student with mild Cerebral Palsy

Brooke said: Sep 8, 2008
 Violin, Suzuki Early Childhood Education
2 posts

I am about to begin teaching a six year old child with mild CP. Her right hand is more affected than her left, which should be better for the violin, but I am wondering if anyone else has taught a child fine motor impairments. I understand that it may not work out, but any suggestions or tips would be greatly appreciated.

Thank you!

Heidi said: Sep 8, 2008
33 posts

I have been teaching a violin student with mild CP for several years. Your description could easily fit my student. At the beginning, I kept thinking, “every child can, every child can…” It was a slow process in the beginning, and a lot of it was helping the child AND the mother redevelop attitudes about the child being able to do things by herself. And getting her to realize that some things are hard to do for everyone, not just those with stiff arms or fingers.
After several years she can play most of book 1 pretty successfully, so that she can enjoy music. Her mother has gone through so much with her, and at this point is overjoyed that she can play Minuets by Johann Sebastian BACH. The mother told me that when her child was born, the doctors told her not to expect anything from this girl, so being able to listen to her play Minuet 1 quite well at the recital is way beyond her wildest dreams. I am genuinely thrilled with her progress each time she comes for lessons, even if it is on a different pace than many of my other students. I say go for it. Learn what you can about her abilities, and go from there.

Brooke said: Sep 9, 2008
 Violin, Suzuki Early Childhood Education
2 posts

Wow! That is really encouraging to hear! The most important thing for me is that it is a positive experience for both my new student and her mother so just knowing that it can be so rewarding and fun is great!

Have you used any adaptive equipment/teaching aids with her that have been effective?

Thank you SO much for your response! I am very excited to begin lessons knowing that someone else has taken on the challenge and been successful!

Heidi said: Sep 10, 2008
33 posts

You know, I don’t use any other equipment than the violin and the CDs. I taught this girl pretty much the same way as the others, just that it has taken a bit longer than most for her to make some skills “easy” through repetitive practice. The “one-point” lesson has proven very important for her—I let intonation go when bowhold or tone production is the focus of the day, for instance. Actually, tone is her biggest challenge because of the effects of the CP on one side of her body, and she usually takes care of intonation on her own. I keep in mind that her goal is to enjoy music today, not get into Juilliard someday. Enjoy it with her.

said: Sep 30, 2008
 5 posts

My daughter may or may not have CP, the jury is still out. In any event, she has had (and continutes to have) multiple developmental delays of both gross and fine motor skills as a result of prematurity. I started her on violin a year ago just after she turned three. The main thing I would say is to keep the bar as high as you do for your other students but have no expectation as far as time table. So, if you expect your beginners to have a lovely bowhold, don’t let that slide because the student has CP. It took my daughter 3 months of consistent practice to figure out how to make the “bunny” for the pre-bowhold. It took another few months to get the fingers on the bow consistently in the right place / with the right hand. Now she has one of the best bowholds in her teacher’s studio. It took over a year to get there, though. To give you an idea of her playing level after a year, she is a whiz at playing Twinkle var. A rhythm on all open strings and is starting to consistently find F# with her 1st finger.

Parents of children with disabilities are a different breed. We have been told to lower our expectations for our children, and have watched their peers run circles around them (sometimes literally) developmentally. It’s tough, BUT it’s also amazing because the smallest victories are cause for big celebration. Go slow and enjoy the ride!


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