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Do any teachers have experience teaching children with Aspergers and ADHD?

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by miltslackford, Dec 14, 2011.

  1. miltslackford


    Oct 14, 2009
    I have received an inquiry from a parent whose child has ADHD and Asbergers.

    I was wondering if there were any teachers on the forum who have experience teaching children with either of these conditions and would have any advice about how to approach lessons?
  2. Jinro


    Oct 9, 2011
    West TN
    I can't really give you advice on lessons, but I can warn you on what could potentially be a problem. I was diagnosed with Asperger's many years ago, but managed to grow out of/suppress ~80% of it.

    If the child isn't interested in music, I really don't know how you should approach the lessons, as Asperger's people are intensely focused on one or two specific subjects and show absolutely zero interest in things outside those subjects. If he's interested in music, you're golden, and he should learn fairly quickly. If he's not, try to find what he is interested in and try to link that with music.

    Second thing is rules and routine. Asperger's people see rules as unbreakable, and if there are no rules, they're lost. Also with routine--they have a routine and if that routine gets interrupted, it really frustrates them. Likewise, they have a hard time thinking outside of the routine.

    The second gives me the most problems, personally. Applying scales is an excellent example. When learning the scale, your taught to play from the root to the octave, then back down to the root. This becomes a rule/routine for me, and the task of playing the notes in the scale out of order becomes a real chore, and my instinctive reflex is just to play it in some kind of order.
  3. miltslackford


    Oct 14, 2009
    Thanks Jinro

    Apparently the child has been enjoying guitar lessons up until now, so I take that to mean that music is one of his preferred subjects.

    The point you made about rules is very useful, thanks. I will probably stick to stuff like Classical guitar where there are lots of rules in that case!
  4. miltslackford


    Oct 14, 2009
    By the way, have you thought of practicing the scale using sequences? This may help for you to break up the order whilst at the same time learning an actual order of notes.

    I once did an exercise where I played triads starting from the first degree. So you play 1,3,5 starting from the root. Then you play 1,3,5 from the second scale degree (which would be 2,4,6 in actual fact) then 1,3,5 from the third degree etc. Then you do the same descending.

    What you can do after that is play every permutation of 1,3,5, so that gives you


    A total of six permutations. Then, after that, if you really want, you can start combining two sets of three. So if you draw a table of the six permutations across the top, and the six permutations down the side, then in combining you get 36 permutations. Examples would be

    135 531
    153 513


    I did this exercise a while ago and it really gets your fingers to cope with a lot of different movements, and is great for your ear! I did it on guitar, but I'm sure it would be fine for bass.
  5. Mulebagger


    Dec 12, 2007
    poppin in the corn belt
    Endorsing Artist: Zon Guitars, Tsunami Cables, DR Strings, GK
    Aspergers Syndrome is an Autism Spectrum Disorder and involves difficulties in social interactions. No two people are alike, but things like rule following, poor eye contact, lack of empathy, and not following social cues. There are more facets to the syndrome, but a little research should help you out.

    I'd say if you are doing one on one lessons and have a good relationship with the child, you should do well. In larger groups would be where more difficults may occur.

    I'm a middle school teacher and often have had as many as 4 students with Asperger's Syndrome in my class at once. To say it is a challenge would be an understatement.

    best of luck and I hope you can work it out and make a positive difference in this kid's life.
  6. MarTONEbass


    Jun 19, 2009
    Norton, MA
    I have been a special education teacher for 10+ years now and have worked with kids with these diagnoses.

    Establish a good rapport from the get-go by finding out what interests him. Have a conversation about his goals, establish some rules. Reduce the amount of distractions in your teaching area.

    Having a set regimen/schedule to your lessons is going to bey key for both of these conditions. Break it up into 5-10 minute chunks.

    Asperger and ADHD kids are usually easier to deal with one-on-one and can really excel when they are interested.

    OVER-plan for your lessons. These kids are usually average to above average intelligence and may surprise you how quickly they can learn. Always have extra material ready to go.

    I think the classical route is a good choice, but keep in mind that by teaching him that rules CAN be broken in music can help him to apply that lesson to other areas of his life.

    Have fun and good luck!
  7. miltslackford


    Oct 14, 2009
    Thank you all for the great advice!

    I will bear this all in mind.
  8. Jinro


    Oct 9, 2011
    West TN
    I would like to add that it's not necessarily not following social cues, it's more of not understanding them or even being aware that they exist.
  9. cschenk78


    Mar 12, 2000
    Watertown, NY
    I have run a studio in New York for the past 8 years that specializes in students with developmental and learning disabilities. Feel free to pm anytime with questions or suggestions. I have a training program in the works as well.
  10. I have been working with/teaching a child who has Asperger's Syndrome for almost 11 years.

    He's my son.

    Everything mentioned above is true, for the most part (and with most Aspergians). Children with Asperger's are extremely rule-bound and struggle the most in "free time" or times in which there is no clear-cut set of rules. The will become fixated quite often on a particular thing and can talk at length about a specific topic for long periods. They will typically need to know every detail about something specific or will give you....every detail about something specific. If the child has been enjoying guitar lessons for a while, I suspect it is something he/she likes so you have the opportunity for a lot of success.

    A few things to remember;

    1. Just because they are not looking at you when you speak doesn't mean they are not listening. Eye contact is not something they do naturally, or really understand why other people look for it. They may have been trained to do it over the years, but don't look for it as a way of knowing that what you have said was heard or understood.

    2. The child may struggle with understanding what you want them to do unless you are specific. Don't expect them to make the "jump" to the next level on their own, and don't rely on them to draw a conclusion from "tips" you give them. Be specific. THEY ARE EXTREMELY LITERAL. If you say, "What's up?", don't be surprised if they look up and say "A ceiling fan". Some people just think they're being smart-alecks, but again....they will take what you say literally. If they play a song well and you say "You'd kill with that one", they may ask a parent, later, how people die from music.

    Now this is not to say they don't understand humor, or laugh, or find things funny, but don't be surprised when they laugh at something that you don't think is all that funny, or don't laugh at something that you find funny.

    3. Be specific in what you want them to practice. Give the child clear-cut, attainable goals and just come right out and tell them what they have to learn between lessons. Be specific.....as specific as you can be. Also, give them directions one step at a time. If you list 3 or 4 or 5 things to do, all at the same time, they may be overwhealmed. One step at a time. Lists work well.

    4. Anxiety is common. Anxiety over lesson times, length, and certain specifics will be important to the child. If the lesson is for 5:00, the child may stare at the clock and when it hits 5-0-0, they expect it to start. Not before, not after. If it goes to 5:30, at 5-3-0, they expect it to end. Breaking these rules may cause the child to be anxious. Anxiety leads to bigger problems.....as they become agitated......

    Be particularly concerned with noise or volume. Some Aspergians are sensitive to increased noise level, or sudden, loud noises. In talking to my son, it seems that when he is anxious somehow every noise or sound somehow becomes amplified in his head. If you are teaching electric guitar or bass, start with a very low volume level and work your way up. He may be anxious or nervous during your first lesson simply because it's a change and not familiar, so the volume level may seem much higher to him. Or maybe not.

    5. Children with Asperger's may not understand certain social norms. They may not say please, thank you, or they may suddenly change direction in a conversation without notice. They may have to be reminded NOT to interrupt. They have some difficulty understanding that YOU don't know what they are thinking, and they may have to be reminded to explain a statement or part of a conversation.

    In the end.....they're still kids. They want to have fun. They want to have friends. They want to learn about things they like. They want to succeed. Just remember, be very clear and direct when you speak, provide a firm structure to the lesson, make the goals attainable, and if you're not sure that the child heard or understood you, ask them if they did. They'll tell you.
  11. paradog


    Dec 25, 2011
    Central NJ
    As a regular education teacher, You are making the greatest step to helping your student. I find that environments with too much sensory activity can be distracting. Sometimes it is useful to think from their perspective in planning, work in smaller concepts, repeat often and let them be creative...sometimes they will entertain complex and lengthy lesson and somedays they won't...so in many ways they are a typical child, we need to be atypical teachers.
  12. I grew up and live with ADHD, I hold a BS in psychology and spent most of my collegiate career studying ADHD.

    Additionally my girlfriend is in her senior year of her Teaching Degree.

    If you sent personal messages we might be able to offer some insight.:bassist:
  13. BassyBill

    BassyBill The smooth moderator... Gold Supporting Member

    Mar 12, 2005
    West Midlands UK
    In my experience, kids with autism spectrum disorders come in all sorts of "flavours", just like kids in general do. The best way to tackle this situation is, imo, meet the kid and see how it works out. You should get an idea very quickly of whether you'll be able to work positively together or not. Just be honest with yourself about the reaction/vibe you get from the first encounter. More than that, it's pretty hard to say.

    (I've been a teacher for over 20 years and now train teachers for my living. I've had considerable experience of kids with these sorts of difficulties - some learn to deal with them well and for some it poses more severe issues.)
  14. HaVIC5


    Aug 22, 2003
    Brooklyn, NYC
    Great post! Thank you for sharing your insights, I'm definitely saving this in case I need help with working with a person with an Autism spectrum disorder.

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