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stephensgirls

ISO violinist who is also an OT for advice(long shot, I know) ;)

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I know this is a crazy request for this forum, but maybe just a mom who plays violin who might have some insight on this perhaps? :)

 

DD 11yrs old diagnosed mild autism last April. Finally got around to getting speech and OT evals. I don't have official reports yet, so I can't describe her deficits in technical terms.

 

She has been playing violin for a little over a year. She really doesn't have much natural talent. She does not want to give up. I don't want her to give up because I have to believe there is great benefit to her to continue with some sort of musical instruction. 

 

Based on my own observations along with the brief conference I had with the OT... she has weak core and upper body strength. She struggled in the evaluation with basically anything that involved coordination. I think I heard the words "motor planning"? along with other things?? She can't do hopscotch. She can't do the "wheel barrow crawl" where the OT holds her legs up and she crawls. etc etc. Also struggles terribly with handwriting. She is "floppy"--poor posture, etc.

 

Here is my question: Is there anything that occupational therapy can do to help her with violin specifically? This is a daily frustration for her as she can't seem to make her arms and hands do what they need to do in order to master the pieces she's assigned. She tires easily just from holding the instrument properly. Her violin teacher keeps moving her along to the next piece without her ever fully mastering the one before. That's ok for now, but won't be in the long term. 

 

I'm just looking for ways to help her be somewhat successful at violin. She feels like she's not good at anything, and her confidence is pretty low. Would I be out of line to bring this up to her OT? She starts weekly therapy sessions November 1.

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I don't have OT ideas, but I find that this shoulder rest makes holding the instrument significantly easier:

 

 

https://www.johnsonstring.com/cgi-bin/music/scripts/violin-viola-cello-music.cgi?itemno=SRVNBONMUSI/1B

 

 

(Comes in smaller sizes if she is not using a full size instrument)

 

I'm concerned that the teacher is moving her along without any real mastery. You might consider looking for a different teacher. A good teacher will also address posture and any discomfort she may be experiencing.

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I would make sure your OT tests for retained reflexes and begin OT. Your ped could probably refer you for PT even. Dyspraxia is the word for motor planning, also DCD (developmental coordination disorder). There's a range there, from a touch to more to all the way to cerebral palsy... And what you'll read is that 80% of dyspraxia symptoms can be improved by improving muscle strength. Not even tone, but just flat strength. There's a book Beating Dyspraxia with a Hop, Skip and a Jump: A Simple Exercise Program to Improve Motor Skills at Home and School Revised Edition  I have it and don't need it. If you wanna buy it from me, that would be fine, just pm and pick an amount.

 

Anyways, for the violin, you might see if you can find a music therapist who specializes in autism and SN kids. We did music therapy at the local autism charter, and the therapist was AMAZING. They will have modified methods and know what to do. :)

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I don't have OT ideas, but I find that this shoulder rest makes holding the instrument significantly easier:

 

 

https://www.johnsonstring.com/cgi-bin/music/scripts/violin-viola-cello-music.cgi?itemno=SRVNBONMUSI/1B

 

 

(Comes in smaller sizes if she is not using a full size instrument)

 

I'm concerned that the teacher is moving her along without any real mastery. You might consider looking for a different teacher. A good teacher will also address posture and any discomfort she may be experiencing.

 

Thank you for the recommendation. And yes, I've considered that I should find another teacher. I've stuck with this one so far because she lives 3 minutes from my house. But I think I need to look into someone with more experience. Thx for the link! (she is using a full size violin--she's 5' 1" tall!) :)

Edited by stephensgirls
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Oh, and I think bringing this up with the OT is fine, unless they have violin experience though their help may be limited.

 

The shoulder rest I linked differs from most in that it hooks over the shoulder and is very adjustable; the over the shoulder hook makes balancing the violin with just the weight of the head much easier. I like to pair it with a center mounted chin rest, which shortens the distance the left arm has to stretch and, in my opinion, makes a natural and comfortable position of the left arm easier to attain.

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I would make sure your OT tests for retained reflexes and begin OT. Your ped could probably refer you for PT even. Dyspraxia is the word for motor planning, also DCD (developmental coordination disorder). There's a range there, from a touch to more to all the way to cerebral palsy... And what you'll read is that 80% of dyspraxia symptoms can be improved by improving muscle strength. Not even tone, but just flat strength. There's a book Beating Dyspraxia with a Hop, Skip and a Jump: A Simple Exercise Program to Improve Motor Skills at Home and School Revised Edition  I have it and don't need it. If you wanna buy it from me, that would be fine, just pm and pick an amount.

 

Anyways, for the violin, you might see if you can find a music therapist who specializes in autism and SN kids. We did music therapy at the local autism charter, and the therapist was AMAZING. They will have modified methods and know what to do. :)

I've been reading about dyspraxia. Wondering if an OT can make a formal diagnosis--or if it even matters. I'll have to wait for the report.

 

 I'll keep the book in mind. I admit to being a little lazy in that I'm hoping that her OT can deal with all this for me so I don't need another book. ;)

 

Music therapy...that would be perfect. I'll ask around.

 

Thanks for your help!

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Because you're needing to add muscle, you're going to want the OT to give you homework. Just so you know, that book has a regimen that other OTs have assigned to people. It doesn't require a ton of equipment, just some effort. 

 

I put my ds in gymnastics, but I'm not sure that's the right starting point for your dd. And really, he started in a class for preschoolers, which was mainly play. Your dd is going to need some help to get enough muscle to make things comfortable. That's where having it as play can be really good. But yeah, she'll at least need to do it several days a week. Just once a week won't be enough.

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Because you're needing to add muscle, you're going to want the OT to give you homework. Just so you know, that book has a regimen that other OTs have assigned to people. It doesn't require a ton of equipment, just some effort. 

 

I put my ds in gymnastics, but I'm not sure that's the right starting point for your dd. And really, he started in a class for preschoolers, which was mainly play. Your dd is going to need some help to get enough muscle to make things comfortable. That's where having it as play can be really good. But yeah, she'll at least need to do it several days a week. Just once a week won't be enough.

 

Yes. I'm actually hoping for homework. I've been through enough PT to know...it's going to entail some work several days a week to make any progress. I've been trying to get dd to try exercising with me... She might cooperate if someone other than me suggests it. 

Edited by stephensgirls
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'Cellist (but not OT) dropping by. :)

 

Would your DD enjoy playing with a trapeze? That's how I worked on shoulder/upper body strength with my DS when he was little, pre-writing. After a few weeks of daily trapeze play, he was ready for wheelbarrow walks.

 

Just an idea.

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From just a violin parent perspective, I would downsize her violin. My 5’2†child just moved to 3/4 size and is adjusting to the increased weight.

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Does the violin teacher allow her to sit when not playing and take rests? Is the instructor Suzuki trained and used to working with small children? Your child is not what I consider to be a small child, but she requires a teacher that is positive, patient, and willing to accommodate your DD. The lesson should probaby be no more than 20 minutes too. Overall, I think more breaks and short lessons would work until her stamina improves.

Edited by Heathermomster
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From just a violin parent perspective, I would downsize her violin. My 5’2†child just moved to 3/4 size and is adjusting to the increased weight.

I will second this as well! A smaller instrument is often more comfortable and easier for the student to play.

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I'm going to look into downsizing her violin. My concern with that is how would that affect finger placement? Would she notice a difference? Would it be a difficult adjustment?

 

Thanks! I know pianos but nothing about violins!

Edited by stephensgirls
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I'm going to look into downsizing her violin. My concern with that is how would that affect finger placement? Would she notice a difference? Would it be a difficult adjustment?

 

Thanks! I know pianos but nothing about violins!

Fingers will be a bit closer together on a smaller violin; there will probably be an adjustment period but depending on how much practice she does I wouldn't expect it to last more than a few days to a few weeks. I find I am able to switch between a 3/4 size and a full size violin fairly easily.

 

Try to find an instrument with a nice tone, it may be more expensive but makes practicing much more pleasant.

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For core strength and motor planning, is there any chance that you can get her swimming regularly? That would be really good. I love the suggestion for trapeze work--any type of climbing where she's going to use both arms and legs (rope ladders at the playground etc...) can be good. 

 

Here's an article with a number of suggestions for working on core strength.

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For core strength and motor planning, is there any chance that you can get her swimming regularly? That would be really good. I love the suggestion for trapeze work--any type of climbing where she's going to use both arms and legs (rope ladders at the playground etc...) can be good.

 

Here's an article with a number of suggestions for working on core strength.

Swimming. Ugh. It's a great suggestion. Problem is --well the whole reason we're doing OT is because she can't do things like swimming. I mean...she can play in the water and not drown, but her form/technique is lacking. That's being polite. ;) It's on my list--private swim lessons. But I think I'll see what the OTs can accomplish first. Then maybe she'll actually benefit from swim instruction.

 

But thanks for the suggestion--and the link. Our local rec center has a nice indoor pool. I should take her. Any kind of "swimming" would be good for her. Even if it's not pretty.

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I have posted a request on a local autism support page asking for recs for a violin teacher who has experience with kids on the spectrum. I feel like a teacher change might be beneficial. For a kid with dyspraxia, playing violin is asking a lot of those fingers, hands, and arms. It would be amazing if I could find a teacher who understands the challenges my daughter has. Haven't gotten any recs yet, but I'm hopeful!

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My DS learned to swim after working with a ped PT performing strength, agility, postural, bilateral coordination, and balance type exercises.

 

That's encouraging. I'm still waiting on the OT's report. I think they will work with my dd on many of the same things. That's my hope.

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I have posted a request on a local autism support page asking for recs for a violin teacher who has experience with kids on the spectrum. I feel like a teacher change might be beneficial. For a kid with dyspraxia, playing violin is asking a lot of those fingers, hands, and arms. It would be amazing if I could find a teacher who understands the challenges my daughter has. Haven't gotten any recs yet, but I'm hopeful!

 

It is asking a lot--but I think before all of those comes the issue with core strength, and I would keep working on that. (I'm not an OT but did a lot of OT with my oldest and also played violin for years--also taught my daughter to play initially and know just how challenging that can be! So much core strength is required just to stand and hold the violin without trying to support oneself with an arm or with doubling over in some odd way. And then adding in arms and fingering and bowing on top...)

 

In many ways, the situation is not all that dissimilar to students with handwriting struggles. If the core strength isn't there, the rest just isn't going to follow in any kind of efficient way. And then, even when there aren't additional struggles for a student, it often does take years to develop the coordination and palatable sounds. And then strengthening those neuro-pathways takes time, just like it does for kids with dysgraphia. A good violin teacher can give you exercises to do, both with and without the violin, for working on holds, bowing, and fingering. It's not always the most fun or interesting thing for a student to do with the repetitions needed! But you can in turn talk with an OT about the types of exercises the teacher gives and work through the steps that will make that possible for your student. I think that even if you don't specifically find an OT who is a violinist, you can put the pieces together with the right combination of help.

 

Hang in there!

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