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Change of instrument for DS with Aspergers?

(15 Posts)
oliviaaah Mon 27-Oct-14 12:48:35

My DS is about to be 11 and has studied the piano for 5 years now. This summer he passed Grade 1 ABRSM with a score of 115. It's been a bit of a slog to get him this far and I'm feeling a little downhearted.

His physical development is on the slow side. He is slightly built, lacks strength in his fingers and is a little uncoordinated. Now he is really struggling with two handed scales required for Grade 2 onwards.

He is definitely musical and has enjoyed playing the pieces he's learned. I'm hoping that perhaps with a change of instrument he may fly. His attitude to practising is pretty standard. Sometimes reluctant, but sometimes really gets into it.

I wonder what I can put down to the Aspergers. He has grasped theory as theory, but has difficulty applying it to actions like sight reading.

I would love to hear other people's thoughts and experiences around this.

1805 Mon 27-Oct-14 21:34:40

Hi. As both a music teacher and a parent of aspergers child I would say you probably know best. ASD is such a wide umbrella, I'm sure you know that no 2 children are the same. Is there aspect of changing instrument you are concerned about?

I teach beginner piano, and many children struggle with hands together scales, and sight reading. It's hard!!

Is there an instrument he wants to play? How about music mixing, arranging, or composing? Or conducting?

Just keep him interested! Good luck!

Noteventhebestdrummer Tue 28-Oct-14 07:15:25

Try trumpet? Held centrally in front of the player and only 3 moving parts means it's better for kids with dyspraxia than sideways or complex instruments with many keys.

singinggirl Tue 28-Oct-14 14:19:01

DS2 has Aspergers and also played the piano for years not getting very far. He is eleven and dropped it this summer, not getting to grade 3. He has also given up violin and viola, so has quite a collection of grade 1s! Since he has sensitivity issues, finding the right instrument has been hard, but he is now playing clarinet and drums and loving them both.

I would suggest some careful discussion with your DS to find out if there is anything he would really like to play (DS2 is often not very forthcoming with his thoughts, apparently he's wanted to learn the drums for years), and letting him be exposed to some other instruments - clarinet we started after he bounced home telling us about an assembly where he'd heard it, telling me it didn't make him feel 'tingly'.

He is also playing the piano more now he doesn't have to practice!

ohtobeanonymous Tue 28-Oct-14 21:59:26

He may find an orchestral instrument easier as there is only one line of music. Has your local music service any 'try an instrument' type days where you can take your child along, meet people who play a wide range of instruments and get to try them/ask advice etc...?

If not, are there local orchestra concerts where he can explore the options? Strings definitely the hardest to learn, but brass and wind can also be tricky due to physical sensations of producing the sound. Has he thought about percussion (tuned and untuned) - this will obviously relate well to the understanding of theory he may already have developed, tuned percussion music is like reading only the 'right hand' line of piano, and who doesn't like drum kit (apart from the neighbours! Although drums can get pretty complicated with coordinating different rhythm patterns in different hands/feet).

Good luck finding something that gives him musical pleasure - how is his singing? This is a valid choice also!

There are also some great apps/programs for creating music - GarageBand is fun and easy to use, Cubase quite complicated but you can make really professional sounding music.

disorganisedmummy Wed 29-Oct-14 07:07:32

Hi,can I add our experience please. DS is 8 and we suspect he has dyspraxia and may also be borderline Aspergers. He has been learning the violin for 3 years and will be doing his grade 1 in December. Progress has been slow because of his co-ordination difficulties but all of a sudden he has taken off with it and in September he joined our local Saturday music Academy. He is so passionate about it and has decided that he wants to be a musician when he grows up!grin
Sorry op,that probably doesn't really help you but I just wanted to give you some hope!

WhoKnowsWhereTheSlimeGoes Wed 29-Oct-14 07:32:44

My DS has AS and dyspraxia and really struggled with keyboard (gave up after a year), he has just been assessed by an Educational Psychologist who suggested drums might be the perfect thing. Unfortunately we haven't space for them though, so haven't tried it.

disorganisedmummy Wed 29-Oct-14 08:45:30

Yes D's also tried piano and keyboard and really struggles with it. You'd think he wouldn't be able to play the violin but although he finds it tricky,he loves it and is so passionate about it .

oliviaaah Wed 29-Oct-14 22:05:16

Hi everyone. Thank you so much for your posts. It's great to hear others' stories. I think I need to find a taster session type experience as ohtobeanonymous says.

1805 I think it's just my own hang up about not giving up and persevering. I think he would cope with changing instrument quite well actually, especially if he chose the new one.

I guess I was hoping that the ability to focus in on something which is often an aspect of people on the spectrum would be channelled into music, but at the moment the only place it's headed is Minecraft! Still, there is time. I guess patience is the order of the day.

disorganised mummy yes, it's that passion that I'm hoping for. So glad your DS has found it. Mind you, I'm not sure I'd recommend the life of a professional musiciangrin

Theas18 Wed 29-Oct-14 22:13:35

Agree trumpet or cornet might suit. My " little friend" ( I all ways call him that but he's heading for 7 foot tall now!) with a learning disability/dyspraxia started at aged 9 in mainstream primary and was enabled to cont lessons at special school and I'd now their first player in a schools ensemble!

thedevilinside Wed 29-Oct-14 23:08:20

I have aspergers and struggle so much reading music, but I love improvisation, particularly blues, taught myself as a teen, I did start classical piano as an adult, but can't really get to grips with sight reading.

1805 Thu 30-Oct-14 00:09:40

Sight reading is all about seeing patterns, not necessarily reading every single note. That's one reason why learning scales, arpeggios and broken chords are important to learn. Then when you look at new music, you should be able to spot those patterns in the new music and just implement the learnt finger patterns/shapes. Keep practising!!!

Regarding choosing an instrument - it's worth having a quick think about any sensory issues/preferences he has.

Worriedandlost Thu 30-Oct-14 23:29:18

I do not have advice but congratulations on passing first exam so well and having such a great achievement. I can imagine how difficult it was for your ds and what patience you needed-very well done both of you!

ohtobeanonymous Fri 31-Oct-14 08:56:24

I meant to add that my DD also learns piano and violin, and she also has Aspergers. She also struggles with maths, so spotting those patterns and interpreting the written notation means sight reading is a nightmare for her. She has amazing aural skills though and so when it is so easy to learn pieces by ear, she feels it is too slow and frustrating to read the notation. Now, however, as her pieces are getting much more complicated, she wishes she spent more time trying to get to grips with the sight reading skills! She does sing in a few choirs and I think that has helped her sight reading as they do a lot of sight singing so she is expected to follow the music in order to learn it, rather than having it played first and then just remembering how it sounds!
OP your DS might really enjoy some jazz piano - lots of improvisation based on chord patterns and scales. And not much reading involved apart from chord charts, usually! Could be a bit of relief from slogging away at those scales, and a good motivation to learn them, because he will use them lots in the music grin

StuntNun Fri 31-Oct-14 09:10:44

I don't have Aspergers (as far as I know but DS1 does so I probably do have Aspie traits). I play the piano (grade 6), clarinet (grade 6), saxophone (grade 5) and bass guitar. The piano has always been a struggle for me, especially the coordination between the two hands but the other instruments came very easily despite requiring coordination and fine motor control. Personally I think it's because I love the sound of then and I want to play them for their own sake whereas with the piano I think it was more a case of I should learn it because we had one at home and it's a useful instrument for any musician to have some knowledge of it. DS1 wanted to play the trumpet from when he was three years old and started lessons at age 6. He's now 11 and working towards his grade 5 but he has definitely struggled with his fine motor control even though the mechanics of the instrument are quite simple.

Why not play Britten's Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra to your child to see which sounds spark an interest. I think personality and temperament play a huge part in which instrument a person should play, if they learn the 'wrong' instrument then they won't enjoy it as much.

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