Overwhelmed kids

Barb said: Jun 19, 2013
Barb Ennis
Suzuki Association Member
Cello
678 posts

Hi everyone,

Does anyone have experience teaching or parenting a child who struggles in school and therefore has nothing left to give for home practice?

Morning practice is not an option in the family at my end, nor is home schooling. We are encouraged to teach these special needs kids, and I have no doubt about ability to learn an instrument, but a full school day is already more than this child can handle, so practice (even five minutes) just doesn’t happen very often.

Any suggestions I can pass along?

Hoping the student will get more help in school next year…

Barb
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Laura said: Jun 19, 2013
Laura Mozena
Suzuki Association Member
Violin
Palm City, FL
105 posts

What a difficult situation. Of course children who are struggling elsewhere need music in their lives, so I hope that you can find a way to encourage this student to continue. Sometimes I suggest that practice be done in tiny spurts. I know you said even 5 min. was difficult, but I mean even less then that. 30 sec. or 1 min. perhaps. I’m not sure what level your student is, but most of the beginning pieces in Suzuki violin school book 1 are 30 sec. long. And practicing one measure 5 times could take 1 min, Interspersing these little snippets between other activities (homework, commercials on TV, household chores etc.) can help the student feel like practicing is easy. When talking about homework, this could actually provide a needed brain rest. For example: Complete 1 math problem, play 1 review piece, complete another math problem, play a preview passage 3X, complete another problem, play another review piece, complete another, play a scale, complete another, do 5 bow holds. Then the student is multitasking and when the session is over, both practice and homework is complete. Hope this suggestion might help.

Laura
YMS

Barb said: Jun 19, 2013
Barb Ennis
Suzuki Association Member
Cello
678 posts

Thank you, Laura, I think your ideas could be really helpful for some kids, but this one does not watch TV and I doubt he has much homework other than being read to by parents. Apparently he just likes to retreat into a picture book (doesn’t read yet), and a simple request to hang up his jacket or his sister trying to interact with him will set him off.

One of his issues involves transitioning from one task to another, so I’m not sure the idea of breaking things up would work. They tried tying practice time to a meal to make a regular transition, but it just didn’t work with the rest of the family.

I was hoping they might continue lessons over the summer while having a break from school, but they have decided to take a break from everything.

Barb
Music Teachers Helper—for individual teachers
Studio Helper—for entire music studios or schools

Laura said: Jun 20, 2013
 
Suzuki Association Member
Violin
Stanton, MN
25 posts

Frustrating situation indeed! With students who have struggled with the practice routine, I make check-in’s about practice as a regular part of each lesson an extra priority. I feel that it is important for the family to continue to hear the importance of regular practice. In such situations I have suggested that just listening to the CD can be counted as a practice session. I find that weekly practice charts can be helpful to guide this conversation. I told one student with an amazing voice, but no support at home that if she sang the songs, this counted. Both of these activities can be done during a car ride. I also ask the parent to read the book “To Learn With Love.” I will lend them my studio copy if needed.

I have mixed results. Some of these students have established a regular practice routine and done better than I ever imagined they could. Some eventually quit.

Laura

Barb said: Jun 20, 2013
Barb Ennis
Suzuki Association Member
Cello
678 posts

Thank you, Laura. This student’s mom totally gets it all, and always reports on practice right away or even before the lesson by phone or email, and they do have a practice chart, too. It’s just been a really rough ride and as much as she knows practice time is important, she’s putting his mental health first.

I am wondering what would happen if she followed the advice on the Parents as Partner’s video “Making Failure Impossible,” and rather than ask the child to practice, just did it herself.

But maybe a break from lessons next fall (which is being considered) wouldn’t be such a bad thing until they see improvement in the school situation (only recently learned what the difficulties really are), and maybe simply a listening time rather than a practice time would be a good substitute for a while.

Barb
Music Teachers Helper—for individual teachers
Studio Helper—for entire music studios or schools

Sue Hunt said: Jun 21, 2013
Sue Hunt
Suzuki Association Member
Viola, Violin
391 posts

I find that focusing past achievements if very powerful. When you help children to have strong sensory memories of how they took each tiny step forward, you are giving them a treasury of inspiration for when practice is overwhelming.

Barb said: Jun 21, 2013
Barb Ennis
Suzuki Association Member
Cello
678 posts

Thanks, Sue.

Barb
Music Teachers Helper—for individual teachers
Studio Helper—for entire music studios or schools

Maria Stefanova-Mar said: Jun 22, 2013
 Violin
Albuquerque, NM
19 posts

Just a thought, you mentioned that the child likes to retreat into a picture books or books being read to him. Using that one activity he likes can be helpful. There are wonderful children’s books with music themes. I wonder if this might be a “window” of getting the child encouraged to do music as well as to slowly ease him into some practice.

Heather Reichgott said: Jun 25, 2013
Heather ReichgottPiano
South Hadley, MA
96 posts

You could always go heavy on the “comfort” aspects of playing—review pieces, learning melody lines to favorite songs at a very slow pace—unless/until the student develops more drive (and available practice time).
Music might be a wonderful refuge for this kid.

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