add students : LUSENET : Everything About Teaching and Learning the Piano : One Thread

Looking for strategies: How to diagnose paiano students with ADD

And once diagnosed, what startegies are used to increase sightreading skills.

-- Carmella Dorn (, October 11, 2004


Hi Carmella,

If you suspect the student has ADD, you should speak to his/her parents about getting a professional evaluation. I think that because we work one-on-one with students, we may be the first to notice a problem -- but it is not the piano teacher's job to offer a diagnosis. Leave that to a psychologist!


-- Alice Dearden (, October 11, 2004.

If the child is attending public school, no doubt they've (mis)diagnosed the poor child six ways from Sunday--ADD is an easy way for schools to get tons of money and not have to do anything for it, as well as a way for parents to get exemptions granting extra time on tests when taking college exams but still be able to say "Johnny is sooooo bright".

Please look into other strategies first before affixing labels. Children want to be active, it may help if the child has some planned physical activity (like recess or other unstructured run-around time) before he sits down with you. Depending on the age of the child, he/she may just be too immature for lessons, and/or may not really be interested in them. He/she may also be watching too much TV or playing videogames--which means their attention span is not what it should be.

-- GT (, October 11, 2004.

Well, whether or not the condition is over-diagnosed, you still have to deal with the child. I'd say the most important things are to be patient and to observe the child closely.

How does the ADD behaviour manifest itself? Is the child "antsy", has to get up every 2 minutes? Incorporate "up" activities into your lesson...walk the beat of a song while clapping its rhythm, for instance.

If the child has difficulty processing auditory material, you might have to really simplify the types of questions you ask.

Some children need a gentle touch on the shoulder and a verbal reminder to focus.

For sightreading in particular, you may need to help the child focus on one thing at a could take a piece of paper and cut a small rectangular hole in it...use the paper to cover everything except one bar of music. This will minimize the distractions found elsewhere on the page.

Also, before playing, analyse the music with the child. Which way are the notes going? If they are going up, which way will the notes on the piano go? Are they moving by steps or skips? Do you see any half notes? What is the highest note? Etc. I would also point to the notes as the child plays, to help him/her keep track of where they are.

A child who is a more tactile learner could be helped by using sandpaper notes on a flannel board staff. You can also use tactile objects for rhythm activities (give a rhythm bag with popsicle sticks for quarter notes, half notes made from pipe cleaners, etc.).

I very highly recommend the book "A Mind at a Time" by Dr. Mel Levine for a discussion of what how to help children learn. And above all, I think we need to remember that we are dealing with a person, not a diagnosis.

Alice Dearden

-- Alice Dearden (, October 12, 2004.

A lot of kids (especially boys) are what people call "busy" and it's normal, but what with some schools cutting back on and even in some cases doing away with recess, and with classes becoming more and more overcrowded (not to mention with more children coming into school these days with little or no training in basic manners), teachers/administrators just find it easier to say "Johnny's not behaving--he must have some problem, and you "need" to put him on meds".

Which is bad enough coming from someone who is ostensibly seeing Johnny (amongst all the other children in a class) for approximately 4 hours a day on a regular basis. But from someone seeing him for perhaps 5 hours a week, if that...

I would look at simple reasons first before even thinking ADD--a child could be antsy because Mom gave him a candy bar in the car on the way over, or he's not really interested in lessons to begin with, or he's looking forward to something after the lesson, like dinner or sports, or he's coming straight from school and has no chance to "wind down". Not to mention some people are more focused at certain times of the day.

Alice has some good ideas for different tactics to try--that book sounds interesting too. Maybe even try out a keyboard with some of the really cool sounds (at least the ones that you can tell are in tune when played) for part of the lesson, or play a song or two on the keyboard while standing.

Sorry for seeming to be on a soapbox, but children get labelled so early these days, and it just makes me cringe.

-- GT (, October 12, 2004.

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