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Special Needs and Outside Lessons

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    Special Needs and Outside Lessons

    Hi, All, I need some help thinking through a situation with DD10. At this time last year, our piano teacher of 12 years retired. DD10 had been taking lessons for 2 years. We found a new teacher, and both DD10 and DS9 (both with multiple special needs) seem to be doing well. Their playing has improved, and their understanding of music has greatly increased.

    However, our teacher is unhappy with the way things are going. DD10 refuses to say more than a few words to her teacher during her lessons. She LOVES music and adores this teacher, but her anxiety rares up when we are there. Her teacher wants her to "hold up her end of the lesson." I've tried explaining that she just isn't wired like neuro-typical children. She's perfectly behaved and does everything her teacher asks, but it apparently is not enough.

    Any ideas are appreciated!

    Honestly, the whole thing just sort of hurts my feelings.
    Gina
    Honored & Blessed to be teaching my children at home
    (since 2001)

    DS-sophomore in college
    DD-soon-to-be college freshman!
    DD-9
    DS-8

    #2
    Re: Special Needs and Outside Lessons

    Find another teacher, darlin'. No one picks on my babies. Especially not someone I'm paying.

    Interview the next set of prospective teachers and explain what they're getting when they agree to teach your children. Be very clear about deal breakers. You'll find a compassionate and capable teacher. I am sure of it!

    Sorry for your heartache. All will be well.
    Boy Wonder: 10, MP2/SC4 (Special Needs)
    Joy Bubble: 8, MP2 (Special Needs)
    Snuggly Cowboy: 6, MPK
    Sweet Lightness: 2, Reverse-Engineering Specialist

    “Have no fear of moving into the unknown. Simply step out fearlessly knowing that I am with you, therefore no harm can befall you; all is very, very well. Do this in complete faith and confidence.”
    ~Pope St John Paul II

    Comment


      #3
      Re: Special Needs and Outside Lessons

      Another idea would be to use this as a tool to help your daughter in a different way:

      What does the teacher mean by holding up her end of the lesson? It might be good to identify this. If you think it might be worth staying with the teacher, this could be a good time to help your daughter think through & work through her own anxieties by helping her figure out what the teacher is looking for. It might be something worthwhile.

      I had one wonderful piano teacher 2nd grade through high school, but I was terrified (not sure why) of counting out loud. I know it frustrated my teacher, but no one helped me figure out that it was possible and even easy to do.

      So I stubbornly/fearfully counted in my head for over ten years! I think I could have been helped to see that my teacher just wanted to hear that I understood the eighth notes, sixteenths, and so on.

      Later I taught piano, and I decided to let no child be hindered by his/her anxiety. Instead, we talked through things. For example, if a child did not want to play in front of people, we talked about music as a gift to be shared. If a child did not want to count out loud, I gave the child the option of matching his voice to the music or not, but he needed to count. We often clapped and counted the rhythm together. Anxiety can become crippling, so while you want to understand it, you do not want to cater to it.


      Even if this teacher might not be sensitive to your daughter's struggles, you are. You might be able to help her face and overcome whatever anxiety she faces.

      If the teacher wants your daughter to be chattier, your daughter can be taught to comment about the weather, the teacher's appearance that day, or the music she practiced that week. Role play this. Turn it into a silly game, if needed. "Pretend I am Mrs. X. You walk in. Speak. Say something." Give her cue cards for practicing at home. "Try again. Be more convincing." We have role-played countless speaking scenarios like this in our home.


      If you are not sure what the teacher wants, find out what "holding up her end of the lesson is," and see if the teacher is willing for you to work on it. Maybe it is practicing? Is your daughter coming to the lesson having practiced daily? If not, this will show in the lesson.

      These are working in your favor:
      1. She adores her teacher.
      2. She is compliant during the lessons.
      3. She is playing well.
      4. You are seeing progress and increased learning.
      5. You do not want to teach your daughter to quit whenever she is anxious, and you do not want to change teachers again.


      Maybe I am biased because I both studied and taught piano, but it seems that the teacher must be reasonably capable if she is producing both good performance and warm feelings from your daughter. It might be a great time to help your daughter overcome her own anxieties in specific, practical ways.

      What do you think?

      Comment


        #4
        Re: Special Needs and Outside Lessons

        Cheryl is far more insightful than I! I'm typically of the mind that someone who is not naturally empathetic to a child with anxiety (or any other challenge) cannot be taught that empathy. My thinking is almost binary -- you either have it or you don't. I just cut my losses and find another resource. Because *I* would *never* treat a child or a parent this way (right?). So I infer the situation is unworkable. (And maybe it is.)

        But the above response is so prudent (which is why we love Cheryl). Take her advice before you take mine!
        Boy Wonder: 10, MP2/SC4 (Special Needs)
        Joy Bubble: 8, MP2 (Special Needs)
        Snuggly Cowboy: 6, MPK
        Sweet Lightness: 2, Reverse-Engineering Specialist

        “Have no fear of moving into the unknown. Simply step out fearlessly knowing that I am with you, therefore no harm can befall you; all is very, very well. Do this in complete faith and confidence.”
        ~Pope St John Paul II

        Comment


          #5
          Re: Special Needs and Outside Lessons

          Thank you both! Anita, your first response made me laugh because that's exactly how I feel. I've been a special needs mom for many years at this point, and NEVER have I had a problem like this! Maybe I've just been lucky

          Cheryl, there is so much truth in your response. Her lessons are definitely "working" as my daughter has really grown musically. What our teacher wants is for her to be more "interactive" during her lessons. I've talked to DD about it. We've gone over what to say, etc. Yet when we're there, she just clams up. DD is actually very talkative and boisterous at home. She sings out loud at church. She loves to be around groups of people-children, adults, animals Yet she can't seem to change her behavior in this setting. I think I'll work on role playing with her as you suggest, going through the whole lesson from start to finish.

          Her anxiety is mixed with non-attentive ADHD, SID and giftedness. I guess I tend to focus on how far she's come and other's tend to see how far she still is from neuro-typical kids. On the way home from her lesson yesterday, she told me all about the spider on the wall and everywhere it went.

          Anita, what you said about people either understanding/empathizing or not made me think about all of the people in my children's lives. I realize that not everyone has the patience/skill set to deal with special needs students. Maybe I totally misjudged this time?

          My older children have found such comfort in their music. It took years and years to get them to that point, but I want that for my younger children, too. Our goals are not piano competitions or large performances, and in that way we may differ from other families who attend this studio.

          The strange thing is that there are other students who are very, very quiet and shy as well, yet my DD's quietness seems "frustrating." I feel like what her teacher really wants is for her to be "neuro-typical," which obviously isn't going to happen.
          Gina
          Honored & Blessed to be teaching my children at home
          (since 2001)

          DS-sophomore in college
          DD-soon-to-be college freshman!
          DD-9
          DS-8

          Comment


            #6
            Re: Special Needs and Outside Lessons

            My older children have found such comfort in their music. It took years and years to get them to that point, but I want that for my younger children, too. Our goals are not piano competitions or large performances, and in that way we may differ from other families who attend this studio.

            The strange thing is that there are other students who are very, very quiet and shy as well, yet my DD's quietness seems "frustrating." I feel like what her teacher really wants is for her to be "neuro-typical," which obviously isn't going to happen.


            Nail on the head. That was my instant reaction when I read your initial post. This decision is, of course, up to you.

            But Cheryl makes a great argument for perseverance. That is an incredibly valuable life skill. Especially in the face of adversity. Even when it is an adult who is pushing back on your child a little. (I had teachers in school who scared the peepers out of me, but they taught me a lot.) Mastery of a skill isn't always accomplished in a "fun" environment.

            However....

            If it is causing more stress than benefit, I'd look elsewhere. I'm envisioning a warm, welcoming, cheerful, patient college student who is working on her music degree. Someone excellent in musical theory and application, who also plans to teach. Best of both worlds.

            Good luck ❤️
            Boy Wonder: 10, MP2/SC4 (Special Needs)
            Joy Bubble: 8, MP2 (Special Needs)
            Snuggly Cowboy: 6, MPK
            Sweet Lightness: 2, Reverse-Engineering Specialist

            “Have no fear of moving into the unknown. Simply step out fearlessly knowing that I am with you, therefore no harm can befall you; all is very, very well. Do this in complete faith and confidence.”
            ~Pope St John Paul II

            Comment


              #7
              Re: Special Needs and Outside Lessons

              Originally posted by Anita View Post
              [I]
              However....

              If it is causing more stress than benefit, I'd look elsewhere. I'm envisioning a warm, welcoming, cheerful, patient college student who is working on her music degree. Someone excellent in musical theory and application, who also plans to teach. Best of both worlds.

              Good luck ❤️
              This is what I'm trying to determine. The thing is, my DD isn't stressed by her lessons. It's just the way her differences are being "read" by the teacher, if that makes sense. She practices happily and enjoys her time there.

              You know those things that people tend to say?: "She just needs to try harder." "She needs to apply herself." "She could do it if she wanted to." I think that's what some people "see" when they look at DD. What they don't see is a ten-year-old's nervous system being bombarded with differences.

              I've explained it all again, and I'll role play with DD as Cheryl suggested. For now, I think we've reached an understanding. Time will tell if it lasts...

              I've thought about a college student, but it's difficult for both kids to change teachers, and I really don't want them to have to do that unless it's absolutely necessary. College students tend to be temporary by nature.

              Thank you for helping me think it through!

              Gigi
              Gina
              Honored & Blessed to be teaching my children at home
              (since 2001)

              DS-sophomore in college
              DD-soon-to-be college freshman!
              DD-9
              DS-8

              Comment


                #8
                Re: Special Needs and Outside Lessons

                Originally posted by Gigi View Post
                This is what I'm trying to determine. The thing is, my DD isn't stressed by her lessons. It's just the way her differences are being "read" by the teacher, if that makes sense. She practices happily and enjoys her time there.

                You know those things that people tend to say?: "She just needs to try harder." "She needs to apply herself." "She could do it if she wanted to." I think that's what some people "see" when they look at DD. What they don't see is a ten-year-old's nervous system being bombarded with differences.
                Okay, so -- let me see if I understand:
                DD is blissfully unaware that her teacher has this issue with her (?). If that is the case, and you have no other reason for concern (other than the teacher's private remarks to you) -- no, I wouldn't switch teachers. I'd continue to advocate.

                When we have special needs children, it feels as if we are frequently explaining, explaining again, and explaining one more time how our children react to stressors, interaction and a "normal" workload. This might just be an irritant you will have to tolerate while you, simultaneously, keep the teacher on the right page.

                Annoying, but useful.

                "Never let the perfect be the enemy of the good." What is the "good" in this situation? A quality musical education for your DD, free from punishment. The "perfect" would be with a teacher who might not be irritated by her "keeping up her end of the lesson". But that might not be in line with "the good". If the "good" outweighs the "perfect", you have your answer.

                But here's your homework (here, on the forum, or privately, at home):
                Unload every single negative emotion this situation triggers. Write it down, flesh it out. Explain WHY it steps all over your heart. Get it all out. Express it. Don't keep it bottled up inside. Then do whatever you need to, physically, to unwind from that stress. Once you've done that, I suspect that this situation will feel much less intimidating.

                Many times, this is not about finding a new teacher, it's about pain, fear and heartache that our special, special needs babies are being singled out -- again. It wears you down after awhile. Because you love your babies like you love yourself. It's hard to hear that someone is dissatisfied -- especially someone your child likes and trusts. It feels like a betrayal. It's not. It's just human. But it doesn't mean it's easy to handle.

                So give yourself the grace to be upset.

                It'll be okay.
                Last edited by Anita; 06-22-2017, 06:09 PM.
                Boy Wonder: 10, MP2/SC4 (Special Needs)
                Joy Bubble: 8, MP2 (Special Needs)
                Snuggly Cowboy: 6, MPK
                Sweet Lightness: 2, Reverse-Engineering Specialist

                “Have no fear of moving into the unknown. Simply step out fearlessly knowing that I am with you, therefore no harm can befall you; all is very, very well. Do this in complete faith and confidence.”
                ~Pope St John Paul II

                Comment


                  #9
                  Re: Special Needs and Outside Lessons

                  Originally posted by Anita View Post
                  Okay, so -- let me see if I understand:
                  DD is blissfully unaware that her teacher has this issue with her (?). If that is the case, and you have no other reason for concern (other than the teacher's private remarks to you) -- no, I wouldn't switch teachers. I'd continue to advocate.

                  When we have special needs children, it feels as if we are frequently explaining, explaining again, and explaining one more time how our children react to stressors, interaction and a "normal" workload. This might just be an irritant you will have to tolerate while you, simultaneously, keep the teacher on the right page.

                  Annoying, but useful.

                  "Never let the perfect be the enemy of the good." What is the "good" in this situation? A quality musical education for your DD, free from punishment. The "perfect" would be with a teacher who might not be irritated by her "keeping up her end of the lesson". But that might not be in line with "the good". If the "good" outweighs the "perfect", you have your answer.

                  But here's your homework (here, on the forum, or privately, at home):
                  Unload every single negative emotion this situation triggers. Write it down, flesh it out. Explain WHY it steps all over your heart. Get it all out. Express it. Don't keep it bottled up inside. Then do whatever you need to, physically, to unwind from that stress. Once you've done that, I suspect that this situation will feel much less intimidating.

                  Many times, this is not about finding a new teacher, it's about pain, fear and heartache that our special, special needs babies are being singled out -- again. It wears you down after awhile. Because you love your babies like you love yourself. It's hard to hear that someone is dissatisfied -- especially someone your child likes and trusts. It feels like a betrayal. It's not. It's just human. But it doesn't mean it's easy to handle.

                  So give yourself the grace to be upset.

                  It'll be okay.
                  Anita, that's a perfect summation of the situation. LOL, blissfully unaware. Yes, that's exactly what she is. To her teacher's credit, she never says anything about this in front of DD. She also doesn't appear to be frustrated at the time. I'm actually really good at picking up on people's moods, and honestly, it catches me off guard to hear about her frustration later. I had no indication. (This was the second time.)

                  Not everyone is equipped to teach special needs kiddos, and I totally understand that. What I'm really bad at, though, is dealing with how I feel about it. So thanks for the reminder to remember I'm a person, too.

                  Gigi
                  Gina
                  Honored & Blessed to be teaching my children at home
                  (since 2001)

                  DS-sophomore in college
                  DD-soon-to-be college freshman!
                  DD-9
                  DS-8

                  Comment

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