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#32349 - 07/30/04 06:24 AM DYSLEXIA
playsteinway Offline
Resident Member

Registered: 07/26/04
Posts: 232
Loc: Mason, Michigan
For those of you who have never worked with a dyslexic student (or have recently started) I thought I would share this experience I had with a student. She was in the fifth grade when she started and her mother was upfront about the dyslexia. She told me when they signed up for the lessons that she was'nt sure how far she would get but that her daughter really wanted to learn. I told her we would try it out and see what happened, put her on my teaching schedule and got started.

WHAT A CHALLENGE!

I realized when her frustration set in with mixing notes up and her hands up etc.. (about two months into the lessons) to CALL THE SCHOOL she went to and get some tips from her resource teacher. The school was pretty nice about it. I got the name of her resource teacher at school that helped her with homework,etc.. and explained to her that this young lady had started piano lessons. I explained the mixing up of hands and notes,etc.. and that I was aware she was dyslexic. Her resource teacher was really nice and gave me these great tips to use that worked:

1. We color coded ALL of her music by right and left hand. I picked two colors the student liked and that were easy to see through and bought some highlighters in those colors to keep handy near the piano.
Every week I would give her the two colors and ask her to find the RIGHT and draw a line through the treble clef line of music through out the piece and repeat in LEFT with the other color.

2. For the mixing up of notes and since writing the note name was more difficult to read with a dyslexic student anyway, we picked out the two or three notes she was having problems with keeping straight. For this I had her suggest three easy shapes she would remember and made her a chart. I put the shape on one side and the name of the note on the other. Around these notes we drew the shapes in pencil (like circle, triangle square). Then, only for her practice at home and lessons I made a note board. I copied the piano keys onto stiff cardboard for the length of 1 octave. The board slipped behind the keys and lined up with the actual keyboard. On the three notes she was having problems with we drew the same three shapes and wrote in the note names. One of the note boards went home with her. The other note board stayed with me so she did'nt have to bring it back and forth.
IT WORKED.

So if you ever get a chance to teach a dyslexic student, do it. They may not progress as fast as some but then again some kids don't anyway so no one is the wiser.
The progress they do make and when you see that excitement on their faces when they get it is worth more than any ten "complete geniuses" you teach at the piano.

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#32350 - 07/30/04 06:29 AM Re: DYSLEXIA
Lisa Kalmar Offline
Star Member

Registered: 04/10/00
Posts: 4277
Loc: KC

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#32351 - 07/30/04 10:10 AM Re: DYSLEXIA
playsteinway Offline
Resident Member

Registered: 07/26/04
Posts: 232
Loc: Mason, Michigan
Thanks for the updated information. I bookmarked it and am keeping it in my teaching file for reference should I get another student in the future with dyslexia.
It has been about 8 years since I have had one but it is always good to update and keep current.

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#32352 - 07/30/04 11:32 AM Re: DYSLEXIA
shannonspiano Online   content
Mainstay Member

Registered: 07/01/04
Posts: 664
Loc: WI
JYI.. My little sister has Dyslexia.
She as had it treated with eye therapy. Yes it's completely treatable.
One thing that the therapist did was had her hold something in her rh and say this is my very heavy LH. Also activies off the bench. like step rh, lh, forward, turn around and step lh. see what happens and if the student learns to step the correct direction.
Also with students who have trouble with tracking. make a large font board with random letters and then make them read the letters from one line to the next, then just the firt & last letter of each row. Gradually bring the font down in size.
Something else for us to keep our eyes open for is students who see double, or who we think may need glasses. Especially if they are near sighted, as a piano teacher i can notice about 6 months before their school teacher when a student needs glasses.
_________________________
www.shannonspianostudio.com

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#32353 - 09/08/04 07:15 AM Re: DYSLEXIA
jaydub2 Offline
Resident Member

Registered: 01/29/04
Posts: 250
Loc: WA
A few months ago it became apparent to me that my student has several dyslexic tendencies -- mixing up left & right, notes going up & down, naming notes, never knowing or understanding where to start, and moving at an INCREDIBLY slow pace (she's starting her 3rd year of study & is only in PA level 2A).

I carefully, in private, and away from the student, suggested to the parent that I've noticed some of "Susie's" trouble areas are the same as some of my dyslexic students. I told her is was NOT diagnosing her daughter but thought she might want to be aware of this, possibly check into it?

The parent seemed to think my assessment was unthinkable. I was just wondering if anyone else thought these were symptoms of dyslexia OR characteristics of laziness & lack of practice. I honestly don't care if the parent believes me. I want the child to succeed and need advice on how to best meet the needs of this student

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#32354 - 09/08/04 07:45 AM Re: DYSLEXIA
playsteinway Offline
Resident Member

Registered: 07/26/04
Posts: 232
Loc: Mason, Michigan
I can understand the parents afrontedness when confronted. What you should have done is to mention that the student seems to be reversing things (left/right, note direction, reading, etc) of the music and then inquire about her practice routine at home. It may just be that the kid is lazy and does'nt practice (which would explain some of these things occurring). It could also be a matter of inquiring if the student is frustrated or bored with the music (you can ask the student this, "what do you like about your music? Is there something you would like to learn to play?" If this has'nt occurred throughout her study and is something recent, I would chalk it up to lack of proper practice or boredom because if she were dyslexic this would have always been there from day one (and with something like this parents (in my experience) will usually tell you when they enroll.)
This is why I have at the time of enrolling THE question I ask them (yes or no type, they don't need to elaborate unless its a yes) and that question is "does your child have any of the following- ADD, ADHD, DYSLEXIA, EPILEPSY, DLD, PROBLEMS WITH READING/MATH, MILD AUTISM, PARIAL HEARING LOSS OR VISION IMPAIRMENT?" This lets me know UP FRONT what I am getting into. For many of these areas I can adapt the lesson structure to best accomodate the student. Occassionally though I will refuse a student if they are out of my league of ability or experience.

If practice is not the problem,it may just be that she does'nt like the music OR does'nt understand you (both of which will slow a student down.) I had a student that was moving VERY SLOW through books. She sounds alot like the one you described but she was'nt dyslexic.. she was doing great but did'nt say anything until level 2 when she started to get overwhelmed with the music. I back burnered the level with her and we went back and did some level one reveiw until she was ready to go ahead. You may need to do the same thing here.

I have taught dyslexic students before and while rewarding, I also found that I could'nt assign quite as heavy a load as I did with normal kids because it was overwhelming to them. I usually stuck to a couple technique exercises, a scale and a piece each week. Theory never gets assigned unless they are fixing alot of wrong answers because that we do together at lessons so I can see where they are thinking and going with concepts. I follow the same approach with overwhelmed kids (as described) as well- one piece a week, a couple technique excercises OR scales. It works better, but you won't be moving ahead as fast either (which is OK if the student is benefitting from a slower pace).

Chances are you probably don't have a dyslexic kid if this is just now surfacing but an overwhelmed student who may be bored. I would explore those options first- especially if the parent was put off at the idea of her being dyslexic. (now a days most good first grade teachers will spot this and get them help through the school and it would be known up front with activities such as piano.)

[ 09-08-2004: Message edited by: playsteinway ]

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#32355 - 09/08/04 08:23 AM Re: DYSLEXIA
jaydub2 Offline
Resident Member

Registered: 01/29/04
Posts: 250
Loc: WA
This has been a problem from day one.

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#32356 - 09/08/04 09:39 AM Re: DYSLEXIA
pianoc Offline
Star Member

Registered: 08/14/03
Posts: 1088
Loc: Goshen, Indiana
jaydub2: There are so many factors that determine how fast a student progresses. 3rd year in 2A - while it may be slower than a "normal" student that practices regularly and doesn't miss lessons throughout the year - it's not terribly slow for a child that has less than disciplined parents, or slightly slower development, or maybe even a learning disability like dislexia.

If you think this student is getting frustrated with her progress, or is frustrated when the notes seem to flip around on her - ask her about it. Ask her if it happens when she does other things at school.

You don't have to recommend anything to her - but you can try a few tricks to see if anything makes it less frustrating. Try color coding - I've copied music onto colored paper - it helped one student.

It may be this student is just extra tired or stressed out by the time you see her.

We do special things with our students all the time - sometimes we call them games. Doing them doesn't make a student be one with a learning disability - it just means they need a little extra work on something and we do what works.

Experiment a little and see if you can find what works. Allow the student to progress at the pace she needs to go. If the parent is resistant to label a problem - don't. It's just usually not necessary.

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#32357 - 09/11/04 10:50 AM Re: DYSLEXIA
Gail Offline
Resident Member

Registered: 09/04/04
Posts: 369
Loc: Alpharetta, GA
I have read with interest the postings on this topic, and don't want to sound like I am a great expert on the subject, but I do teach Special Ed. in a public school (I got my M.Ed. in Special Ed. last December), as well as teaching piano lessons, and would like to add my 2 cents' worth.

The term dyslexia actually means "difficulty reading" and is frequently misinterpreted by parents and teachers to mean "can't read". There was a fantastic article in TIME magazine last year (maybe July 2003 or so), which claims that as many as 1 in 5 children are dyslexic to some extent. There is also a very good book by Sally Shaywitz, called "Overcoming Dyslexia", which deals primarily with parents and teachers working with children, but which still has some good information.

The current view of dyslexia is that it is a language-based disorder, not a visual one. There are many elementary-age children who do not understand that language is made up of individual words, and words are made up of individual sounds. I could go on and on, but I'll leave it there. Reversals are very typical of young students, 6 or 7, but after that time, there could be cause for concern.

HOWEVER, with all that said, there are still MANY, MANY children out there with processing issues who are not necessarily dyslexic. Visual-spatial problems, fine-motor control, auditory processing, visual and/or motor planning, visual closure, even processing speed, etc., etc. are all problems that can affect children with normal or higher than normal IQ's. As a teacher, my feeling is--whatever works, USE IT!! I'm glad you all have found some "tricks" to put in your toolboxes. One other suggestion, if there is a child who has difficulty with the letters or notes "jumping around" on the page, try colored acetate sheet overlays. Sometimes the starkness of black on white is difficult for their brain to process and less contrast may help. I've seen research supporting this and also claims that this is absolutely bunk, but I'd be willing to try anything, as I'm sure you all are.

Hope I don't sound like a "know-it-all"--I certainly DON'T, but children, reading and music are my passions, and I try to find and read EVERYTHING I can find on those subjects!!

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#32358 - 09/11/04 06:42 PM Re: DYSLEXIA
pianoc Offline
Star Member

Registered: 08/14/03
Posts: 1088
Loc: Goshen, Indiana
I hope you'll answer more questions here when they are raised. You have the experience and training that most of us don't.

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