child with tourette syndrome

Angela said: Sep 22, 2014
 
Suzuki Association Member
Violin
York Springs, PA
33 posts

I have a male student that is 9 years old almost 10 that has Tourette Syndrome (TS). This child is not only my student but my son. I started teaching him violin at 3 years old at his request. He loves the arts such as music, dancing, creating pictures (way beyond his years). We struggle with many things because of his TS but I have not found a way yet to help him with violin. He doesn’t want to quit but it’s OK with me if he feels like he can’t do it because of his tics. As of now he doesn’t want to quit but he is so upset when we do practice. He has both verbal and auditory tics. He is home schooled because of the severity of the TS. I have over 20 years of experience of teaching violin with many children with different challenges, autism, blind, physical problems, mental problems but what makes this so much harder is it’s my child. I’ve tried following a schedule of practice steps example step 1 we’re going to do bow hold X amount of times, step 2 violin hold X amount of times etc. I’ve made practice / teaching segments different so it’s not like I’m lecturing all the time. Along with making practice sessions short and trying to build up time. Starting with 30 seconds, one minute, etc. I’d find another teacher however there is no one else in the area close enough where I live. Being a single mom I can’t drive to far away other wise I’ll cut into my own teaching time. I do not have him on any meds because the doctors we’ve been to don’t agree on what to give him. We have been to an autisim specialist to rule out that, we’ve been to a nuroligist, phycoligist, phyicaitrist. (sorry can’t spell) We are having trouble getting them all to agree. The only thing they do agree on is yes he has TS but they don’t agree with which meds or even to give him meds at all. With all that being said I’m at a loss. Most of the time we can’t get past the physical or verbal tics and by chance we can get past one song there’s no way we can go back and fix “spot boxes” which were layed out before the piece ever began. We are up to Allegretto. If anyone has experience with children with TS either a parent, teacher or someone that has grown up with TS, I would be interested in hearing your stories, advice, resources, or leads that may shine some light on the matter. Thank you in advance for any help.

Angela Schlessman

Laura Burgess said: Sep 23, 2014
Laura Burgess
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Viola
32 posts

Angela,

You are doing a thoughtful job teaching your son. It occurs to me that you are holding up two sides of the triangle and that is rough for parents even if there are no learning challenges.

I wonder if there is another Suzuki teacher you could trade with, either in person or via Skype, where they teach your son and you teach their child.

Laura said: Sep 23, 2014
 
Suzuki Association Member
Violin
Stanton, MN
25 posts

I have two sons who are 12 and 13. They both had neurodevelopmental issues when younger. I found that the combination of a very good Handle (handle.org) therapist, as well as a knowledgeable Dr. of Integrative medicine (figured out food allergies and neurochemical imbalances and treated these) made an enormous difference in their individual issues and strengthened their systems to be able to learn much more easily. Some years with music were better than others and I was glad I hung in there. They are both doing well now. But, I did need to find the medical answers to help them along.

Barb said: Nov 11, 2014
Barb Ennis
Suzuki Association Member
Cello
678 posts

I have taught a child with TS. In our case, the tics didn’t affect playing too much. Movements of the head etc. don’t affect the cello the way they would a violin! At first, eye rolling appeared to be an attitude thing, but eventually the mother clued in that it was just another tic. I think it may have affected his music reading as he couldn’t keep his eyes on the page.

My own son’s tics lessened at puberty, and they were always mild enough to not be an issue with his piano playing.

I like Laura’s suggestion of finding another teacher to Skype with.

Depending on what his tics are, and I know they can change over time, I wonder if a different instrument would be easier?

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

Angela said: Dec 3, 2014
 
Suzuki Association Member
Violin
York Springs, PA
33 posts

Thank you for your suggestions and encouragement thus far. Where I live there are no other violin teachers let alone Suzuki. I don’ have access to Skype so that’s not an option. I am having a hard time trying to get him some therapy. Places I call say they are not taking on new patients or won’t deal with children. I haven’t given up, I know there is someone out there that will be able to help, just have to find them. I have heard that the older the child with TS gets the tics can become almost obsolete it’s just a matter of waiting them out. I do hope the older he gets we will be able to conquer the violin side, along with, all of the other struggles that go along with having TS. I know there are others out there that have TS but it’s good to hear from you so I know “I’m not alone”.

Angela

Angela Schlessman

Laura said: Dec 4, 2014
 
Suzuki Association Member
Violin
Stanton, MN
25 posts

I have a renewed appreciation for this chat thread. Monday, I learned that one of my beginners, who showed such early promise, but who was failing to establish a good bow hold, and who would tighten his muscles often, has a diagnosis of Tourettes. This was not communicated to me until now, but explains why he was having troubles with his form. The tic in his pinky would cause it to lift, thus pronating his bow hold. Stacatto bowing would cause his arm to stiffen. Now I know why!

I’m in the process of adapting to what his body needs. We are eliminating stacatto movements, instead focusing on legato bowings. I am looking at adjusting to an unconventional bow grip (similar to a cello bow hold), to keep the pinky from lifting in the air.

I will be interested to hear any advice that others have found to help as this thread continues.

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