Children with challenges - Down's Syndrome

Share your experiences or ask for help with special needs students

Postby 86-1067711887 » Thu Nov 27, 2003 2:19 pm

I am an elementary general music teacher who also teaches privately. I have a 4th grade student with Down's Syndrome who LOVES music. His parents approached me about giving their child lessons - on the piano. I have never taught to this kind of challenge. Suggestions, advice, guidelines appreciated.
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Postby Mins Music » Sun Jan 25, 2004 9:36 pm

What a beautiful oppurtunity you have. Make the lesson lots of fun, very personal, include a lot of music appreciation elements - you play a simple piece while he plays the triangle etc. Despite his age, there are many wonderful books on the market for pre-schoolers/very young preliminary. Emphasise doing, not sitting still and watching/listening[I] Keep the atmosphere calm and loving. You'll no doubt bond more with this child than your other students. Patience, variety, smaller concepts with more time to practise them in different ways - colour, dance, clap, sing as well as playing the piano. He'll love music and he'll love you.[U] Be aware of this. Keep positive and happy and let us know how you're going. :)
"I forget what I was taught, I only remember what I've learnt." - Patrick White, Australian novelist.
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Postby 75-1079830936 » Mon Mar 22, 2004 7:58 am

I have two students who have "problems".

One is a boy who has a generalized mental disability, I don't know what he's diagnosed as but he's 11 with a 6yo mentality. Sweet kid. The trick with him is to be very patient and let him be a little bit self-directed. My digital piano has a few voices so his reward is he can play his song in a different voice after he has learned it correctly. Also I let him play Christmas songs in's still music, and he loves it.

The other is a girl who has a social anxiety disorder. She doesn't speak a word or look me in the eye very often and she's extremely timid on the keys. But she's also extremely smart and gets the concepts really fast. With her I'm very positive and encouraging, and because I know at home she can and does speak, I give her a lot of things to work on at home like singing the note names and things like that. Her little sister takes piano from me, too, so I suggest to her often that they could work together on things.
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Postby Chris X » Fri Apr 02, 2004 9:17 pm

I have had a few students with disabilities. I had one that did not talk hardly at all. She had actually worked with a few teachers before me. The first lesson, I asked her to play, and she pulled out a Kabalevsky prelude, and got through about a measure. The next few lessons were difficult because I thought that on account of the time she had been taking lessons with other teachers, she was early intermediate. Eventually, I had to kind of back track and start her on beginning material. It went well, and she seemed to enjoy the lessons. I realized that many students need to sometimes go back and review. Part of being a good teacher is realizing the students pace, and to be sensitive toward that.
Lots and lots of dotted rhythm practice
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Postby Tranquillo » Thu Oct 04, 2007 10:01 pm

I can recall I time when I was smaller (8 years old) when my friends brother (with down sydrome) took keyboard lessons at the same time as me. He was on the John Thompson book with his teacher and moved through it consitently.
The thing is the teacher apparently went at a faster pace wtih his non disabilty students and the guy needed much repitition. He had a steady routine every day though and practiced everyday at the same time daily. He made faster progress than me ... I never used to practice when I was smaller.
... the fact that he had a steady routine and continual - (nothing could get into his way when he practiced) I think cause no dramas on nagging him to practice.
I dont know if all down syndrome people are liek him with a routine. But if they were I suppose there are no dramas in areas of practice.
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Postby LK123 » Fri Jul 18, 2008 2:11 pm

I have just taken on a student who has some hand deformities - he has short fingers that are contracted and they seem slightly webbed. The thing is he can still play with facility. He does make some extra movements with his wrists and arms to compensate. I am thinking that my biggest challenges will be to find repertoire to fit his hands (he can stretch about a 6th) and to make sure he doesn'y get an injury from the extra movement.
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Postby Tranquillo » Fri Jul 18, 2008 9:46 pm

This student is really lucky to have you as a teacher. How old is this student? ... Anyways, composers have written a lot for children, being empathetic to the hands of a child as they would be small.

I would also guess you would analyse particular pieces and adjust the fingering or arrange the music so that the student would be able to play through the pieces.

Try perhaps pruning pieces down.

Just some suggestions.
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