Teaching Children with ADHD Music

Music strengthens the areas of the brain that, in the child with ADHD, are weak. Music builds and strengthens the auditory, visual/spatial, and motor cortices of the brain. These areas are tied to speech and language, reading, reading comprehension, math, problem solving, brain organization, focusing, concentration, and attention issues. Studies indicate that when learning-disabled children and children with ADHD learn a musical instrument, attention, concentration, impulse control, social functioning, self-esteem, self-expression, motivation, and memory improve. Some studies show that children who have difficulty focusing when there is background noise are particularly helped by music lessons.

Here are some steps you can take to teach your child with ADHD music that will improve their abilities.

Start group music lessons. When he is about 18 months old, find a group music program for your child.

Get into the rhythm. Our biological systems work on precise rhythms (think heartbeat). If these rhythms are out of sync, it is hard for anyone to focus and stay on task. Using rhythm instruments is a powerful way to sync the natural biorhythms of the body, allowing the child to feel “in tune” with his environment. So put on music with a strong beat — the “Baby Dance” CD is good — and beat out, bang out, or clang out the rhythm of the music with your child.

Dance to the music. Movement for an ADHD child is a must! In fact, movement is an indispensable part of learning, thinking, and focusing. As a child moves to different cadences and rhythms, his physical coordination and ability to concentrate improve.

Draw what you hear. Many ADHD children are creative and in search of creative outlets. Drawing or doodling engages motor skills, organizes the brain, and stimulates artistic juices. After a busy day at school, and before your child jumps into homework, give her paper and crayons, put on some classical music, and let her draw.

Read music books. I’m a strong advocate of reading to your children every day. Reading builds focus, concentration, vocabulary, speech and language, and writing skills. I read many books to our sons, some of which were associated with music: Swine Lake, by James Marshall (a great book to introduce your kids to the ballet Swan Lake), and Lentil, by Robert McCloskey.

Start private music lessons between the ages of five and seven. If you are a parent with ADHD, take music lessons along with your child.

Find an ADD-friendly instrument. The string bass, woodwinds, and percussion instruments are good choices, because a child can stand and move while playing them. Let your child choose his own instrument. If he decides on drums, buy earplugs!

March in the morning. Children with ADHD usually have a hard time attending to tasks during the busy morning hours. Every morning, play marching music (John Philip Sousa tunes are great) and march from activity to activity — getting dressed, making beds, eating breakfast, brushing teeth — with feet moving and arms swaying.

Sing your way to school. Teachers want students to be ready to learn when they come to class. So, on your way to school, sing in the car or play classical music. Singing demands total focus. “The Alphabet Operetta,” by Mindy Manley Little, is perfect.

Orchestrate homework. Some classical music changes the way the brain processes information by changing its electromagnetic frequencies. As a result of listening, children and adults are able to absorb, retain, and retrieve information better. When doing homework, try listening to George Frederic Handel’s Water Music or Johann Sebastian Bach’s Brandenburg Concerti.

Combine music and nature. Studies show that listening to music while walking in nature has a beneficial effect on the brain. The combination re-sets the brain — increasing its focus and priming it for learning.

You can read more at Additude Magazine.

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