Music Lessons With A Learning Disability

I have a sweet student, Jack, who I’ve been teaching for 3 ½ years now. He’s about
17 and a freshman in high school. He has learning disabilities and ADHD, according to his parents. I’ve adjusted my methods a bit with him and also my expectations to an extent. I don’t obsess on rhythm with him. If he says “1, 2” when he gets to a half note, I’m satisfied. Even if it’s way too fast or slow. If he acknowledges a rest with “rest” or “shh”, I’m satisfied, no matter how out of time it is. It pains me to let things like this slide but I know it’s what is best for him.

Learning Disability

music lessons learning disabilities
Feeling the Frustration

For Jack, quick success is key. The second he feels like he failed at something he
calls himself “stupid”, he says he can’t do anything right, and then starts to subtly cry, like he can’t control it. He doesn’t bawl or try to get attention. He genuinely hurts deep inside when he makes a mistake, even if I gently correct it. When they tears start falling, I can’t bring attention to it, nicely or otherwise, because we all know that makes it worse. So I let him cry and I don’t look at him and then after he’s done playing I say as many good things as I can possibly think of while he wipes the tears. The battle is making sure he is learning something and improving at any kind of pace while also not unintentionally making him cry!

The Best Sight Reader!

Jack is one of my favorite students. He listens very intently when I teach him and he immediately fixes the mistakes I decide to point out. He is the most careful student I have ever had. He doesn’t push down a key until he knows it’s the correct one and 9 times out of 10 he doesn’t make a mistake because of his patience to play what’s right instead of flying through the piece as fast as possible. I always tell him he’s “the best sight reader I have” and I know that gives him a sense of pride. The best part is that I’m not lying. I have some more advanced students, sure. But none with the wrong note: right note ratio that he has.

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