6 years and still no focus


Nadia said: Oct 11, 2014
16 posts

My son started Suzuki violin age 4, and he just turned 10. He seems to be always thinking of something other than what he’s being taught, and his violin teacher has to talk to him about paying attention just about every 5 minutes, every lesson. And this is how he is everywhere he goes—swim lesson, school, orchestra, etc. He’s polite, but very passive aggressive. He has progressed though each book each year in the beginning, spent 2 years in Book 4, and is in Book 5 now. It didn’t take him much at all to “memorize” Bach double, but he doesn’t pay attention to all the half notes, which is, to me, a lot worse than not memorizing but playing from music. He says he enjoys playing violin, and practices every day, but I no longer have patience or hope of his attitude/behavior every improving. Is it matter of time before he somehow “wakes up”, or is this how it’s going to be? I’m at my wit’s end. I’d appreciate any feedback and guidance from teachers and other parents who’s been there or seen students like him.

Kim Hatler said: Oct 12, 2014
 4 posts

Does he have ADHD? I am not a psychologist- but my son has it and this sounds a little like it. The violin actually helps ADHD, so it may have actually been worse if he had not ever played violin. My son is not on medication, and medication is not the only answer, esp if the ADHD is mild. We have an excellent psychologist, and our sessions with him basically consist of “tips” on how to manage it- and these ‘tips’ as very helpful. Again, I may be way off base, but if it’s something that you are noticing everywhere, you might want to just get it checked out. Do go to a psychologist, however, not just your pediatrician. Pediatricians can tend to go straight for meds, bc most of them are in a big hurry and its easy. Hope this helps!

Irene Mitchell said: Oct 13, 2014
Irene Mitchell
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Viola
Dallas, TX
114 posts

Hi Nadia!
I second what Kim says; please have your son checked out by a specialist to make sure it’s not a learning difference. My son has ADD and dyslexia; when it was finally diagnosed, life got much easier for all of us. Some of his behaviors that I took personally (!) were just his coping mechanisms, and they subsided when addressed with educational/behavioral techniques. There are also new generations of helpful medications (besides Ritalin) that are lifesavers, so please don’t completely rule out those until you talk in depth with the specialist. The fact that you and he have hung on through Bk 5 is a testament to your commitment to each other. Bravo!
Keep us posted, ok?
Best wishes,

Irene Mitchell

Gina Devirro said: Oct 14, 2014
 19 posts

Yes, it sounds like his progress isn’t really so bad??? He likes to play his violin, and practices daily? Not to negate your concerns at all, but perhaps shows better commitment on both of your parts than the average parent/kid team when it comes to this oh so difficult endeavor. When I get frustrated at my daughter’s lack of focus during practice, it helps me to remember that practicing music and learning a difficult stringed instrument is not a child-like activity, and yet we demand it of children. I take what I can get, which some days isn’t much. Whether I can get her to an ability which eventually will cause her to “self-ignite” at a more mature age is yet to been seen, but remains my fondest wish.

Robin Johnson said: Oct 15, 2014
Robin JohnsonViolin
La Crescenta, CA
19 posts

yes, your son absolutely needs to be tested. i would highly recommend, if you can, to visit, or at least learn more about dr. daniel amen, a psychiatrist who pioneered brain SPECT imaging. here is a link to a short online book that describes in depth what he does, and why he does it:

in our family, including extended family, many of whom have been treated by amen clinics, his work has been truly life changing. his work includes many things besides medicine, although medicine is good when properly prescribed.

good luck to you, and like someone else said, bravo on your commitment!

Robin Johnson
[javascript protected email address]

Gina Devirro said: Oct 16, 2014
 19 posts

Here is an article in Daniel Amen from the Washington post:


It seems this guy, while grossing 20 million last year, makes claims that stand in direct conflict to the positions taken by all the of relevant medical associations regarding the technology he promotes. A huge gap between the best scientific findings to date, and public opinion seems to exist.

Pieter Sheth-Voss said: Oct 16, 2014
 2 posts

Your ten year old son is in Book 5, practices daily, likes the instrument, has a sport, and plays socially in orchestra? I’m with Gina, that sounds pretty wonderful. To get to book five must have required tremendous focus. I’m sure with proper coaching anyone can bet better at focus, but reading this as a parent (not as a music teacher or MD), your email sounds like he’s a smart kid developing his own space and thinking about things which attract his own interests. My 10 y/o can still need nudging to practice and can give me a withering eye roll.

Nadia said: Oct 19, 2014
16 posts

THANK YOU, all, for “listening” to me and taking time to give me your feedback. It means a lot to me, and I don’t feel alone anymore. I have asked medical professionals as well as his school teachers, and they all tell me he doesn’t have ADHD. I almost wish he did, because then there would be a certain strategies to help him gain focus. Hmm. I might get another opinion. Meanwhile, I’m wondering if it’s more like what Pieter mentioned. I’ll let my son continue with violin, and will give you all a report in 6 months. Thanks again, fellow Suzuki parents!

Sue Hunt said: Oct 20, 2014
Sue HuntViola, Violin
403 posts

Book 5 at 10, not bad!
Practice can be a stumbling block for many children. So much of what is demanded of them can seem rather random and unreasonable.

Have you considered asking your teacher for a tangible goal for each practice task?

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