It’s no secret that over the past 30 years, the number of kids with some degree of ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder) or ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) has increased dramatically. You’d be hard-pressed to walk into any school and not find at least one or more children diagnosed with it.
Such was the case with our son, who for reasons of personal safety I’ll refer to as Eric. And like most parents with kids on the autism spectrum, we are constantly researching help for parents. As early as kindergarten, we started to observe developmental delays and stimming behaviors. By second grade, Eric was noticeably behind his peers academically and socially, despite our efforts. (Which I’ll get into further in later blogs.) It wasn’t until halfway through the second grade that we began to consider music as an option to help him calm his mind and focus his energy.
We noticed early on that Eric had a love for music. He was easily able to recall where he had heard certain pieces of music before (movies, albums, compositions). He was able to connect deeply to the emotions of music, and music often helped to change his state. We sang to both of our children from infancy and around the house and in the car. With piano being the most relaxing and influential.
Now, I’m not suggesting that piano lessons are the end-all be-all answer for children with ASD / ADHD. But numerous studies indicate children with developmental delays or learning disabilities greatly benefit from learning a musical instrument.
We enrolled Eric in weekly piano lessons, specifically with an instructor who understands and has experience with ASD / ADHD children. Within less than one year, Eric went from a troubled student to an exceptional one. His grades improved dramatically and his self-regulation and self-esteem continue to improve every day. He has become a leader, instead of a shadow, who is motivated to do well not just for his parents or his teacher’s praise, but for himself.
our beginner piano
We started Eric off with a second-hand Yamaha 61-key synthesizer, but after about 7-8 months we upgraded him to something better, the Yamaha DGX-670, 88-key piano. We did plenty of research before making our purchase and found that for the investment, the DGX-670 has a variety of features that make it a versatile instrument for beginners.
The next Logical step in the piano journey
We then upgraded our old piano to the DGX-670. It has a number of educational features, including a built-in lesson function that teaches you how to play various songs and chords. It also has a split mode that allows you to play different parts with your left and right hands. Overall, this high-quality digital piano offers a wide range of features and sounds.
With over 263 Automatic Accompaniment styles to choose from, the DGX-670 provides everything from a grand piano concert sound to a wide range of musical experiences, from classical, to pop, to R&B and jazz that feel just like playing a live band. Smartphone and microphone connectivity also allows you to upload your own sheet music and record both music and vocals. An optional wooden stand and a three-pedal unit provide a real grand piano experience while taking up only a third of the floor space.
Lastly, our son’s piano coach recommended the “My First Piano Adventure“ series of both Lesson and Writing books as a fun method of music introduction. The books made understanding music easy and enjoyable for a student who had no prior musical background. Eric has had two piano recitals in the past year and has played masterfully at both. Music is now part of his daily routine and often takes precedence over other activities such as watching cartoons and playing video games.
The most impressive benefit of learning music has been Eric’s self-image. Previously, he would often resort to negative self-talk (I’m stupid. I’m a bad kid.), as well as self-harm whenever things didn’t go exactly the way he had anticipated. Music has taught him that mistakes are learning experiences and that it’s OK to get it wrong because that’s how we learn to get it right.
Anyone with ADHD will surely tell you that they have unbelievable focus, so much so that it often drowns out everything else. Since learning music, Eric’s ability to focus and retain important information, while simultaneously engaged in the task of playing the piano, has greatly improved.
Eric is now slower to react to negative influences. He has learned to take deep breaths, control his potential outbursts, and start again.
His teachers, peers, even friends and family have all noticed a drastic improvement since Eric started piano lessons. He is more outgoing, more talkative, and loves to express his creativity openly and with pride.
He’s not only motivated to do well for this piano teacher, but he’s also motivated in general. He’s more aware of his surroundings and is more willing to help at home and school.
He finds music relaxing and has on many occasions since he started his piano lessons, offered to play for us when we need to relax as well. When his little sister has been sad, Eric has offered to play music to cheer her up.
Improved Cognitive Function
While we still have a long road ahead of us, in less than a year Eric went from a D student to a B+ student. He is excelling in science, arts and music, and reading and comprehension. His last report card was a night and day difference from the second grade.
If you’re like us, there is nothing you wouldn’t do to help your children. Music was just one of the many ways that we have helped Eric become all that he can be.
your journey begins here
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