10 Dyslexia Tips for Music Parents RSS
Music Parent Guide: No 12
10 ways to help your musical, dyslexic child
1: Choose a teacher carefully
Arrange one-off introductory lessons with a few teachers before deciding. Look for a teacher who uses a multi-sensory approach to teaching and learning as much as possible, using tutor books with pictures, demonstrating what and how to play, encouraging listening and conversation during the lesson. Dyslexic children may benefit from alternative ways of learning pieces, scales and arpeggios, such as learning by rote and copying from a video during practice sessions so, ideally, the teacher should be willing to explore these resources with your child.
2: support the teacher's decisions about music reading
Dyslexic students, particularly, need to be guided to develop intelligent strategies for deciphering music, such as looking for patterns, key awareness and recognising intervals and sequences. Teaching pieces of appropriate musical level partly by rote can be helpful, so don't worry if your child seems to be memorising performance pieces rather than reading the music as long as the teacher is also helping her with music reading.
Music reading should not be neglected but it can progress at a slower rate if necessary. Regular sight reading practice, with lots of support, is the key to progress. Ask the teacher if there is anything you can do at home to help with music reading - for example, if you sit in on a lesson to discover what music reading strategies your child is learning, you can then support her at practice time. Subscribing to an online sight reading resource that plays how the piece should have sounded can be useful; E-MusicMaestro online Learn to Sight Read has this facility and the notation is on dyslexia-friendly cream background. Learn to Sight Read: Piano is now also available in a graded book format, with free QR code listening.
Be sensitive to how what the teacher tells you and to what your child feels about working on music reading. It's only one aspect of musicianship and severely dyslexic children may gain more from alternative activities - it's not worth making life a misery!
3: It can be important for many dyslexic musicians to understand a piece as a whole before beginning to learn it in sections or in detail, so encourage your child to listen to good Youtube recordings if possible, when beginning a new piece. This is also an excellent way of developing aural skills and musical memory. Ask the teacher to recommend the best Youtube recordings.
4: If your child uses a coloured overlay to help with reading, remind them to use it for music reading too, as they may forget or feel self-conscious at first. A coloured overlay is absolutely acceptable in all music exams, for pieces as well as for sight reading.
5: If your dyslexic child is taking a music exam, the teacher (or applicant, if that's you) should send written confirmation of a diagnosis, which may be available from school. Extra time is available for sight reading as well as an additional time allowance as a whole, in case instructions need to be repeated in scales or aural tests. The notification, once in place, remains good for future exams.
6: Your child may struggle with music theory, especially if it is to be learned from a book. Learning about theory should be related in a practical way to real music, whenever possible. The piano is an excellent instrument for visual and aural explanations of theoretical concepts. Even if your child is not learning the piano, the teacher probably has one in the room and will have sufficient knowledge to use it in explanations. Consider using an internet resource that explains music theory in a practical way, such as Learn Grade 5 Theory for specifically grade 5 or My Music Theory for a grade-by-grade approach.
7: Help your dyslexic child to organise a practice schedule and to bring the right music to the lesson. Check what is in the practice notebook (if the teacher uses one) and make sure your child understands what she has to do in her practice that week.
8: Be positive and encouraging - dyslexia is best seen as a different way of learning rather than an impediment to learning and music is an excellent way of boosting confidence if teachers handle the tuition in appropriate ways.
9: Discuss your child's dyslexia with the teacher before she buys a tutor book for your child because some are more suitable than others. Similarly, some internet resources, such as E-MusicMaestro, are more dyslexia-friendly than others.
10: Remember that adults, as well as children, may be dyslexic and that the condition is often hereditary. You might have some degree of dyslexia yourself without realising it, so you may have thought that your child's particular difficulties are just a necessary part of learning. Don't be afraid to explore ways of helping your child, such as accessing the British Dyslexia Association website.
Sandy J Holland