, at least initially, and then consider adding the more complicated instrument visually later. It may make all the difference in the world.

 

Hmm, that's an interesting observation! Thanks for sharing that! :)

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I notice that a lot of the people listing that their child struggled are mentioning guitar, which is largely chordal as it's normally taught, and piano, which requires visually integrating multiple lines. If such instruments don't work well, try something that's single-line based, at least initially, and then consider adding the more complicated instrument visually later. It may make all the difference in the world.

 

Yes, I definitely appreciate this fact. Violin is single line (any other lines are for accompaniment).

 

Thanks!

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I thought I'd add another observation I made about music playing. Just for background, I happen to be a left-brained/right-brained advocate/believer, so I come from that perspective. I've always loved music. I'm left-brained. I taught myself piano verbally. This means I had to translate each note into a note name, and then find that note on the piano and know that note name, finding each note individually (after being named) until I could locate all of them. Then, I would play. It takes me a while, and it would be a long time in coming to memorize a piece. I'm very reliant upon the music, read verbally.

 

Then, along came my spatial kiddo. He saw me teaching myself and he became immediately interested. Over time, I noticed he played VERY differently from me. He's highly right-brained. And highly spatial. He plays spatially. He sees where the notes fall on the page, and then he knows where it falls in space on the piano. He couldn't read when he started (9 at the time, learned to read between 10-11), but he quickly taught himself piano...spatially. He quickly surpassed my ability.

 

When it came time to find an instructor (after teaching himself for 1.5 years, making it to a moderate level), I instinctively knew I needed to find a practicing musician, versus a music teacher. All the music teachers wanted to focus on theory. I wanted to make sure his gift stayed lit, while waiting for his time to learn the notes/theory. Practicing musicians were much more open to this, especially after they saw his talent. When he started to write his own music, that's when a lot of the note names/theory started coming in for him. He needed a more concrete reason to know it. Playing wasn't enough since his gift was in spatially playing music.

 

I just wanted to throw out there that there are different types of musicians, and one isn't necessarily better than another. Okay, I would say that a verbal player like myself couldn't become as gifted at music playing as a spatial or ear player. My opinion from experience ;-)

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I forgot to mention that DS uses a program called Note Flight for playing around with and writing music.

 

A former president of the British Dyslexia Association taught music to dyslexics using a program called Colour Staff Notation. She is deceased now, but developed the program so, I don't know if it is widely available in the US.

 

DS can sight read music, but prefers to listen to a new song at least once, for tempo and beat.

Edited by Heathermomster
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Mine plays violin. My oldest dd also has dyslexic issues and she plays piano.

 

Learning to read and follow the music is tough. For my dd I didn't realize she was dyslexic and she sloughed through it. But my son.....

 

We've been taking our time on the reading. I go over his music with him and read each note. Once he hears and plays the music he gets it down. It helps that we are using Suzuki method. When we do read the music together I point to the note to help him focus on it. We only do a line at a time. Less if he is having a hard time.

 

For very difficult sections (lots of 1/16 notes) you can blow it up on a copier, that way the notes are easier to see.

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